Managers Information Overload the impact of coping strategies on decision-making performance Defended on Thursday, 2 March 2006

At the beginning of the 20th century, information was a scarce resource. The expansion of information and communication technologies, however, brought dramatic changes in terms of volume of information, driving society into the information age with new economic, social, and ethical rules. The problem of having too little information has been transformed into a problem of having too much information and has generated feelings of deficiency in the face of a constantly increasing information load. In this thesis, we develop an analytical approach to study the problem of information overload and human coping with it. Three generic groups of factors that contribute to the emergence and proliferation of information overload are specified. While often they have an independent effect, they also produce interactions reinforcing or eliminating each other. Hence, information overload is a complex phenomenon that results form the interactions among a large number of factors. Based on literature review and empirical data analysis, we made a distinction between three types of coping, i.e. human–enabled, technology-enabled, and organization –enabled. We further model human coping behavior using the analytical apparatus of the structuration theory, paying specific attention to the role of technology in assisting and facilitating human information processing. In so doing, we not only suggest a method for detecting the coping strategies but also provide an explanation of why certain strategies fail. Three qualitative case studies are presented in this thesis and are used to test and refine the conceptual model. The results suggest that to control the risks imposed by the complexity of the information environment, organizations must manage a number of critical areas. We propose detailed guidelines for “information overload diagnoses”. These guidelines not only help to detect the level, the scope, and the factors behind information overload, but also provide methods for fulfilling diagnoses and a basis for developing countermeasures.


Information overload, coping, structuration theory, organizational strategies, knowledge management, impact of technology

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