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Pay Attention to the Noise

There is so much information coming at us nowadays, the ability to filter has become a standout skill. But are we filtering out valuable information when we filter or quiet the noise?

Here are a few things to look for to find value in the noise.

The noise is deafening. When the noise is so loud, consider the cause not just how to quiet it down. Quieting a deafening noise is akin to turning up the radio when your car is clanging. (ok I've done that) When inventory levels keep rising, building a new warehouse is a way to turn down the volume while ignoring the information in the noise.

Deafening noise brings to mind the situation many IT departments find themselves in where their internal business partners are dissatisfied. Over the years IT has sought solutions to this problem including putting people between IT and the business (analysts, project managers, requirements writers) and tightening the structure of the interaction (templates, approvals). Ironically, these solutions have resulted in an increase in the noise. Why is this? Because these solutions were put in place to quiet the noise, not to address the cause of the noise or respond to the noise.

The noise keeps coming back. If you feel like you are playing ‘Whack-a-Mole’ with the noise, you’re missing some information. When you try to quiet the noise, and it keeps coming back, it’s trying to tell you something.

Think about an organization that has low employee motivation. HR might determine that they need to improve hiring process to get more motivated people. This might give a short-term bump in motivation, but after a few months the motivation falls again. They might then try installing some ping-pong tables. Again, they might get a short term improvement, but again motivation falls. Some rah-rah internal branding and presentations from executives? Again, short term motivation, but nothing sticks. Analysis through surveys might work, but more than likely the situation is complex. This situation is going to require some probing to deal with motivation real-time.

The noise is odd. Consider the situation where you get a complaint from a customer saying that your website doubled the quantities on their entire order. You’ve never gotten a complaint like this before, it seems like a one-off. The team can’t recreate it. You might ignore this complaint, classifying it as an outlier or an inexperienced customer. OR you might consider that this is a pretty odd complaint warranting further consideration.

You can still filter. Once you’ve determined that noise does not contain anything you need right now, filter it out. Junk mail is a great example of this. Junk mail does contain information, and trends, but if you don’t care, filter it out.

How are you dealing with noise in your workplace? Let us know!

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