There was a time when letting people know about something required calling a land line and hoping the person happened to be near it. Otherwise, you needed to physically track them down. Then voicemail came along, offering an additional way to provide notifications.

The contrast couldn’t be greater between that era and today, when we find ourselves bombarded with notification emails, text messages, social media alerts, and even robot phone calls—some that we choose to receive and many we don’t even recognize.

That shift is driven by an even larger transformation in how we communicate and act. The many means of notification are part and parcel of a world where the speed of information—and reaction—has become paramount. That’s not only true in our personal lives, it’s just as true in the business world.

The role of notifications

Take manufacturing as an example. “Just-in-time” emerged in the 1980s to describe a significant manufacturing transformation: No longer would manufacturers warehouse large inventories of parts and components, waiting until they were needed. Instead, coordination throughout the supply chain would make it possible for suppliers to make precisely timed deliveries of needed parts and components directly to the manufacturing line.