Independent Thinking Blog

6 Paradoxes to Combat Information Overload

Apparently I had too much on my plate when the IABC Research Foundation study on information overload was released last year because I missed it completely. Big mistake, because it contains some useful takeaways–which Julie Freeman discussed in her Heritage Region Conference session.

The authors highlight six paradoxes that can help us shape our communications efforts to reduce overload and “get attention, comprehension, and retention”:

1. Familiar Surprise–communicating in a novel yet understandable way (i.e., intriguing graphics, visual metaphors)

2. Detailed Overview— telling readers what to expect (i.e., executive summaries, word clouds)

3. Flexible Stability–using standard structures, formats, and terminologies

4. Simple Complexity–reducing messages to their essential elements (i.e., maps, step-by-step animation, or just picking up the phone)

5. Concise Redundancy–making a message accessible to different people in different ways (i.e., using facts, diagrams, numbers, models, and/or stories)

6. Unfinished Completeness–leaving opportunities for people to respond (i.e., polls, comments, or leaving your readers with an open-ended question)

A couple of other takeaways from the conference:

Bob DiBiasio talked about the way “the reduction of uncertainty” is guiding how the Cleveland Indians communicate internally and externally (including getting bad news out quickly, avoiding self-inflicted wounds, and communicating directly with those who matter most). He also stressed that “it has to be an absolute mindset of a company” to communicate with stakeholders.

Tim McCleary did a terrific session on how to stop telling people what to do and instead start involving your employees to foster change. There was music, cinnamon, garlic, basil, and a green tricycle. Storytelling matters.

Photo by TonZ (Flickr).

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