This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Great Information Disasters?

Duane McCollum, the information auditor, stumbled upon two interesting references about information disasters and the cost of them.

Disasters come in the following ways: missing data, wrong information, outdated information, or poor data quality, and too much data. These screw-ups occur daily, we can imagine, and are either covered up or not known until it is too late. What leads or may contribute to information disasters (and, I would add, intelligence disasters) can be the following:

  • Information is distributed in multiple repositories. Most people don't know what's out there or how it can help them. Contrary to the Google-paradigm (or Googillusion) there is really no single unified access point across a federated information landscape (nor anything like it).
  • Professionals have all become searchers to some extent. But most of us have no training or direction on how to perform this sometimes difficult task. Like Gary Price showed at the 2005 SLA convention, the deep web (to most people) is now anything below the fourth retrieved URL (out of thousands) in a Google search. Most professionals limit themselves to one or two search engines or resources and have to ignore the rest because there's just so much the human brain can deal with at once. This leads to the third problem:
  • Too much information can lead to an information disaster.

Read his whole piece. He has some useful comments. One of his references was a book entitled Great Information Disasters by Forest Horton and Dennis Lewis (1991), and the other being Feldman's article, "The high cost of not finding information," on which I've commented before.

In looking for more information on the Horton & Lewis book, I came across Philippe Baumard, From noticing to making sense: The use of intelligence in strategizing, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 7, No 1, summer 1994. "Industries ... discover, with disappointment, that their own perception and sense-making remains for them a mystery." Over ten years later, and I would argue that organizations are still having trouble making sense of the information, intelligence and knowledge they have.

An additional information "disaster" in my mind is that people get lost in analyzing the data and lose sight of the goal. They come out from under the mound of information with the suggestion that efficiency is critical everywhere, or that the company should move products from one facility to another because the cost of goods sold is better.

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