November 3, 2011

“Need to Know” vs. “Responsibility to Share”

In a recent article in the Wall St. Journal, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, discussed the changes in the Intelligence organization over the past 10 years. Prior to 9/11, the multiple intelligence agencies were siloed, and because of parochial communication practices often failed to link critical fragments of information. Since that time, there has been a radical change in approach:

We no longer operate largely on the principle of compartmentalization, that is, sharing information based on “need to know.” We now start from the imperative of “responsibility to share,” in order to collaborate with and better support our intelligence consumers—from the White House to the foxhole.

Though the stakes may not be as high, parochial and sporadic approaches to sharing information in business are serious impediments to efficiency and intelligence in any organization.

We all know the challenge of colleagues hoarding information; content that might be very useful to us, though we can’t know what we don’t know. To be fair, most times this is not deliberate or even conscious: someone picks up a valuable tidbit about a customer or a market, fires up an email message and wonders, “who needs to know this?” Even in our most generous state of mind, there will be interested people left off the distribution list.

Counter-Productive Instinct
Though clearly sub-optimal, information-hoarding is instinctive. One Convofy customer we spoke with this week complained about his field sales team hoarding information, each rep viewing their information stash as a personal asset, which they could use to their advantage. If other sales personnel had that information, then the advantage, they thought, would be diluted.

The sales director chose Convofy as an explicit strategy to reverse the self-serving and parochial mindset. With Convofy, he expects to move from “need to know” to “responsibility to share,” and in the process drive his organization to think and act more as a team, where the information gathered by any team member is treated as a corporate asset, and shared in a way that others can benefit.

Email = Information-Hoarding
That’s a model that is hard to push via email, which actually enforces information-hoarding because, in fact, the information is not broadly available but instead stored in users’ Inbox, or local mail folders (if those users were included on the list of addressees in the first place). This underscores just one of the challenges of email as an information-sharing platform: messages must be delivered explicitly to others.

Convofy = Information-Sharing
Contrast this to simply posting an information item on a social platform like Convofy, where it can be viewed by anyone following you, or by groups to which you direct the post. The difference is subtle but significant: generally, more people will see your post than will be included in your addressee line in email.

More importantly, information sharing becomes easier when you post to subscribers rather than pushing content to addressees. And when information sharing is easier, it will happen more often and more people will benefit, as will your organization.

While email leads to information-hoarding, information-sharing becomes instinctive when using a private social network tool like Convofy. And the difference in engagement, productivity and organizational intelligence is profound.

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