Knowledge Fatigue: How Do You You Deal with It?

Informatization and Social medialization of societies and economies have resulted in an abundance of knowledge. The amount and speed at which knowledge is being created, refined, re-packaged, disseminated, and is becoming obsolete are truly mind-blowing. Organizations and individuals, thus, often have access to knowledge more than they can realistically process with their existing capabilities.

Knowledge abundance has its advantages and disadvantages, some of which are given below (knowledge is different from information and is taken here as “relevant and objective information that helps in drawing conclusion” source:

In terms of advantages, knowledge abundance can help in reducing risks (by virtue of having a lot of knowledge), improving quality of decision making, inducing proactiveness of thoughts and actions, making better forecasts for the future, developing innovations, and creating income-generating opportunities, just to mention a few.

Some of the disadvantages of knowledge abundance are: confused decisions or decision inertia (not knowing what decision to make), taking more time in processing information to make decisions, becoming knowledge-obsessed or knowledge-greedy, and missing on opportunities by waiting for more knowledge (thinking there is still more knowledge that we don’t have yet).

Particularly, with 24×7 online connectivity and spread of information (often due to push information campaigns) by various actors in the society through multiple online-offline outlets and platforms, people are becoming overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge they have access to resulting in yet another phenomenon which we call here as knowledge fatigue.

We define knowledge fatigue as a tendency to feel exhausted and/or tired with the availability of or access to a large amount of knowledge, which impedes judgement or makes it difficult to choose, understand, assimilate and process the rightful/useful knowledge in a timely manner for personal and professional use purposes.

[Caveat: Please note that knowledge fatigue is little different from information fatigue – which is information overload.  Information fatigue could happen due to information that may or may not be based on facts. Here, the scope of knowledge fatigue encompasses knowledge that is broadly reviewed, approved, and accepted as authentic knowledge. Examples of such knowledge are knowledge that is codified in the form of published journal articles, books, industry standards/guidelines, authentic publications of all sorts, policy documents, and tacit knowledge based on years of experience and learning, just to mention a few.]

Knowledge abundance is increasingly becoming a common occurrence across every profession and aspect of life, and project management (PM) is no exception. Despite being a niche discipline, a vast amount of knowledge about various PM standards, tools, techniques, and accounts of project delivery experiences exists. In addition, given that PM is used almost in every industry and business sector, there are variations of how PM is used and hence a large amount of tacit and codified knowledge exists about such variations too.

The situation is challenging for project staff to be able to cope with the existence of so much knowledge, which could potentially lead to knowledge fatigue. Often reported project failures is a stark reminder that despite the existence of a vast amount of knowledge, the use of PM knowledge is not very efficient and effective, possibly contributing to project failures. Then the question is: how do we deal with knowledge fatigue?

Defining relevant knowledge standards, need-based knowledge dissemination, centralized knowledge pools that attract followers, and crowd-sourcing knowledge through knowledge gatekeepers could help both project-focused and non-project-based organizations. It seems given so much knowledge all around us, developing customized knowledge repositories that are accessible and easy to use is critical to alleviating some of the fatigue associated with knowledge and the inability to access the right knowledge quickly and efficiently.

Concluding thoughts:

Knowledge is the most critical strategic resource for, both, individuals and organizations alike.  The access (or otherwise) to useful, relevant knowledge in a timely manner can be a difference between boom or bust outcomes. Good thing is that the knowledge is available and available in vast quantities. The problem, however, is that the abundance of knowledge could impair the ability to access useful and relevant knowledge in a timely manner thus diluting the utility of knowledge.

Another issue is that the abundant knowledge could cause fatigue resulting in a lack of motivation to swift through the available knowledge to find useful knowledge. Such a situation could badly affect the performance of work and the creation of value. Given that project work is bound by several constraints and focused on value delivery, the existence of knowledge fatigue could cause severe damage to the health of projects. Keeping that in mind, we have presented few strategies to deal with knowledge fatigue. Obviously, these strategies are based on early thoughts and non-exhaustive in nature. In addition to these, organizations can employ individual-focused strategies to help people deal with knowledge fatigue.


Jiwat Ram
Jiwat Ram
Jiwat is currently working as a Professor in Project management at Excelia Business School France. He did his Ph.D. from the University of South Australia and MBA in International Business from AIT Thailand. Jiwat has over 20 years experience of working in industry across banking, construction, service, and education sectors in an international setting. For the last more than 10 years, Jiwat has worked in academia teaching at Executive Education, Master’s, and bachelor’s levels. His teaching includes courses on Artificial Intelligence, project management, management, and research methodology. Jiwat has published his research work in top-tier, high-impact factor journals including the International Journal of Production Economics, the International Journal of Project Management, Computers in Human Behaviour, the Journal of Global Information Management, and Enterprise Information Systems, among others. Combining academic and non-academic work, he has published over 100 articles in journals, conferences and industry outlets. His published work has been well received and four of his published papers have ranked in the Top 25 most downloaded papers from ScienceDirect. His two papers have been ranked in the Top 25 Most Cited articles as well. Jiwat’s research is focused on the impacts of technologies such as Social Media, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence on businesses and society. Jiwat likes to understand how we can leverage upon the use of innovative technologies for business growth and productivity. Jiwat regularly contributes towards the development of new thought and ideas in business and technology management. As such, he has a growing portfolio of publications on some of the contemporary issues in the management of projects and organizations. Jiwat also publishes his work on social media platform Linkedin to connect and reach out to other industry professionals. His work has received a good following with a significant number of posts cited as reaching top 1% engagement on Linkedin. Jiwat’s content on LinkedIn can be accessed at: #ideannovation_jiwat Please feel free to connect with Jiwat on LinkedIn by clicking on the Icon above.

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  1. Reading Range by David Epstein, it mentioned that because knowledge is so broadly shared these days, this, too, has become more democratic and it has become easier to collaborate.

    You wonder if you want to invest in a stock? Look up their statements and read the expert analyses. It used to be only brokers had access to this kind of information.
    History no longer belongs to the school board – we can read the stories that have not been greenlighted by those in power.
    You have a rare disease? Google, read what the experts say, contact the eminent people across the world directly – or find community advocates among Facebook groups, Non-profits, people with similar problems, even if there are nobody but you in your zip code and you were at you doctor’s mercy.
    You have an idea? Plenty of resources on how to bring it to life and networks into which you can tap for the things you don’t know.

    The thing is that as expert driven our education system is, we are all becoming tinkerers in fields that used to belong to other experts: IT, investing, Youtube how-tos on every craft under the sky.
    It is great, but it is also dangerous because knowing a little means we often think we know a lot and thus make stupid decisions, while those that know a lot, know how much more there is to know.

  2. Philosophers, scientists, writers, artists and poets of all times have often wondered about the meaning of knowledge and its intimate relationship with suffering, providing contemporaries and posterity with innumerable interpretations and concepts on which to reflect and struggle. Knowledge is a miraculous panacea but as such it has its drawbacks.
    The amount of information we are exposed to due to modernity is transforming human beings from serene people to neurotic people.
    Unfortunately, a person often fills up with garbage. In general, this is unnecessary knowledge that hinders because we are very weak in perceiving and processing information and making decisions.