#getsimple with your data and get back to innovating

Analytics Solutions Social Specialist, IBM

Within IBM an initiative was launched a little over a year ago called #getsimple. Its stated goal was to enable IBMers to eliminate complex processes and distractions to focus on the actions that drive results and innovation. This phenomenon is not, however, exclusive to IBM.

Information overload has become a debilitating fact of the digital age (though its coming was predicted as early as 1970 by Alvin Toffler). Essentially, as computer processing and memory has drastically increased, the capabilities of the human mind have not. There is simply too much information being produced now for the human mind to keep up with. In fact, ninety percent of all digital information was created in only the past two years. This means that people in all walks of life hoping to gain expertise (such as teachers, students and doctors) have more information than ever to weed through. Medical professionals are capable of reading at most several hundred medical papers in one year, out of the 23 million medical papers in the National Library of Medicine.


Information overload is not just due to external resources either—we are every day besieged by emails, tweets, phone calls, texts, blogs and other social network notifications. A June 2006 study on Intel employees found that an average of 400 messages was received by each employee every week, and that they spent twenty hours a week handling their inboxes. Considering that this number had increased by an average of fifty messages since a March 2006 study of the same company, we can only imagine how much that number has changed in the eight years since.

The results of information overload are discouraging. Dr. Edward Hallowell found in his studies that workers subject to “Infomania” think superficially, produce fewer new ideas, attain less output and make more errors—particularly when it comes to decision-making, all despite putting in more hours.

We don’t help ourselves either. We multitask, slowing ourselves down, reducing our capabilities for creative thinking and increasing anxiety levels. We are addicted to our smartphones and Wi-Fi capable devices, meaning the flow of information never stops. In an attempt to reap the benefits of constant connectivity and digital information access, we overwhelm our brains. Big data is called big for a reason.

But there are many ways to #getsimple. Research on how to confront information overload is popping up everywhere. Ironically, a Google search on “managing information overload” produces 1,630,000 results in 0.39 seconds.

Just as technological development led to the flood of data in the information age, so too it may be the solution to confronting the deluge. Companies are introducing intranets to increase social working and reduce the volume of email, cognitive computing systems like IBM’s Watson are learning to process vast quantities of information and communicate insights, and services in the cloud that can handle big data are cleaning up our information so that we can get back to the tasks where we still have the edge on technology: creative thinking, generating new connections and innovating.

What are you doing to #getsimple and give yourself the freedom to focus on tasks that truly matter? Learn more about how data refinery in the cloud can improve the quality and accessibility of your data and help your team focus on higher-value activities with IBM’s David Corrigan and Paula Wiles Sigmon in the upcoming webinar, “How to Get Started with Data Refinement” at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, November 5.