Information Overload: The Victim, the Culprit, the Solution

Monday, May 11, 2015

Information Overload: The Victim, the Culprit, the Solution

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

This piece was originally published as part of Tamara's A Voice from Philanthropy column in the Daily WRAG.

Piled on my desk are several issues of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a few copies of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Bruce Katz’s The Metropolitan Revolution, the latest report from the Democracy Collaborative and assorted articles that I should read. Sound familiar? What does this tell you? That I’m still caught up in the last century’s hard copy preference? While that’s true, the bigger point is that I am constantly surrounded by information that I don’t have time to read, think about, or learn from because I am too busy doing.

Consider this from a 2013 article by science and technology writer David Russell Schilling:

"Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours."

Now at the same time that we are drowning in information, we’re all adding to it. Yes, WRAG, and probably most of you who are reading this post, is a part of the problem. We all manage programs, produce reports, host seminars – all chock full of information – good information, valuable information – but information that many don’t have the bandwidth to utilize.

Enough! At least, that’s what WRAG is saying.

Thanks to a grant from the Taproot Foundation, WRAG will be undertaking a comprehensive effort to learn what we do that truly helps our membership be more effective and responsible in their philanthropy. That is our mission. We want to be more laser-focused in accomplishing that mission. We still want to offer that inspiring speaker, that provocateur who will push us to think more expansively, but we also want to offer our members what they can use now, what they need now. We want to offer them tools, information and speakers that enable them to be more effective and responsible philanthropists. WRAG members, you’ll be hearing more. Stay tuned.