‘Defying Digital Distraction’: Smarter technology usage and data-consumption to combat Britain’s rising levels of ‘Infobesity’

Is technology getting the better of us? We all have these moments when the digital deluge seems to sweep us away: the email inbox is running riot; vital work documents play hide and seek on the server; the stream of notification pings, toasts and pop-ups never ends; and the social media firehose is dialled to 11.

As new research for Microsoft shows, the digital deluge is affecting everybody, and not in a good way. Our survey, Defying Digital Distraction, suggests that nearly half of the UK’s office workers – are suffering from ‘Infobesity’, the over-consumption of information. It’s making us unhappy, is bad for our health, and hurts our productivity.

About 55% of the office workers we polled told us that they often experience information overload; 43% of them are stressed as a result, and a third of us are plainly overwhelmed (34%).

Nearly half of the UK’s office workers are suffering from ‘Infobesity’- the over-consumption of information
Nearly half of the UK’s office workers are suffering from ‘Infobesity’- the over-consumption of information

May 19, 2014

Of course, we could blame technology for our problems. From the moment we wake up to the second we tuck in for the night, we want to be connected. But do we really need to check our mobile devices constantly “just in case work sends us something important (40% of us do), and does the last act before going to bed really have to be a final glance on the news and email feed (52% of us think it’s necessary). There must be something wrong with the office culture in many companies when 45% of workers feel that they should reply to work email instantly – no matter where they are or what they’re doing. And I feel for the one in 10 of us who say they can never switch off from work.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Succumbing to the digital distractions of our lives and failing to harness the transformative power of technology are simply beginner’s mistakes, made by us – the first generation of connected consumers, connected workers and connected companies. Here is where we go wrong: we use technology to speed up the old ways of working; instead we should use technology to transform work and fundamentally reimagine how we use information. The good news is that I can see signs everywhere that we are beginning to turn things around. Technologies and tools – and best practices – are emerging that help us make good use of the data deluge – and turn it into a Big Data goldmine instead.

To get a glimpse of our technological future, I’d encourage you to start by reading my new book ‘The Rise of the Humans: How to outsmart the digital deluge,’ which we’ve also launched today, as the second instalment of the Microsoft Business Reimagined series. You could call it a manifesto: “How to enable a modern society to live up to the potential of technology.”

But how will we do it? For starters, we have to understand not only the potential but also the limitations of the machines, the algorithms that will be the technology platform of our Big Data world. Most importantly, even though machines are great at finding correlations and providing answers, it’s only us, the humans, who know how to ask the right questions. So if we want to defy the digital distractions, if we want to cut through the infobesity, and if we want to outsmart the digital deluge, then we have to learn how we can use the machines to connect the dots, provide the context and facilitate truly meaningful insights. That’s when we will see the Rise of the Humans.

Further information about ‘The Rise of the Humans: How to Outsmart the Digital Deluge’ can be found here – http://www.harriman-house.com/riseofthehumans.