Friday, May 14, 2004

Time Squeeze and the Human Touch

The explosion of info-clutter is really getting under people's skin and changing the way we approach things. Some of us look for intelligent honey bees to automatically find what's important. Others try to be more efficient, or more ruthless in filtering. Others just give up (I've threatened to stop using e-mail completely, just to freak out people who have become dependent on it). Technology may help deal with the chaos that technology is spawning. But I am hearing more and more from my clients a desire to get back to basics and re-humanize communication and the information pipeline.

Think of it this way -- if you don't automate you have to prioritize, using that fuzzy logic and non-egalitarian networking that humans are so good at. Instead of blasting an e-mail out to a cc list of dozens, think who you'd send it to if you had to hand write and mail each copy. And in looking for information, if you didn't have Google to give you ten thousand sources, how would you know where to go? You'd ask someone for recommendations. This is why blogs have a lot of appeal, at least to me. And why discussion forums will always be useful.

I am finding that many of my clients want "a person" to guide them in filtering the info-clutter, especially where learning technologies are concerned. I get asked more and more often to do short, incisive briefings to small groups of decision makers, because they find that a very efficient and accessible way to get focused.

I've also been getting a lot of requests for what you might call micro-consulting or sounding-board services -- someone has a proposal and wants an outside objective opinion; someone is putting together a strategy and wants help in shaping and polishing it before they go into presentation. Gone are the traditional big expensive long-term consulting projects. Now people seem to want the human equivalent of an EPSS -- inexpensive retainer-based just-in-time human performance support services. I'm also finding that courses that used to be so popular online are now being requested as condensed classroom sessions -- again, "do it for me, make it crystalline, make it human, hold the fog."

The technology may still be emerging that makes information more accessible, but it clearly has not captured the hearts and minds of many business professionals. Is it just me, or are others in the training field seeing the same thing?

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