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Strategic insights
Successful Information Management

Written by on June 1, 2004

I hear a lot about failed information systems and it has made many people skeptical about the real value of information. But, information is still very important - it is what enables you to act before your competitors, makes you proactive, solve problems effectively and so fort. To make information work.

You just need to handle information correctly.

Information vs. Knowledge

Information and knowledge is not the same thing - but often make the mistake thinking just that. Information is what you provide to someone else. Knowledge is like a filtered version of that - the part the other person understands.

Example:

If you tell your friend: "I saw a beautiful red mobile phone with intelligent calling, color screen and build-in camera - a girl was using it at a party last night" - This is information

You friend may only remember: "You were with a beautiful girl at a party last night" - this is knowledge.

This shows what often goes wrong in information systems? You share information, but the knowledge you gain from it is often heavily distorted - even inaccurate. In this case you talked about a beautiful mobile phone, but the knowledge gained was about a beautiful girl. It is a failure.

BTW: no computer system can solve this for you - it is about people vs. people.

How to make information valuable?

It is not that hard. You just have to rethink your approach to information. Always consider what knowledge you want to gain from your information. That is the trick. It is the knowledge that provides value and providing information without considering knowledge is worth nothing.

How can you best model your information to get knowledge?

Write for your readers

This is the first you thing need to. Forget your ego. Information is about anyone else than yourself. Always consider if this information has potential value to those receiving it. Do not share information about mobiles phones to people who never work on the move. If you do so you are creating information overload - and inefficient side-effect.

Write good information messages

You should:

  1. Be brief (rule of thumb: "information" text is 4-10 times shorter than normal printed text)
  2. Write accurately
  3. Omit non-important blabber
  4. Highlight the information you want to turn into knowledge

Instead of publishing:

I saw a beautiful red mobile phone with intelligent calling, color screen and build-in camera - a girl was using it at a party last night

Publish:

Beautiful red mobile phone, with intelligent calling, color screen and a camera"

Always use metadata

Metadata is very important. It can help you judge if this is the right information. In a non-computer environment you put information I a binder: Labeled "Styling 2004" under the "Mobile" tab. You would add you initials and date on the printed page. In short: Metadata.

This way when you find the binder, you would know if the information is inaccurate (the year is on the front). You know what is about (styling). And, you know who to contact to get for new information (the original author).

It is the same in information systems. The advantage is just that by using a computer the collection of metadata can be an automated process - in most cases.

Spend at least 20% of your information budget on usage training

Information is worth nothing is people are not using it. You need training: How to search, where to do it, what to do if you cannot find the right information, and how to correct inaccuracies.

You also need to train people you need to train people's ability to turn information into knowledge, and in turn into actions. You need to train people in using the information to become proactive.


Remember that the key is knowledge - not information.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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