Infobesity: An epidemic plaguing the corporate world

Information is cheap and easily available today, so it is probably no surprise that many companies overindulge and suffer from too much of it. But organizational infobesity undermines performance and demoralizes the employees who have to cope with it. Some are finding it more difficult than ever to make decisions and deliver results.

Like conventional obesity, infobesity has many sources, e.g. emails and voicemails, powerpoint presentations, reports, newsfeeds, websites, blogs. Useful information creates opportunity and allows better decisions. However, the masses that flows through most organizations today acts like so much bad cholesterol, clogging their arteries and slowing their reactions.


Fixing the infobesity problem requires stepping back from the daily flood of data. It requires reexamining how an organization operates and what kind of information it really needs.

The goal is to generate the information required for critical decisions – no more and no less. This information should get to the right people at the right point in the process, in a format designed for maximum understanding and ease of use. This approach is a cure for infobesity, sort of analogous to eating less and exercising more. There are just four requirements:

  1. Focus. Companies today generate data that no one needs and put it into reports that no one reads.
  2. Standardization. Is the data you need for decisions in the same format and easily accessible?
  3. Timing. Only gather the information when you really need it, not just because its nice to have lots of available information.
  4. Quantity and source. In the current fad for “big data,” companies mine electronic warehouses for insights about customers, transactions and products. Often big data provides highly useful information for making key decisions, but the big test for big data is whether its output is relevant to key decisions… And it should complement rather than replace other sorts of information.

Smart companies will address infobesity sooner rather than later – by tailoring their information flows to their most important decisions.

This article is an abstract of an article originally written by Bain & Co. in June 2013. 

By: Caroline Enders