Personalization of knowledge - a solution for education in times of information overload
More information than we need arrives on our smartphones, tablets or computers. Even though each device is becoming easier and easier to use and is supposed to help us – we still struggle with the flood of information every day.
When we receive more information than we can process, and it becomes impossible to make optimal decisions – then we are dealing with information overload. The result is that we make these decisions based on faulty judgment or not at all.
This is also happening to our teams. So what can we do not to exacerbate the effect of the information deluge and at the same time effectively educate teams?
You can use solutions that will reduce the workload of teams, optimize the amount of information and systematize it. But let’s start with identifying the reasons for this.
By actively using the media and available technology, we get a good dose of daily email correspondence, media reports from social media and online portals, multimedia news, and it has a huge impact on decreasing our productivity.
Laura Shin of Forbes reports in a 2014 article that more information has been produced in the last 10 years than in all of human history before 2004.
The conscious mind can pay attention to three or maybe four things at once. If we try to cross that boundary, our choices will be flawed because we will lose focus and control of our cognitive capacity, he writes.
According to Eric Mistewicz in an article also published in Forbes – he reports that we absorb more information in one month than our grandparents had the opportunity to process in a lifetime.
However, remember that according to Theodore Sturgeon’s law, as much as 90% of the messages we receive are worthless.
Let’s examine how this works in businesses:
The messages coming in to each employee – in the last few years – have increased several times in volume – and the amount of time to process them has not changed.
Adding to the aforementioned plethora of communications – it is very technically easy for an employer to provide a myriad of information to employees. This is often done by lumping their educational materials into “one bag” – which is the company intranet or emails. Unfortunately, most of the data is scattered, and with an endless list of tasks – employees lack not only time, but also focus – necessary to assimilate any knowledge or analyze information reaching them. In turn, this means that many of the data folders never get opened.
Over time, failure to meet responsibilities and complete important tasks results in feelings of guilt and pressure, which the employee focuses on him/herself and this, in turn, makes it impossible to effectively move on to other tasks. The trend of “staying on top of things” and the myth of multitasking only “add fuel to the fire” and the circle closes.
We are dealing with the effects of information overload and attention crash syndrome.
The effect is that the employee tries to get acquainted with every piece of information he or she receives – but this turns out to be physically impossible. Employees gradually cease to be effective, their ability to analyze and make decisions gradually decreases and the queue of information to be processed does not decrease at all.
According to Lucy Jo Palladino , Ph.D, psychologist and author of Find Your Focus Zone, “Information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than the brain can process at one time . “
According to Palladino, a more accurate term is “cognitive overload” – leading to indecision, poor decisions and stress. Indecision or analysis paralysis occurs when you are overwhelmed with too many choices, your brain gently “freezes” – where – you passively wait and see what happens but don’t react, or you make a hasty decision because important facts get wedged between trivial ones and you find them just as credible and on top of that, you treat unreliable sources as equal to credible ones.
So what can we do – to support our teams to find room for education and to reverse the effect of information overload?
As employers or people in charge of teams, we don’t have much influence on the amount of messages that reach employees outside of their corporate duties. However, in the course of our teams’ work we can optimize the information we receive to those important and tailored to the recipient, i.e. personalization of information or knowledge.
Companies attach importance to raising qualifications and acquiring new competencies by their employees. The resources allocated for education are increasing. Very rarely are educational materials organized and made available in a way that is convenient to assimilate and verify. The model in which educational materials are sent to an e-mail box or are located in several places on a company’s intranet and are to be quickly assimilated does not work. Similarly with the materials received after the training, as practice shows, a vast majority of employees do not even look at them. The very verification of knowledge and skills acquired in this way is a problem for employers.
Research conducted by Henry Roediger and Jeffrey D. Karpicke – Test-Enhanced Learning show that thanks to – the use of exams, knowledge retention (the level of remembered information over a longer period of time) in employees will be at twice the level than in the case of transferring knowledge without tools for its verification.
Education where the supervisor personally takes care of upgrading the skills of their teams works well. In the long run, limitations will be apparent: time, quantity, and budget.
Until recently, there were no tools to facilitate education and verify progress. Today, there are solutions available virtually off-the-shelf. These are team education platforms.
The solution to the entire situation is to place all educational materials in an organized manner in one well-organized location. Provide easy access for every person on our teams. Divide the material into competence groups and assign employees access to groups of materials that are important to each of them. In this way we personalize access to educational materials, while limiting the amount of material to the scope that is necessary. Let’s put it differently. Thanks to the platform, it is much easier to systematize knowledge and company procedures, where each employee will receive only such materials that they should and will not be distracted by materials that would not be important for them.
There is no doubt that we are much more willing to learn the material that has been adjusted to our function and duties. Thanks to such friendly solutions, an entrepreneur or a person responsible for the education of a team can adapt particular parts of the material to the employees depending on their competence and position. For example, marketing department employees should have access to a different group of materials than logistics department employees. Such actions make the process of internal education pleasant, useful and effective – contributing in the long run to greater employee satisfaction, which is not without significance if we take a long-term view of the company’s development. And a company is people!
So the first step of personalization – and optimizing the amount of materials for each employee would be done very naturally.
The platform will enable constant access to educational materials by means of a computer or through convenient mobile applications. It means easy access wherever and whenever we want.
The progress of education of teams in the company is visible to the Employer “as at hand”. Thanks to this, it will be possible to diagnose educational needs and implement appropriate actions, such as providing support for those who need it.
An employee should not have to face the challenge of searching for educational materials in different places. He will find them in one place after logging in to his user account via computer or after opening the mobile application. Thanks to such a solution, he will feel safe, knowing that the knowledge he is expected to acquire does not include surprises such as “one unread e-mail from last Tuesday”… He will also be able to demonstrate his progress or the level of acquired knowledge.
Additionally, in order to achieve good effects of company education it is good to use the leading trend in team education, namely gamification. We are talking here about elements known from games which are used in the process of education, not the game itself. Thanks to the possibility of comparing their results and the results of the whole team, the employees begin to treat education as an element of healthy competition and, while maintaining elements of fun, they show greater involvement in gaining knowledge.
Regardless of whether we want to convey hard information, such as product knowledge, or help employees acquire soft competencies, personalized, systematized knowledge along with the convenience of constant access – enriched with gamification elements – will foster team development. Certificates of completed courses and completed batches of material, as well as exam results, may also be helpful in making decisions about the promotion of a given employee or supporting their career development.
The platforms also have the ability to undertake learning in areas of personal development like language learning.
It’s worth taking advantage of these types of solutions to help ease the “information traffic jam” and begin educating teams to ensure that we’re delivering the best we can to employees as a modern company that cares about employee development.
PS. The features described above correspond to the needs defined during conversations with entrepreneurs over the last few years. The features I described above are the result of hard work, passion and desire for excellence that our team put into building the e-LEA team education platform (e-lea.com). I have been personally involved in creating this platform for years and I believe that it will bring a lot of value to every team that will use it.