Why Too Much Information is Bad for Business

Some companies are handicapped by the over-circulation of information that empowers no one.


NETMA (Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything) is a major problem in many organizations. Employees aren't briefed on activities directly related to their jobs and the rumor mill thrives because of management's lack of openness.

But what about NETMA's opposite, ETMTM (Everyone Tells Me Too Much)? Can it be that too much information creates as much anxiety as too little?

"No way: More information gives you more power. Why shouldn't you want to hear more?" That's a common response and yet it doesn't address these concerns:

• More information does not give you more power. It simply gives you more information. If you have little power to alter events, learning more may simply fuel your frustration.

• Being swamped with information while not being in possession of the time or the knowledge to sort out the worthless from the helpful can be the rough equivalent of having no information at all. There is, of course, one difference: It can be said that you were given the information. And indeed you were. Sort of.

• The unrestrained circulation of information pits one value—openness—against another value: discretion. Once revealed, certain bits of news can destroy relationships and unfairly tarnish reputations. It can also discourage the surfacing of sensitive information in the future.

• Over-emphasizing the importance of information can feed a never-ending appetite for more and more news at a time when such gathering should end and action should begin.

How much information do you need? Enough to be effective. No more and no less.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.

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