Shergold article in today’s Fin Review – Infoluenza strikes again!

December 15, 2006

Always interesting to read the piece by Verona Burgess in Friday’s Australian Financial Review.  Today’s article was the insights from an interview with Peter Shergold, the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

He mentioned that two of the public sector’s biggest challenges will be systemic. The bulk of the article is devoted to embedding the whole of government approach to public administration in middle management and in departmental financial arrangements.  This would increase the focus on citizen-centred service delivery, moving away from strict equitability towards greater tailoring and moving to pooling arrangements for funding allocations.  Interesting stuff and one could possibly expect to see that in state public sectors as well in due course.

The second systemic issues is that of devising better ways to manage the information explosion.  I have canvassed that previously, coining the term infoluenza to describe the unsustainable addiction to incorporating more and more information.  (As an aside, a simple google search on this term now lists a huge variety of sites.)  Shergold comments that we need to improve how to filter all this information, how to turn the information into knowledge and how to identify potential issues for crisis management.  Good environmental scanning and issues management are two ways to help do this by discerning the weak signals from the noise and for dealing with important topical issues as they arise.



August 22, 2006

I first presented the concept of infoluenza at the AGLIN conference in Canberra in July 2006.  I later presented it at the Ark Group KM Australia 2006 conference in Sydney and then wrote a post on it on the act-km website.  As far as I know, this is a term that no-one else has defined; a quick Google search revealed nothing – apart from lots of misspellings of influenza.  If you know of anyone that has used it, please let me know by adding a comment.

Below is a description of what I mean by infoluenza.

A couple of years ago, Clive Hamilton from the Australia Institute wrote a book called Affluenza. In this book, he defined affluenza as:

  1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
  2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream.
  3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

His thesis was that we work hard to pay off the mortgage and buy material goods but that our growing wealth only serves to increase our desires for more material possessions. Our attachment to money and material possessions robs us of autonomy and fails to deliver happiness. It’s a disease and one that appears for many people, very hard to cure. It’s not affluence that is the problem but affluenza, our attachment to materialism.

I used this concept to describe the informational variant, infoluenza. I define infoluenza as:

  1. The frustrated, overwhelmed and unfulfilled feeling that results from continued efforts to broaden information or knowledge management systems.
  2. An epidemic of confusion, vendor hype, paralysis by analysis, and suspect decision-making caused by dogged pursuit of a Technology Nirvana.
  3. An unsustainable addiction to incorporating more and more information.

The similar thesis here is that many people have a desire for more and more content and information but this attachment to information resources robs us of our search for deeper meaning. It fails to deliver contentment (which etymologically, is derived from the satisfied feeling that comes from being contained). Information is not the problem, but infoluenza – a disease of not being able to understand the limitations of deriving contentment from content alone.

Just as affluenza is a term that is increasingly being used in Australia to describe the disease of failing to master our affluence and therefore the need to broaden our goals away from material possessions and towards other contributors of happiness, infoluenza is a term that could be used to describe the failure to master our information resources and that to achieve contentment at work in solving our business problems, we need to turn our attention to other contributors of contentment apart from content (like relationships, stories, context, etc). 

Jack Vinson has identified some excellent cures for those inflicted with the infoluenza virus