Obesity in America is a problem of gigantic proportions. In fact, ABC News reports that “almost two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese.” Unfortunately, it’s getting worse:
…according to a new study out Monday, the number of overweight people in the U.S. will grow to almost 42 percent of the country by 2030, and cost a whopping $550 billion in obesity-related health care costs per year.
Clearly we have a consumption problem. But that’s not all. JP Rangaswami, one of the brightest lights in the knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0 firmament, recently gave a TEDx talk in which he suggested there were parallels between food and information. In fact, he suggests we should think about our information production, preparation and consumption like we think about our food production, preparation and consumption. Who is producing good quality information? How can you identify good quality information? How do you set limits on your information consumption? Do you need an information diet or even an information fast?
Now, consider lawyers in America. Many of us have an extremely unhealthy lifestyle: we work long hours, get little sleep, eat a poor diet, get insufficient exercise, and suffer high levels of stress. This could make us prime candidates for obesity. Lawyers are equally bad about their information consumption — we don’t always pay sufficient attention to the quality of what’s coming at us from the information fire hose. Further, our orientation to service leads us to allow far too many interruptions in the name of staying on top of the situation or being responsive. If JP Rangaswami were here, he’d say that when it comes to information consumption, lawyers snack all day.
In light of the obesity epidemic with respect to both food and information, what can law firm knowledge management do? Well clearly, knowledge managers cannot cut off the supply of information so we’ll have to help our colleagues make better choices. In the realm of physical health, doctors will recommend more exercise, smaller portions of food and longer nights of sleep, among other things. With respect to information obesity, how do we turn the situation around? We need to teach ourselves and our colleagues a healthier approach:
- better filters to improve the quality of the information we receive
- labels or other disclosure to understand the types of information (e.g., fact, fiction, docudrama, mockumentary, etc.)
- personal knowledge management as a better way to make sense of the information we receive
- identify sources of reliable curation
- demonstrate sane and effective ways to adopt information diets or cleansing fasts (i.e., unplugging for a while so you have time to think)
I’d strongly recommend you take the eight minutes required to watch JP’s talk. (I’ve embedded the video below for your convenience.) Then think about what changes KM can bring about to help colleagues adopt a healthier approach to their consumption of information.
Hat tip to Luis Suarez who pointed out JP’s excellent TEDxAustin talk and also shared how he has made changes in his own life to avoid an unhealthy weight gain and information obesity (see the video below).
[Photo Credit: Romain Pittet]