Do You Suffer From Too Much Information?

I have a new car to drive

It is fantastic, it is the best type of car in the world, it is my wife’s company car

Everybody should have one of these, I don’t need to buy petrol, check the oil, top it up with water. I don’t even have to buy insurance. (Which is good, because I drive far too fast and there is no way anybody would let me drive a sleek German model like this)

The fanciest bit though is the all new “heads up” information display. I can flick a little switch and I get:

  • Miles per hour
  • Miles per gallon
  • Miles per hour since the car was new
  • Miles per gallon since the car was new
  • Miles per hour since I last reset it
  • Miles per gallon since I last reset it

Plus all of the above in metric units, just in case I am feeling continental

All projected on the windscreen

I feel (and look) like Tom Cruise in Top Gun

The truth of course is I don’t need any of this

What do I really need to know? How fast I am going, and if I am about to run out of petrol.  That is it.  The rest of it is all totally unnecessary

But it is worse than that. It is distracting. I spend more time flicking between the numbers than looking at the road. Not so good when blasting down the motorway

All of which leads to a question, a suggestion and a warning

The question:

When you are looking at your management information “dashboard” how much of it is really helpful and how much of it is just blinding? Do you measure the same thing in hundreds of different ways?  And not measure other things at all?

The suggestion:

Draw up a business process diagram (click the link to find out how) and plot all your metrics on it to see what you have covered, and what you don’t.  Then have a rethink

The warning:

If you are ever passing Nottingham on the M1 and you see a blue BMW weaving erratically from one lane to another, it is probably me in “Top Gun” mode. Hang back

Too Much Information

Read another opinion

And another

Image by Webdevil666


  1. It sounds like your BMW designer is suffering from the same problem that most users of Business Intelligence tools suffer from when they are first let loose with tools like Business Objects and Cognos. It’s a bit too easy to jam more information into the interface – so they do. There’s a lot to be said for it being difficult to add more information into a dashboard or interface, as it makes you think very carefully before you add features! Lots of different options often indicates a dashboard or report designed by someone who was unsure what the end user really needs.

  2. Hi James,
    I recently read that Jonathan Ives of Apple has been knighted for services to design and I am also reading a book by Ken Seagall around his experience working with Apple. Both of them keep repeating one word that is at the heart of Apple’s success both inside and outside the business and that is Simplicity. It is generally the best approach for everything but not many people do it. Why? Because it’s hard and complexity and more is easier.

    BMW’s report card, it is BMW I assume, should perhaps read ‘Must try harder’.


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