Report: Information Overload Costs U.S. $900B

The problem is getting worse.

Every year, research firm Basex calculates the cost of information overload and the numbers keep going up by a staggering amount. For 2008, Basex estimates information overload cost the U.S. economy $900 billion in lost productivity. For 2006, that figure was $588 billion.

“We’re continuing to generate more content, and companies like Google introduce silly things like a feature in GMail that lets you set ‘Reply All’ as a default setting,” Basex CEO and chief analyst Jonathan Spira told “I don’t think there is enough awareness of the problem.”

To raise awareness, Basex has released a free “Information Overload Calculator” designed to give a rough estimate of the impact the problem has on
individual organizations.

Even in this era of $700 billion bailouts, the Basex estimate is so enormous it might easily be dismissed as unreal. But Spira said he’s confident in his figures, which are based in part on U.S. labor statistics and census information of hourly wages.

“We know how much time people potentially lose in productivity from our research. I’m actually convinced our estimates are conservative,” Spira said. “But let’s say it’s half of $900 billion — that’s a big number, too. The purpose of this is to be a canary in the coal mine and show the problem is real.”

So how should businesses respond?

While Spira said he has no expectation any company can deal with information 100 percent efficiently every day of the week. But he does have suggestions.

“Let’s say you have $10 million exposure to the problem. If you can take some basic steps like e-mailing fewer people and being more conscious of how your actions affect the workflow of others and bring that number down to $8 million, that’s pretty good.”

He also suggests there are a number of third-party programs that can help filter and organize emails to cut down on interruptions and unnecessary communications.

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