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: https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-information-and-knowledge.html):
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.
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.