Is information overload starting to stall productivity growth?

Car in trouble after the thaw

I saw two interesting data points over the last week: The first on stalling workforce productivity, and the second on email/information overload. I can’t help but think that the two are closely related.

1. The end of productivity growth (Wall Street Journal)

The US Federal Reserve has come out with some alarming research showing that the productivity benefits of the technology boom are starting to slow.

“The writers note that from the early 1970s through 1995, productivity rose about 1.5% per year. Then the pace more than doubled between 1995 and 2003, likely reflecting the technology boom… they say the recent slowdown in productivity growth predated the Great Recession and “appears to mark a pause in—if not the end of—exceptional productivity growth associated with information technology.”

2. Email overload rising (The Conversation)

This is a nice holistic look at email overload, from a cause/effect/potential solutions perspective. The authors cite research that shows 87% of UK employees are suffering from email overload, with 53% unable to cope with the volume of email.

The article identifies four critical challenges with email (and then look at how the major tech players are trying to respond).

The four challenges:

  • “We’re addicted to email – one in three people respond to email within seconds.
  • We’re poor at managing our inbox, leading to a failure to cope with the information it contains.
  • We don’t write email in succinct, understandable language, adding unnecessary complexity.
  • And we find it difficult to switch off, with smartphones allowing us to access work email 24-hours a day.”

To summarise the article, not much is working and the problem continues to get worse (despite the best efforts of the major tech companies).

This is completely in line with what we’re seeing day-to-day with our work at Intrascope… and any problem that’s affecting 87% of the workforce is clearly a major productivity killer.

Share your thoughts. Be kind & play nice.