Noise reduction: part 1

Noise reduction was voted by you as the number 5 Sales Trend for 2010. About 20 years ago I was told that information was doubling every five years; five years ago it was every 18 months; one year ago it was every nine minutes, so who knows how fast information is doubling now?

Many business leaders, sales people and many more are reporting information overload. Selecting what to take on board and what to leave behind will be critical for sales and business success in 2010 and beyond. It will also be critical for our own wellbeing.

There is so much to read and process, and so little time to do it well. Many people report feeling that their brains are ‘bursting’ as a result of so much information and wonder how they can process, log, link and manage the information they are exposed to and then use it wisely and purposefully.

According to Alvaro Fernandez from SharpBrains over 1,000,000 new books are published every year and more than 100,000,000 scientific papers are released, this coupled with the billions of websites at our Google-tips.

With all this good information on tap, I am increasingly finding myself feeling incredibly frustrated with the amount of rubbish information I have to wade through every day as well. There seems to be so much ‘noise’ out there competing with the good data.

Not only do businesses have to keep on top of what is the latest market trend, product or competitor strategy, we are also dealing with the merging of personal information with business information. It appears email remains a major source of information overload, as people struggle to keep up with the rate of incoming messages especially, the filtering out of unsolicited messages such as spam, and ever growing tsunami of personal information keeping us distracted and often disturbed. There is even a syndrome to describe people who give out too much information about themselves. It’s called TMI syndrome (too much information) and it’s coming at us with unprecedented speed via Facebook, Twitter and especially email.

With this increase in noise we need to assess our Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). SNR is a measure used in science and engineering to quantify how much a signal has been corrupted by noise. In less technical terms, signal-to-noise ratio compares the level of a desired signal (such as music) to the level of background noise. The higher the ratio, the less obtrusive the background noise is. “Signal-to-noise ratio” is sometimes used informally to refer to the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange. For example, in online discussion forums and other online communities, off-topic and spam are regarded as “noise” that interferes with the “signal” of appropriate discussion.

For instance, a recent Microsoft security report has said that 97% of all email sent over the internet is spam and MessageLabs said 81% of all emails sent are unwanted, either way that’s a lot of noise.

The general causes of information overload include:

  • A rapidly increasing rate of new information being produced.
  • The ease of duplication and transmission of data across the internet.
  • An increase in the available channels of incoming information (eg. telephone, email, instant messaging, RSS, etc).
  • Large amounts of historical information to dig through.
  • Contradictions and inaccuracies in available information.
  • A low signal-to-noise ratio.
  • Lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information.
  • The pieces of information are unrelated or do not have any overall structure to reveal their relationships.

At no other time in history have we had access to so much information, however, it poses some interesting questions:

1. How do we verify what is fact and what is not?
2. What should we be paying attention to?
3. What is useful to us, our customers, our businesses and our communities?
4. How should we process, log, link and manage information to make it work for us?

To cope with this increase in noise some are trying to shut it out while many others are distracted by simply trying to keep on top of it, which is keeping them from doing other important activities. Either way, many are reporting feelings of anxiety at being overwhelmed by and unable to process so much information.

In Noise Reduction part 2, I will explore some strategies we can adopt to help us reduce the ‘noise’. The key will be finding reputable online sites, blogs, references and publications that provide access to information that is backed by evidence and research and is free from sensationalism. 2010 will be about filtering information through your core vision, intention and strategy.
So be prepared to question assumptions. This will help you to make decisions about what to take on board and what to leave behind. Remember, too much information and indecision will paralyse.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with her skilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to


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