How to Make Use of What You Know: - Six Common Barriers to Information Intelligence

As the amount of data increases, organizations need to consider how to use their informational assets successfully. While many corporations may be dedicating more resources to information gathering and analysis, they are routinely sorely disappointed in the quality and practical applicability of much of the data gathered and analysed on their behalf. Assistant Professor of Technology Management Theos Evgeniou and co-author Phillip Cartwright study an increasingly important organizational capability that they call "information intelligence". They suggest that avoiding six basic types of common pitfalls can have a major positive affect on the information intelligence of any organisation.

by Theodoros Evgeniou, Phillip Cartwright
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Assistant Professor of Technology Management Theos Evgeniou and Global Senior Director at Research International Phillip Cartwright study an increasingly important organizational capability that they call "information intelligence": they define it as the ability of managers, and groups, and organizations to successfully search, assemble all pieces, analyze, and effectively use all relevant available information for any decision and initiative. The authors suggest that avoiding six basic types of common pitfalls can have a major positive affect on the information intelligence of any organisation. They see three types of barriers: behavioural, process and organizational ones. Examples in each category are discussed:

· The mainly behavioural barrier of confirmatory bias, in which decision-makers essentially extract whatever information confirms, rightly or wrongly, their pre-existing notions or beliefs. This obviously renders any new information of no value at all as "intelligence".

· An imbalance between hard data and creativity which is not often easy to rectify. Too much reliance on data means a dampening of creativity. For example, the best entrepreneurs are those who can both digest information coming from consumers, and use this information either to validate gut feelings, or to steer them towards new ideas. The authors briefly discuss why this barrier so often results in a wealth of market research being ignored by managers.

· Unsuccessful problem definition often boils down to getting the right answers to the wrong questions. There is little point in asking for strategic solutions to tactical problems, for example; managers simply too often fail to allocate enough resources to defining precisely what their problems are.

· Research rigidity can even lead to the right answers to the right questions becoming essentially useless, because the information gained is outdated. Intelligence gathering is a dynamic process usually demanding repetitive work, not something that can be taken care of in one step. Information gathering should be seen as a process, not a project.

· Misuse of information asymmetries is often the hardest of these barriers to overcome, and usually involves one or more members of an organisation having information that he or they do not share. The authors point out, however, that overcoming this barrier may sometimes not be desirable: informational asymmetries can often be beneficial.

· Under the newcomer syndrome, too much pressure is placed on newer members of an organisation to come up with solutions and findings from data. If every new decision-maker is expected to show creativity and "make a difference" without having a firm view of the bigger picture, disaster may be guaranteed.

Evgeniou and Cartwright offer recommendations for overcoming these barriers. While becoming an informationally intelligent organisation is a complex task in an age of "information overload", they feel that much can be achieved through a few well thought-out steps.

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