Information chaos and information as an enabler…
This statement may seem like a self-contradiction or a paradox.
But understanding this dichotomy can help you transform information from a hindrance into an enabler … in any area of business.
In this article, we’ll look at how data and information have exploded in growth over the past several years.
Then we’ll see how information overload can paralyze some organizations.
Yet, paradoxically, it’s this same information that enables communication, insight, and innovation.
Information Chaos and Information as an Enabler
The digital age has opened up new technological frontiers.
It has given us access to new ways of communicating, doing business, and designing products.
However, these advancements have also dramatically increased the flow of information.
To understand information chaos, consider these three things:
- New technologies are throwing wrenches into traditional operations – today’s fast-paced economy is pressuring many companies to digitally transform
- Businesses, like consumers, are overwhelmed in today’s ocean of content – making it more difficult than ever to navigate forward
- The information age has thrown business models into chaos – upending everything from customer relationships to industry-standard business practices
This information chaos can have negative results, such as:
- Decreased productivity
- “Analysis paralysis”
- Shallow conversations
- Inability to keep up with information demands
- More distraction
However, in the midst of this chaos, opportunities for growth abound:
- Information is what enables digital transformation – paradoxically it is information that helps companies navigate the chaotic “sea of information”
- The right information and knowledge can itself become a competitive advantage – data-driven insights can offer unique intelligence and inform decisions
- Information enables better communication and understanding – of customers, business partners, employees, and the marketplace, for example
These ideas beg the question … how do you transform chaos into utility?
Combatting Information Chaos with Design
Effective design is one of the best ways to combat information overload.
The Interaction Design Foundation, for instance, specifically addresses this topic.
They say that information overload can result from:
- The huge amount of information currently being created
- The ease with which we can create and publish new information
- The exponential increase in the number of digital media channels
- A lack of structure in groups of information
To name a few.
In business, poor design can contribute to information overload in any area that employs design thinking.
Here are just a few examples:
- UI – User interfaces can be easy-to-understand, usable, and straightforward. Or they can be chaotic, confusing, and frustrating. Effective UI design boosts engagement metrics and decreases cognitive load.
- Customer Journey Mapping – The customer journey should be carefully crafted. By leveraging customer information, companies can design journey maps that are relevant, useful, and seamless.
- User Onboarding – Well-structured, well-designed onboarding creates a positive impression on users. Ineffective communication during this stage, though, can increase abandonment rates and decrease productivity.
- Training Design – Employee training is a must in today’s digital workplace. Effective training solutions, such as digital adoption platforms, teach the right information at the right time. By avoiding extraneous information, they prevent information overload.
- Product Design – Applie’s iconic product designs have an immediate impact. They are usable, simple, and unobtrusive.
- Workplace – Workplaces don’t necessarily need to be tranquil, zen-like spaces that are free of activity. However, consider every element of an employee’s workflow, from their workspace to the information they use. Anything that is irrelevant can detract from employee productivity.
- Data Visualization – Data is a prime example of information chaos. Unstructured data is literally a sea of data points and numbers. To turn that chaos into usable information, we employ visualization tools that help us immediately grasp the data’s content.
Clearly, design can be applied in many areas of business.
And information can either enable or hinder productivity in any of these areas.
Principles of Effective Design
Here are a few concepts that can be applied across business disciplines, to help reduce information overwhelm:
- Simplicity – Undue complexity distracts from your purpose, while simplicity communicates your purpose and keeps it understandable. A landing page, for instance, should have a single aim and a single call-to-action. More than one will confuse users.
- Relevance – Irrelevant information should have no place in any design. It will increase cognitive load, confuse users, and leave them feeling distracted.
- Clarity – Clarity is another hallmark of effective design. Website navigation, for instance, should use clear language rather than clever language. Clear language helps users achieve their purpose quickly and effectively.
- Directed – What are users supposed to do? Offering clear pathway of action is critical – otherwise people won’t take action.
- Actionability – Finally, designs should enable action. It should be easy to complete a purchase, download a white paper, set up a sales call, or take the relevant action.
Design principles such as these can be applied in any of the areas mentioned above – plus many others.
Whether your business is developing new products, designing an organizational change project, or mapping customer journeys, design is a must.
Effective design can mean the difference between information chaos and information as an enabler.