Too much information? Or not enough?

Electronic devices and applications give us the ability to connect with others more readily than ever before. Recently we’ve noticed, however, that posts on social media are sometimes either too revealing or the frequency of posting is overwhelming. In either case, these posts fall under the category of “too much information.”

A young woman who was extremely shy when a child is now sharing her most intimate thoughts and pictures with acquaintances she barely knows. A professional acquaintance engages in angry rants about politics, sports or seemingly whatever catches her eye. Another updates her profile picture almost every day, revealing a self-absorption that was never evident in daily encounters. Seeing these aspects of each of these personalities makes us want to preach about the dangers of embarrassing self-disclosure or rail about getting out of self so that one can show up positively and contribute more to the world.

This article isn’t just about the dangers of personal communication, however. It’s about a paradox we encounter in corporate communication. While individuals are communicating and sharing information as never before, many companies seem to be sharing so little across the organization.

One of the most frequent complaints we hear from clients is that they don’t really know what is going on in their organizations. We hear this in companies that have regular staff meetings, newsletters, and email blasts. We also hear this in companies where information passes through irregular channels.

Important information, such as new product development, remains closely held so that others who truly need the information are effectively locked out. Marketers who need time to develop robust communications to prepare the market for product introduction hear about new products on the cusp of commercialization. Then, they are tasked to produce effective communications without adequate time or information. “Need to know” has become a mindset that appears to include only one group, not the whole team.

While we don’t believe this lack of organizational communication is necessarily new, it seems to be more pervasive. Vital information has become a precious commodity in many organizations and withholding it from others has become routine.

So it seems we are a bit unbalanced in our communication modes. Personally, we share a lot. Corporately, we withhold a lot. There is danger in both modes.

As communicators, we encourage everyone to share vital information across companies and communities. But we also hope that the balance will tilt toward relevant messages conveyed in a timely manner with potential recipients firmly in mind.