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Effect of Information Overload on Decision's Quality, Efficiency and Time

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  • Surman college of Science and Technology

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Information overload is considered as phenomena to which we are exposed to too much information that is of no use. Such exposure to too much information significantly undermines the process of undertaking effective decision making in an organization. Moreover, it subsequently undermines the quality of decision making in an organization. This research paper critically evaluates the concept of information overload in an organization. Moreover, the analysis will involve the various causes of information overload, the symptoms of information overload, the impacts of information overload and the various strategies that can be deployed in addressing the issues associated with information overload. Additionally, from the analysis recommendations to reduce information overload include having a high level of management control over decision making and employing technology based decision making such as through the use of data mining.
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Effect of Information Overload on Decision’s Quality, Efficiency
and Time
Abubaker Kashada1, Awatif Isnoun2, Nureddin Aldali3
1, 2(Computer Department, Um-Alrabee College of Science & Technology, Surman, Libya)
3(Higher Institute of Science and Technology, Gharyan, Libya)
Abstract: Information overload is considered as phenomena to which we are exposed to too much information
that is of no use. Such exposure to too much information significantly undermines the process of undertaking
effective decision making in an organization. Moreover, it subsequently undermines the quality of decision
making in an organization. This research paper critically evaluates the concept of information overload in an
organization. Moreover, the analysis will involve the various causes of information overload, the symptoms of
information overload, the impacts of information overload and the various strategies that can be deployed in
addressing the issues associated with information overload. Additionally, from the analysis recommendations to
reduce information overload include having a high level of management control over decision making and
employing technology based decision making such as through the use of data mining.
Keywords: Information Overload, Decision efficiency, Decision quality, Decision time
I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
The term‟ information overload „may be defined as problems that emanate, arise and vitiate cognitive
processes of identifying problems and enforcing remedial measures to address and resolve them. In other words,
the relentless, surging and overpowering cascades of Information Technology (IT) that is geared to improve
productivity sharpen performance and boost profitability (bottom lines) may now work in reverse gear and does
little except, demote productivity, dull performance and shrink enterprise profitability and bottom lines,
sometimes in most unrecognizable manners [1].
Information overload is not a new concept since the twelfth century and especially since the advent of
the Gutenberg printing press, individuals have been complaining about the wide range of information they had
to consume in order to contribute to society. The internet allows us to share that information with each other (e-
mails, videos, photos, e-documents like books etc.), with virtually no limitations. Mobile technology such as
laptops, tablets and phones have become part of us so that we are able to connect with each other anywhere,
anytime. Companies have adopted this as part of their daily operation causing information to flow from every
direction [2].
In “Information Overload: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions,” an article for the Harvard Graduate
School of Education‟s Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA), Joseph Ruff [3], says “we are bombarded with
so much data that we‟re on information overload”. According to this, we can say information overload is when
our ability to process information has passed its limit, and further attempts to process information or settle on
accurate decisions from the surplus of information leads to information overload.
Ruff [3], points out that information overload interferes with our ability to learn and engage in creative
problem-solving. In an example, venture capitalists with too much information cannot make accurate
adjustments to their assessment process, and as a result, of this, their learning is impeded. “Once capacity is
surpassed, additional information becomes noise and a reduction in information processing and decision
quality… having too much information is the same as not having enough” [3]. Ruff [3], continues to state that,
“As might be expected, with little or no information, people have few or nothing to process and consequently
make poor decisions. However, after a certain point is achieved, the decision-maker has obtained more
information than he can process, information overload has occurred and decision-making ability decreases. Any
information received beyond that point will not be processed, may lead to confusion and could have a negative
impact on the individual‟s ability to set priorities as well as remember previous information [1].Fig. 1 illustrates
the information load inverted U- Curve.
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Fig. 1 Information load inverted U- Curve. Source: [1]
II. CAUSES OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD
Several studies have been led to the point of assessing what the causes of information overload are, all
the results have shown that that information overload is usually as a result of a combination of overlapping
factors. For example, some causes of information overload include the following causes; irrelevance of
information, multiple information sources, lack of enough time to effectively understand information, and too
much information [4]. Fig. 2 illustrates the factors cause information overload.
Fig. 2 Factors cause information overload
The main cause of information overload is the various sources of information. Information overload
may also be caused as a result of an increase in the amount of information available. Also, the maximizing
volume of data can lead to difficulty in handling this data. The increase in the variety of information from
different sources can acquire information to be insignificant and irrelevant. Overload can also develop from a
lack of time to digest and comprehend the available information [5].
In a business setup, people with access to computers internet and email and other sources can attribute
some other causes of information overload such as ease of creation in computers, duplication, and transmission
of data across the Internet which increases the available channels of incoming information. All this together with
the lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information contribute to the problem of
information overload [4].
Another publication, An Investigation and Analysis of Information Overload in Manager‟s Work by
Tao and Li [6], identifies that Information overload seems definitely connected with the amount, nature of skills
and knowledge which are possessed by processing quality and speed and therefore they impact information
overload. Apart from the work factors, some studies show that the individual and his or her qualification,
attitude, and experience are another significant factor. While earlier studies simply state that a person‟s
capability to process data is limited, more recent studies include particular limiting factors such as personal
International Journal of Latest Engineering Research and Applications (IJLERA) ISSN: 2455-7137
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skills. The level of knowledge and skill coming from experience and personal traits thus directly affects the
capacity to receive information.
Other studies have categorized the causes of information overloading differently. Joseph Ruff [3], in
his article “Information Overload: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions,” an article for the Harvard Graduate
School of Education‟s Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA), he organizes the causes using the five
categories People, Technology, the organization, processes and tasks and information attributes.
III. SYMPTOMS OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD
There are various symptoms that employees may depict that relates to information overload in an
organization. Some of the symptoms of information overload among employees in an organization include the
following [1];
Poor concentration due to the overloading of short-term memory
Hurry sickness, which is the conviction that one should continually race to keep pace with time
Pervasive hostility resulting in a chronic state of irritability near anger or even rage
Habituation or over stimulation which causes the brain to shut down and enter a trance-like state
“Plugged in” compulsion is the strong need to check email, voice mail and the Internet in order to stay
“in touch”
Traditional stress including lowered immune response, endocrine imbalance, depression and the
experience of “burn out”.
IV. IMPACTS AND EFFECTS OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD
M.I. Mungly and A.M. Singh [7], on their publication “understanding the effect of information
overload on teleworkers” stated that research into the problem of information overload has identified several
effects on individuals and organizations [7].
1. Effects of information overload
Impaired quality of work.
Mental and psychological related issues.
Increasing stress on individuals due to the limit in information processing capacity.
Negatively affects staff productivity, quality of decision making and levels of stress.
Extra time spent searching, sorting and processing information.
The longer people are subjected to information overload, the more negative its effects on physical and
mental well-being. A study was conducted with 1,313 senior, middle and junior business managers from the
United States, England, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. Seventy-three percent indicated that they needed
enormous amounts of information to be successful in their job. Yet, they also believed that information overload
was responsible for other problems example 33% felt they were suffering from ill health,66% reported tension
with fellow workers and diminished job satisfaction and 62% admitted that social and personal relationships
were suffering. The health of the employee is also affected due to negative stress level from the information
overload, the level of work enjoyment also reduces and which in turn can affect the aspect of satisfaction in life,
some of this can be argued from basic knowledge in psychology [3].
2. Impact on performance
Ruff [3], in his publication observes that decision-makers increase their information processing as the
result of an increase in information load. Once capacity is surpassed, however, additional information becomes
noise and results in a decrease in information processing and decision quality [8]. In a study of bank loan
officers predicting bankruptcy, it was found that operating under information overload, officers required more
time to make predictions that were less accurate than when information overload was not experienced [3]. It is
interesting to note that when making complex decisions, we may feel the need to have, and therefore request,
massive amounts of data [9]. In this conclusion it comes back to having too much information is the same as not
having enough.
3. Poor decision-making
Information overload tends to reduce the mental capacity of knowledge workers. A phenomenon also
known as Attention Deficit Trait (ADT), is an informal term coined by the psychiatrist Dr. Edward [10]. He
asserts that the cognitive impact of info mania causes people to work well below their full potential; they
produce less output, think superficially, and create less new ideas despite working an increasing number of
International Journal of Latest Engineering Research and Applications (IJLERA) ISSN: 2455-7137
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hours. Evidence from other studies shows an increase in error rate, including errors in management decision
making. Poor decision-making due to information overload can largely be attributed to the fact that when people
have been exposed to excessive information tends to [3]:
Become highly selective and ignore a large amount of information or give up and don‟t go beyond the
first results in many cases.
Need more time to reach a decision based on the information.
Make mistakes in the process.
Have difficulties in identifying the relationship between the details and the overall context.
V. HOW TO ADDRESS ISSUES ARISING OUT OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD
Several suggestions have been given on the best way to deal with information overload so as to take
care of the issues arising from the overload. On a summary, most solutions to information overload can be
categorized into Technology related solutions and management strategies. Technology solutions range from the
use of visualization tools for data presentation, relying on push technologies more than pull technologies among
other technology strategies. Management strategies include but not limited to addressing strategic plans for the
organization, looking at cultural issues and implementing personal information strategies [11, 12].
In any business, a combination of both this strategy can work to reduce information overload one such
strategy is the use of visual representation. Advancement in technology has provided a large collection of data
analysis tools. These tools also simplify information presentation by giving us visual aids for easy interpretation
of the data which helps increase efficiency in decision making. Data visualization also known as information
visualization or scientific visualization is the process presenting information in visual form. Data visualization
can also be defined as the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format, this creates patterns, trends, and
correlations that might go undetected in text-based data. Several data and information analysis programs will
contain tools to create these visual designs [13].
According to the article publication “Visual Representation: Implications for Decision Making” by
Lurie [14], visual aid and the different tools available can improve efficiency of marketing managers offer new
insights and even increase customer satisfaction, this benefit as observed lead to form of bias in the long run
calling for a further analysis of the output from visual aids. From this further study can be conducted to review
this improved efficiency and increase processing of as much information as possible [14].
Technology can help in reduction of information overload other than the aspect of creating visual aids
several strategies can be implemented both at personal or company level and they include; technology training
for all people involved in such fields as database management, search engines, data storage and retrieval. Use
filters effectively like to eliminate spam in mail. Involve people in the design of IT systems to gather what is
relevant for the fields they are involved in [15, 16]. Spend more time and money improving user ability to
operate technology fully and successfully as opposed to buying more and better technology this can include the
training part and involving technology coaches for the software in the organization [14].
When communicating in organizations using technology training effective methods of communication
are emphasized examples use of executive summaries, use of headers to introduce and divide content, writing of
clear, short and succinct memos and email when necessary and address the same to specific people concerned
and organizing content into logical chunks for easy interpretation.
The computer world is now fully integrated into decision-making. Working with lots of data
computerized models is now part of the daily software used as an aid to managers [17]. Several decision models
help in dealing with big data one of these models is the mathematical model also known as a quantitative model.
The models help in dealing with information overload in that they help in compression of data using techniques
to extract only what is needed for decision-making support. Some of the best decision model tools decision-
making transparent and easy with a collection of influence diagrams and powerful built-in probabilistic analysis.
Influence diagrams make it easy not only to understand the model but also to key out key decision-making
variables and their relationships. Built-in tools for managing risk and uncertainty include are also included [18].
The software tools like ones used in decision making make it easy to work with companies by bringing
data easily closer to the people. This brings the following advantages to businesses large or small:
With data instantly available, the decision-making process gets to be leaner and more proficient.
Decisions can be made quickly to respond to needs within the organization.
Communication between departments turns out to be more effective as dashboards and analytics can
easily be shared and distributed across the company.
Managers can retain greater control of the decision-making process by having the most comprehensive,
important and up-to-date information at their fingertips as decisions are made.
International Journal of Latest Engineering Research and Applications (IJLERA) ISSN: 2455-7137
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Cost reduction. Some researches and especially case studies have documented DSS cost saving from
labour savings in making decisions and from lower infrastructure or technology costs.
Recent software tools are designed to use data mining effectively. Data mining is a process by which
raw data is analyzed to select pertinent and valuable bits of information, depending on what one is looking for.
The computer programs used for data mining utilize different sorts of criteria to „decide‟ which information is
important and then sort through to show trends. This can be useful for every aspect of the society where data is
required for decision making. When looking at management strategies for dealing with information overload
several studies have been conducted and most revolve around installing the right discipline to be more organized
and avoid information overload. Some of this strategies include; developing a personal workable information
strategy example acting on information as it is received; trashing unnecessary information not allowing oneself
to stop activities of low priority, developing organizing systems, for example, weekly planning which mean not
to try to remember everything you have to do; and improving your information age skills, standardizing of
operating procedures in organizations, allowing more time for task performance, simplify functionalities and
design of products, use simpler information processing strategies, building a creating in our schedules a
"technology free time"[19, 20, 21].
VI. CONCLUSION
In conclusion, the analysis that was undertaken was aimed at evaluating the concept of information
overload, causes of information overload, symptoms and effects of information overload in an organization.
From the analysis that was undertaken, some of the causes of information overload include the following;
irrelevance of information, multiple information sources, lack of enough time to effectively understand
information, and too much information. on the other hand, symptoms of information overload include but not
limited to the following; Poor concentration due to the overloading of short-term memory, poly-phasic
behaviour or multi-tasking often resulting in diminished rather than increased productivity, Hurry sickness,
which is the conviction that one should continually rush to keep pace with time, and pervasive hostility bringing
about an incessant a chronic state of irritability near anger or even rage. On the other hand, from the analysis
that was undertaking, some of the effects of information overload included the following; Impaired quality of
work, Mental, and psychologically related issue, Increasing stress on individuals due to limit in information
processing capacity, Reduces attention span, upsets family life, affects our reasoning, takes over our personal
time, Negatively affects staff productivity, quality of decision making and levels of stress, Extra time spent
searching, sorting and processing information.
RECOMMENDATION
In order to effectively address the negative effects associated with information overload, organizations
need to adopt and implement the following strategies:
Embrace effective and multi-departmental communication between through the use of dashboards and
analytics which enables employees to have a high level of information and distribution.
Managers can retain greater control of the decision-making process by having the most comprehensive,
relevant and up-to-date data at their fingertips as decisions are made.
Employing the use of technology based data analysis for decision making such as data mining. This
will enhance higher level of data security, accuracy and ease of handling large amounts of data in an
effective way to enhance faster decision making and accurate decision making.
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... These features constitute both its value and its threatening nature. The overload associated with the ease of obtaining information, and being overwhelmed with thematically-diverse content on websites or social media forces the need to modify the method of data processing and often leads to disorders in the cognitive sphere, e.g. in the area of memory or attention processes, as well as irregularities in the process of making a decision (Carlson, 2003;Kashada et al., 2020;Ruff, 2002). In the interpersonal context, the incompleteness of internet communication may result in increased conflicts and misunderstandings (Bargh & McKenna, 2004;Dreyfus, 2008). ...
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The popularity of flipped classrooms has been growing worldwide and developing nations have not been left behind. It is a model that reschedules time spent in an outside classroom and its main strength is the shifting of learning ownership from the teacher to the student. This study investigates the challenges and obstacles of adopting flipped classrooms in K-12 education in developing countries. The methodology used to identify the challenges facing flipped classroom adoption in developing countries was based on the three research questions. With this in mind, the study reviewed publications on the topic after searching them in the major databases. The results showed a positive relationship between adoptions of flipped classrooms to student achievement. However, students’ attitude had a positive, neutral and negative relationship to the adoption of flipped classrooms. Additionally, a set of challenges were identified in this study.
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While there is no universally agreed upon definition for information overload, most have experienced it and few have difficulty recognizing it. Looking back at the Takeaways, Questions Forwarded and Minutes for LILA's June and September meetings, there were nine references to this subject. Clearly, this is a topic on the minds of LILA members. It has long been a concern for knowledge and information management workers. And it is not uncommon to find articles on this topic in the business sections of local newspapers. While many seem to acknowledge information overload's existence, few realize how serious a problem it is. Vast sums of money, time and hard work are being spent to improve organizations, but information overload is neutralizing those efforts. Under the strain of information overload, it becomes difficult or impossible to fashion a learning organization that is maximizing its member's creativity and decision-making ability. Why are we not more alarmed by this serious problem? And why are we not doing more about it? The goals and design of this brief are simple and straightforward. After offering definitions and a model that describes and analyzes information overload, we look at the severity of the problem (symptoms), explore its causes and offer potential solutions. Considerable research has been conducted on the topic of information overload in a variety of settings and disciplines (i.e. finance, marketing, pharmacology, library science, and technology). A common definition includes the negative impact on performance due to the quantity of (too much) information. Performance usually relates to information processing and is measured by decision-making ability. As might be expected, with little or no information, individuals have little or nothing to process and consequently make poor decisions. As the amount of information increases, so too does information processing and the quality of decision-making. However, after a certain point is reached, the decision-maker has obtained more information than he can process, information overload has occurred and decision-making ability decreases. Any information received beyond that point will not be processed, may lead to confusion and could have a negative impact on the individual's ability to set priorities as well as remember previous information (Eppler 2002). It is not difficult to imagine the affect this has on both individuals and organizations.