We live in a culture of information overload. If you’re reading this online (with certainty, you are) you understand that there are several programs or websites running in the background vying for your attention. This overload is a reality that forces each of us to constantly make hasty decisions about the meaning and importance of the information surging at us everyday.
The problem with this is that many times, due to the haste and lack of complete visibility, we make the wrong decision. In this process, we're given only a few seconds to decide that one item, idea or issue carries more weight than another.
We skim through important documents and speed through 15-second sound bites to decide which products we buy, which celebrity we admire and which political party we support.
As a customer service representative, I see the consequences of this information overload on a daily basis. A customer who thought that reading through our returns policy was not that big of a deal is upset about a restocking fee. Someone who based a purchasing decision on a picture rather than reading through the product description has (inadvertently) ordered the wrong item. Maybe they overlooked the stated lead-time on an item and are forced to extend an important deadline, all kinds of conflict that could have been avoided.
Though I see the results of cursory information evaluation, I am not guiltless of doing the same thing. In a world where a tide of new information is crashing down on us at 7 megabytes per second, it is hard to keep your head above water. I confess to having hastily agreed to a fair share of returns policies before reading them through. Who has the time (or professional training) to decipher the foreign legalese anyway?
Someone very wise has told me that the foundation of business and sales is not only to convince a customer of the need for your product, but to convince them that it is easier to live with it than without it.
So, I might suggest that we take the same approach to presenting critical information. How do we make relevant information easier to have than not to have? It is easy to argue that information-- returns policies, terms and conditions, shipping information --is already easily accessible, which is true. But is it easier to have than not to have? I do not presume to have an answer to the great question of how to educate the masses for our own good. But, I’m happy to join in the conversation.
Meet Tom Wujec. This year at the TED conference he discussed just how it is that our fickle minds create meaning.
Maybe if we start with an understanding of how we work, we can figure out how to make it easier to live educated than it is to suffer the consequences of the uninformed.