I've been tracking Information Overload (IO) for quite some time...a subject that is at the forefront of much of Basex's research and the subject of several posts here. Along with tracking this issue, I'm most interested in solutions. The best seen so far however comes from Luis Suarez at ELSUA, who has started a new mantra of giving up email.
Of course, the immediate reaction is that there is no way that we could possibly live without email. And in truth, with the state of the workforce at this time, that would be a true statement. However, Luis' How to Collaborate with Customers without Using Email provides an excellent guide to getting control over information overload by controlling certain work email.
The prime argument is that email is a horrible collaboration tool. Face it, when using email to collaborate, you are left with no good choices. Take a small project where 5 people need to collaborate on a document. In order to avoid dozens of "Reply-All" emails that will fill in-boxes (often with unnecessary emails), side emails are sent, multiple versions of documents/spreadsheets/etc are begun and circulated. Email 'conversations' about the document or project are made between various segments of the group, and/or are then circulated to all members - some who do not have the full context of how the document got to this point. And of course, some of us MUST answer emails as soon as they arrive, while others of us handle them at certain points during the day (or ignore them altogether), causing the collaboration to be out-of-sync at the very least and filling our in-box in the process - all of course, having the same level of priority which we each individually assign for ourselves. As the size of the project - in number of players - increases, so does the traffic and lost effort. And this is only a part of the problem.
I must say that I have not done as well as Luis Suarez has on his 26th week without email, but by using social networking solutions, I have noticed a dramatic decrease in email traffic, and improved project completion, coordination and communication by using the right tools for the right job.
In my attempts to keep tabs on and learn from Knowledge Management, Content Management, Wikis and Social Networking processes and tools, I have endeavored to never mention the company that I work for and any of our internal processes, and I will stick closely to that and not give away any secret sauce, but in this case I just want to say in nondescript terms that we are 'members of this choir'; management down to staff are huge believers that email is NOT a tool for collaboration as Luis has discovered. With a corporate culture where everyone is a watchdog that ensures that social networking tools are used when required, and that email is only used as a vital form of direct, two-way, non-collaborative communication, there is a correct focus that reduces one of the causes for information overload.
Email is just one of the contributors to information overload, but some would argue that it is a significant part. If that is the case in an organization, Luis in his post names some specific software solutions that they have employed or that he is looking into that seem to be making a difference and which deserve some investigation.