When Many Equals Zero

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Over at Ask a Manager, a reader complains about (Item 2) having to send information to coworkers repeatedly. (The reader makes travel arrangements for a university's invited speakers.) One of Allison Green's suggested solutions is as follows:

I wonder if the problem is that you're including the faculty host on all the back-and-forth, meaning that they have a bunch of emails that they don't really need and thus are more easily missing the ones they do need. Could you stop including them on all that correspondence, and just wait until you have a confirmed itinerary to send? At that point, you could send all the details in one email with a clear subject line ("Falcon Flanagan's itinerary info for 10/7 seminar"). [bold added]
This reminds me of something I call "warning label fatigue," in which regulators force manufacturers to add so many unnecessary warning labels (noise) to things that the necessary ones (the signal) become less likely to be noticed. It also reminds me of an organizational principle I wearily remember any time I move: Having one of something you can locate is better than having a dozen that you can't.

Man's mind is powerful, but can deal with only so much information at once. When unit-economy can't come to the rescue, organizational skills can help. Allison Green's reader was failing to essentialize or organize the information he was supposed to provide, which meant that he effectively kept his mouth shut.

-- CAV


Jennifer Snow said...

This reminds me of how a lot of software companies, when they try to be "different" with their interface, just wind up hiding things you need where you can't find them.

WASD isn't a particularly efficient control scheme for computer games, for instance, (it puts over half the keyboard out of reach of your non-mouse hand) but it's become the industry standard for movement and any attempt to fiddle with it invariably makes things WORSE rather than better.

Gus Van Horn said...

You, in turn, remind me why I choose the software I do, whenever possible. Freedom from dumb, gratuitous changes to my interface (which in lots of software these days is crummy to begin with) is way up there. Control over it is even better.