One of the blessings of digital technology is the access it provides to so much information. But that’s also one of its curses. As we all battle daily decision fatigue, the exponential growth of accessible data has begun to overwhelm us.
A colleague of mine serves as dean of education for a university. Part of her job is responding to the myriad reports mandated by various federal and state accrediting agencies. Over the past ten years, she has watched the data demanded by these organizations explode in volume. Sadly, much of this information is never reviewed once submitted. She knows this because of conversations she’s had with regulators who give her blank stare when she asks about certain data they’ve requested. One even said, “I didn’t know we asked that.”
Like many people, I fly regularly. At the end of every flight, I receive an email survey asking me to review the flight. Two hundred flights – two hundred surveys. I’ve begun to delete them all. Everyone endures the endless website pop-ups asking us to review items we’ve purchased or services provided. With few exceptions, the data is meaningless because no one completes them unless something went wrong. If we want to make an informed decision about anything, we now have to sort through reams of statistics, reviews and mostly meaningless information on a quest to find the half-dozen relevant insights.
But enough ranting about the problem. What’s the solution? There are two – If you are dealing with this headache, install a pop-up blocker on your computer. Look for patterns of where the meaningless surveys come from and unsubscribe or block their emails. Take a minute to think about the best description for what you need before searching on-line. Then type in specific keyword phrases. Use quotations around specific descriptions to limit suggested links. Have a second e-mail address you can give when a site demands one for access to a free report. To some, this may sound like common sense. But how proactive are you in employing these strategies?
Now, if you are creating this headache by asking for information simply because you think it might be helpful at some point for some reason. STOP IT! All you’re doing is irritating your customers, clients or constituents. Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean you should.