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Information Overload

6 October, 2015 - 11:30

Every organization must solve the problem of what pattern of communication shall be instituted, and what information shall be directed to what offices. One issue in establishing such a pattern is information overload. There are limits to the amount of communication that can be received, coded, and effectively handled by any one individual. 1

John Kotter has an interesting anecdote that illustrates this problem. He asserts that the typical employee receives approximately 2,300,000 words or numbers communicated to him or her in a 3-month period. He estimates that the typical communication of a change vision over 3 months is one 30-minute speech, one hour-long meeting, one 600-word article in the firm’s newspaper, and one 2,000-word memo, which amounts to about 13,400 words. Consequently, roughly one-half of one percent of all the words or facts that an employee receives over 3 months will be focused on the change vision. 2Clearly, routine information can easily overwhelm change messages.