Fight Information Overload with Effective Knowledge Sharing
You know that sharing knowledge at work is important, you just didn’t think so much of your time would be focused on it. You were in three project kick-off meetings alone this week, and you know you’re going to spend a chunk of the afternoon answering Slacks and emails. You’re tired, the team is tired, and you’re thinking that even people in upper management are starting to feel burned out.
That’s probably why you’re feeling immense guilt over having to send out yet another email update that will suck up more of people’s time and attention. We know that information overload is a major problem at work. That’s why we hate inadvertently contributing to it by just doing our jobs.
Things won’t be slowing down at work any time soon, but we can help you if you want to help lessen that cognitive load at work. If you’re looking for ways to share knowledge efficiently and cut down on overload, we have some tips to help you get started.
It’s okay to be selective
We encounter a lot of information throughout the day. After a while, it’s only natural to start tuning certain things out and doling out your attention to what you think needs it. Sometimes, when you give people the “whole story” you’re giving them more information than what they really need to get the outcome that you want. Too much information can be confusing or force people to work slower and harder than they have to.
Before you share knowledge, take time to think about the most important takeaways you want people to have. Focus on giving them the information they need to complete the task at hand and make sure people understand what’s expected from them.
It’s also okay to give people the option to consume extra information on their own. There’s nothing wrong with giving people the data points they need to handle a task, then also giving them a link to an entire study if they want to read it when they have the time.
Schedule time to share
Sometimes the issue isn’t the amount of knowledge you’re receiving, it’s the cadence you’re getting it. Getting your weekly project update email can be an important part of your day, but it can also be awfully distracting when you’re already heads down on other tasks.
Adding a little predictability to when you share out your knowledge could do your team a lot of good. It helps them plan their days better since they’ll know when to expect updates or important information to help them with their job.
You don’t have to schedule every email down to the minute (unless you really want to). Simply letting people know to expect updates Tuesday afternoons or that you’re open to reviewing work on the third Friday of every month gives everyone a little more predictability.
Identify what’s important
Let’s think about two hypothetical situations at work:
You had a great talk with a client and they had some feedback they wanted to share about their latest experience with your company.
It turns out that the latest product update ended up deleting some key features inaccessible. The engineering team is in an “all-hands” situation trying to fix the issue, and the CX team needs to be briefed on what to tell customers.
Clearly, the second scenario is more important and urgent than the first. How do you let your co-workers learn about the urgency? When everything at work starts to feel like it’s an emergency, all of the sudden it gets a lot harder to determine where your attention should be focused. Instead of making every email or Slack seem like they demand someone’s immediate attention, think of ways to help your employees know what’s important. Guru’s announcements feature is a highly impactful way to show urgency in messaging. Seeing that “I read it” button on the top of Cards lets employees know that they’re looking at something important, and it also helps the people sending the message track engagement and ensure that the right people read it.
Keep things simple
The way we present the information we share matters. Overall, whatever knowledge you share with your team should be easy enough to understand and presented in a way that makes it easy to access. Be strategic about the way you present information, and remember to keep understanding and digestability at the forefront of your work.
If you’re used to writing in big chunks of text, consider breaking your message down into smaller bullet points that make your information more scannable. Breaking your thoughts down into smaller sentences can help you better focus on the message at hand and can help ensure that you’re presenting the most important information to get your point across.
Think about whether videos, images, or even audio clips can help people understand information more. We record Looms for pre-work and project statuses, and encourage people to give updates and ask questions asynchronously. This gives people a chance to sit with information we’ve presented, and come back with questions when the time is right.
Knowledge management is the key to combating information overload
Sharing knowledge is important and should be the cornerstone of every workplace. But we’re also aware that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. It’s up to us to know when and how to share knowledge, and implementing some of the suggested practices in this post is a great first step to making knowledge sharing more effective and efficient.
We’re big fans of no meeting days and asynchronous communication because we know how heavy the burden of information overload can be. Giving people space to process the information they’ve consumed is another important part of sharing knowledge.
Take time to think about how you and your co-workers can work together to share knowledge without contributing to information overload. You may find that your day gets a little less stressful, a little more productive, and a lot more fulfilling.