Edit Your Info

Edit Your Info

Our culture generally assumes that more is better. However, as it relates to decision making, more information actually works against you. Neuroscience research concluded that too much information leads to poorer decisions being made.

Neuroscientists scanned the brains of volunteers as they attempted to analyze complex problems. They discovered that as the information load increased, the area of the brain responsible for decision making and controlling emotions reached a point where it suddenly switched off. Because emotions were no longer constrained, they had more of an impact on decision making. More information equaled less rational and more emotional decisions, rather than the opposite.

In another study, MBA students were asked to choose a portfolio of stocks. One group was inundated with information from analysts, the financial press, and TV, while the other group saw only changes in stock prices. What happened? Those who were swamped with data earned only half the returns of those who focused on stock prices. Why? Because it was impossible for the first group to separate useful information from the useless.

What are the practical implications at work?

Think carefully about which bits of data are needed to make your argument and sideline the rest. Craft your presentations to tell a story instead of including every fact, figure, graph, and pie chart “just in case” you need it. Put your backup material on spare slides but don’t include it in your main presentation. Overly complex, detailed, crammed-to-bursting visuals will impede decision making rather than facilitate it. If you can make your point without that bullet/graph/chart/table, then omit it.

As a manager it’s part of your job to sift through information to decide what is/is not important. Make sure you apply that skill in all of your interactions.

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