Must the Future of Work Mean Information Overload?

As companies add social software to help their employees work together more efficiently, and software makers add social features to existing products, there is a growing risk that workers could get overloaded by all the information coming at them, says Jive Software chairman and former CEO Dave Hersh. A big part of what companies and workers have to deal with now is simply “noise management,” Hersh says, because the amount of data coming at them is so overwhelming.

“There’s just so much information out there, and it’s coming at people at a deafening rate,” the Jive founder chairman said in a recent interview. The risk, Hersh says, is that some employees are going to start retreating from these newer tools (if they haven’t already) and take refuge in the old applications and behaviors that they are comfortable with — even if they don’t work very well. “Many people are reverting back to the things they are familiar with, such as email and face-to-face meetings,” says Hersh, because they feel overloaded by all the new tools they have to use.

The Jive founder chairman and I will be talking about these and other issues involving what we call the “human cloud” and the future of work at our Net:Work conference in San Francisco next week, at the Mission Bay Conference Center on December 9th. I’ll also be talking with Google’s vice president of product management Bradley Horowitz, as well as former Xerox PARC director John Seely Brown (the full list of speakers for the conference is here). There isn’t much time left, so be sure to get a ticket soon.

Hersh says that the increasing problem of information overload puts pressure on both companies and software makers to emphasize ease of use and the needs of users over feature-creep and the desire to have an all-in-one solution. “It’s like the TV remote problem,” the Jive founder chairman says. “Everybody has eight remotes and they are a hundred buttons on each one, so eventually people just give up.” New tools need to be designed in such a way that they make people want to use them, he says. “They have to understand inherently why they are worth using or they just won’t do it.”

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Andrew