In the end Knowledge is King. But information hoarders have the keys to the castle…

It never fails. I post a blog or post on Linkedin about communication and people reach out to me and say “is that one about me?” One of the things that has always made me sad is not that people don’t recognize their communication pattern and anti-pattern. It is the people that don’t care. Not only do they not care about their communication anti-pattern in the end they don’t care about the impact either.

Today I thought I would expand the anti-pattern Information Hoarder a little. You know this person in your organization. All roads lead to that person. They are the purveyor of information. Not in a public or easily accessible manner. You have to go to them.

Like the godfather or Sydney Greenstreet character in any number of movies in which he was in. Sitting in that big chair under the fan with all the information in the world. With holding that information because frankly sharing it doesn’t benefit them.

That becomes a drag on corporate resources over time. Always having to go to the same person over and over. The funny thing is we all know who they are where we work. We know because we go to them. But they never know.

It’s about the concept of information management. Beyond knowledge management is the concept of information management. Knowledge can be attained by the proper application of the right information at the right time. But knowledge moves from the hoarder to the rest of the team and doesn’t go back. Once knowledge exists in an organization it can spread. The hoarder can’t control the knowledge flow so they stand at the corporate spigot of information and they tighten that wheel every day. Don’t let enough information flow that knowledge is created.

I have chased Knowledge Management systems my entire career. More than a few times I’ve been told the great KM adage “it’s boiling the ocean.” KM is not boiling the ocean in the end. Moving information from information hoarders into knowledge is boiling the ocean. But that is a people problem. In the end it involves moving the information hoarder out of the anti-pattern and into the pattern. Information Brokers have the same information hoarders do. They simply share more often and create knowledge. But we value them on the team.

Information Hoarders gather in crowds with picks, axes and torches ready to storm the castle and destroy anything in their way. “You are trying to boil the ocean” they say by way of controlling knowledge. In the end a KM system starts today. All new information goes into the KM system. As information is discovered it is cataloged, Metadata is added and it joins the KM system. It is in the end a time process not a change process. At the point the KM system becomes more valuable than the information the hoarders have, you have a KM system. Before that you have a baby what-ever you want to call it.

I wonder now if the rise of data scientists and data analytics doesn’t in the end change the environment in which both the pattern and the anti-pattern live. That information hoarders will give up control of information and move instead of control of analytics tools. Like carnival barkers standing in front of a tent shouting at the crowd of people browsing for information. “Here, at your fingertips all the information you could ever need. By the way this is more information than you can consume in 100 lifetimes but if you come here into my tent, here I will provide you with the magic elixir that will make sense of all this information.”

If only we had started a KM system 10 years ago.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.