Information Innovation – Part 2

This is the second post in a mini-series on the topic of information innovation.  In the first post I raised the idea that one of the primary roles of a leader is handling information.  If that is the case then this is an important area in which to consider innovation.

Before we can consider how we might innovate in this area, we need to understand the problem.  As leaders we are bombarded by information.  Here is just a selection of the ways we might receive it:

  • Post
  • E-mail
  • Spoken words
  • Blogs
  • Social networks
  • Books
  • Meetings
  • Paper / documents
Given this steady, or at times overwhelming, stream of information heading in our direction, I suggest that there is a process that we all follow to some degree:
  1. Primary filter (is this useful / relevant?)
  2. Storage (some form of filing)
  3. Retrieval (find the information again at a later time)
  4. Communication (doing something with the information)
The first step is important to avoid overloading the system.  Quite simply, there is no point continuing the process if the information is in no way useful or relevant.  Of course, this is not always a straight forward decision and we have all known the experience of wishing at a later date that we had retained something which in fact we discarded.
This leads me to the first area of innovation when it comes to information processing.  In the past filing cabinets and other similar ways of storing information put a physical limit on the amount of data we could store.  However, in a digital world, we now face the reality of practically limitless storage.  Few of us manage to fill our hard disks these days, and if we do an additional drive is not hugely expensive.  In addition there are online storage facilities with ever increasing capacity.  What this means in practice is that we can afford to relax our primary filter in stage one given that the cost of storing that extra piece of information is virtually nil.
We need to re-think the way we process incoming data and recognise that often our strategies have not kept pace with changes in information storage.  In the next post we will look at storage options and see how they can change the way in which we process information completely.
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