Jim McGee turned up an interesting discussion of the likelihood of people and organizations to look up historical information on their topic of interest at the Corante: In the Pipeline blog. McGee's Musings: Willful ingorance:
What's tricky is that you still operate in an environment of imperfect information. One of the entries in my personal collection of quotes worth thinking about comes from Samual Butler; "Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises." More information may be available but you still have to make a decision and there's always a timetable. But you now have to think explicitly about what information to seek out within the limits of the time available. The old excuses are gone.
Essentially, people who are overwhelmed are likely not to seek out historical information on their current project. At best, the result is unnecessary rework. At worst, a project is completed only to discover that a competitor did that work five years ago.
People cannot operate in vacuums of ignorance, whether those vacuums are created willfully or not. The concepts behind knowledge work are central to helping us overcome the tendency to hide in laboratories or offices without help from those around us.