''Oh my God,'' everyone said, ''how are we possibly going to process all of the information that we're creating day after day? We're buried in information coming out of copiers, reports and memoranda.''
Well, here we are a couple of decades later and we're not only buried in information, we're paralyzed by it -- document management applications notwithstanding. And it's not just technology professionals. CNN's Wolf Blitzer's new Situation Room has no fewer than eight screens flashing and refreshing behind him as he randomly switches from story to story. All kinds of information is pouring out as you try to track moving images on eight ever-changing monitors.
The best example of this came at a meeting I recently attended. I watched all of the middle-aged guys pull out their weapons of choice: cell phones, crackberries, laptops, pagers and what are now considered old-fashioned PDAs. Each one of them laid their devices in front of them like they were trying to create some kind of cockpit.
''Mine is smaller than yours,'' I heard one of them say, as another challenged everyone to a digital race. ''I bet I can download more and faster than anyone here.''
These people are idiots.
When the meeting began, everyone scattered -- not from the room but from the subject at hand. The poor guy who was leading the meeting might as well have been herding cats. Some of the 'participants' were checking email, text mail and video mail. Others were poking at their PDAs with little sticks as their heads bobbed up and down. Others rudely forgot to silence their cockpits which lit up, groaned and vibrated throughout the meeting.
What the hell was I doing at this meeting? Everyone was about half-checked out, servicing the devices that keep them connected with other half-checked in colleagues scattered throughout the world.
No one can drink from a fire hose.
The inefficiency, frustration and stress built into our personal information processing (PIP) systems is staggering. Yet we keep our little darlings on all the time, afraid to miss some important comment made by half-witted professionals pecking and bobbing at meetings all over the world.
Here are some suggestions for managing the PIP process:
I suspect there's a business here. Certainly the current rage in coaching could focus on these problems. Hell, there might even be an opportunity to develop a patch that would help addictees kick many of their PIP habits.