Information Innovation – Part 3

In this mini series on innovation we continue by thinking about information storage.  This is step two in the information processing steps identified in the last post.

  1. Primary filter
  2. Storage
  3. Retrieval
  4. Communication

It might be tempted to think that how we store information is not really important, and focus instead on step 3, retrieval.  However, how we store information matters.  Consider, for a moment, an information storage system that you might recognise.  This system is widely used, and available to us all.  Mine has an input stage consisting of a large round receptacle which sits under my desk.  Into this I can put all forms of information stored on a physical medium.  Helpfully, it take all sizes and shapes of material.  Most importantly is the offsite backup system.  Once a week (or perhaps a fortnight these days) a lorry arrives to store the contents of my filing system at another location.  This service is free at the point of use, and is not dependent on my backup volume.  This might sound like a great information storage system, but clearly my bin does not lend itself to easy retrieval!

The first thing to consider here is that storage is defined by retrieval.  That is to say that we need to choose how to store data on the basis of how we think we might use it in the future.  In this sense digital storage clearly has the edge.  Searching of content, titles and tags is straight forward and extremely fast.  This is one reason why most of my information is stored in Evernote.  This service allows searching in many forms of content which means I can pay less attention to storage in the first place.

Of course, storing information digitally may be new to some of us, but it is not innovative.  Where there is space to innovate is in the opportunities that digital storage can bring.  Online collaboration means that we no longer need to have personal ‘information silos’, we can begin to combine our storage.  This has exciting possibilities.  Using shared folders in Evernote, shared documents in online services like Google Docs or a wiki, we can retrieve information that we never stored in the first place.

In our organisation we have begun to work like that with some exciting results.  As we plan for events, resources are stored communally.  At the end, not only have we forgotten whose idea it was originally, but we have also created something greater than the sum of the parts.  I have even experimented with having message notes stored collaboratively for other to edit and enhance.  These are some basic examples, but they are in reality just scratching the surface.

If we are willing to innovate in the way that we store our information, particularly in the area of collaboration, then I believe that we can see some impressive results.  Not convinced?  Just consider one of the largest collaborative information stores – Wikipedia!

How are you innovating in storing information?

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