This incident has called into the question the entire legitimacy of the processes associated with managing sensitive government information. And here, the government isn’t alone.
In the corporate sector, the value destroyed by poor information management practices is often measured in fines and lawsuit payouts. But before such catastrophes come to light, what metrics do we use — or should we use — to determine whether a publicly traded company has their information management house in order? Who manages information more effectively — P&G or Unilever; Coke or Pepsi; GM or Ford; McDonald’s or Chipotle; Marriot or Hilton? When interviewing a potential new hire, how should we ascertain whether they are a skilled and responsible information manager?
Business historians tell us that it was about 10 years before the turn of the century that “information” — previously thought to be a universal “good thing” — started being perceived as a problem. About 20 years after the invention of the personal computer, the general population started to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information being generated. We thrive on information, we depend on information, and yet we can also choke on it. We have available to us more information than one person could ever hope to process.
The information narrative changed from being very positive to darker metaphors and analogies portraying information as “an unstoppable steamroller” or as “a river. A very polluted river.”
One of my pals from the futurist rubber-chicken circuit, new-media professor Clay Shirky, now vice provost at New York University, famously remarked, “It’s not information overload; it’s filter failure.” This begs the question of information strategy. Do you personally have a strategy for creating value with the information resources available to you? Does your organization have such a strategy?
Creating value with information
We are all information scientists. We may not have degrees from an i-school or be a member of a trade or professional organization focused on information management, such as the Association for Intelligent Information Management or ARMA, but each of us creates, organizes, manages, stores, retrieves, and uses information.