Friday, 3 August 2007

Information Overwhelm – or how you can have too much of a good thing!

Over the last few months, I’ve encountered an increasing number of overwhelmed small business owners. Next time you’re at a networking event, see if you can spot one. A dead cert give away sign is the overflowing organiser or folio/bag. This contains all the literature they’ve picked up (just in case), all the notes they’ve taken, or been given, at the multitude of seminars and workshops attended (usually the free ones), yet more handwritten or scribbled notes, this time from the various meetings they’ve had with the numerous specialists who offer free initial consultations (as I do myself!).

Other obvious signs to look out for are the furrowed brow and slightly cross-eyed, glazed expression. These physical manifestations are the result of being given too much advice and information.

At a lot of events, these small business owners are given the opportunity to talk about their business challenges (commonly called ‘wicked issues’ – and avoided by seasoned networkers). Everyone around the table pipes up sharing their experiences and solutions – more information, more advice, more overwhelm.

At first glance, all this information and advice seems very helpful. The problem is that you can have too much of a good thing and end up in the condition known as ‘analysis paralysis’.

This can be avoided if all the information that has been obtained is processed (for relevance), understood and then – most importantly – acted upon. What generally happens, however, is that most of the notes and scraps of information don’t make it into any sort of system, let alone get translated into action. One of the main reasons clients come to me for business coaching is because they want to find clarity and focus to move their business forward.

The overwhelmed business owner can be seen frantically gathering yet more information and arranging still further introductory meetings, in the hope that the next piece of advice will provide the elusive answer and make sense of everything else they’ve been told. And so the cycle continues.

Next time you spot an overwhelmed business owner, do them a favour, by all means buy them a coffee – just don’t give them any extra information!

© Louise Barnes-Johnston, 2005-2007

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