Information is such a critical factor to drive our organization’s output. We think we understand the magnitude. But the actual impact is more than what you expect.
The Magnitude of Information to Organizational Output
Appropriate access to the information maximizes the outcome of the team. Stasser and Titus’s experiments in a group discussion (*1) with shared/unshared information results in an interesting finding. It found that group discussion makes better results than individuals if the same information is shared with all the participants. But the group discussion does not go well if some partial participants know unshared information. This is because people are not good at communicating in unshared information, and also people tend to underestimate information which they did not know. This result implies that the appropriate sharing of information is the key to making a successful output from the teamwork.
And it is a known fact that multiple agencies of the US got connections to the 911 attack ahead of the time. However, agencies are disconnected. Information is not shared. No warning was made to other organizations. We know the tragic result of this disconnection. Sharing information is such a critical piece to making organizational success today.
(*1) Stasser, G. and w. Titus. (1995) “Pooling of unshared information group decision making: biased information sampling during discussion.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The easiest approach to share the information is to make all the information open to everybody. As we know “Information wants to be free”, it naturally spreads to all unless having special treatments. This approach is ideal in the internet community but does not work in commercial organizations in several ways.
- It sometimes causes legal risk. Leaking personal information causes the biggest punishment for companies. Leaking new product information to the wrong person causes illegal stock market activities.
- It sometimes causes a company security issue. What if the access route to our core database was identified by attackers?
- It sometimes helps our competitor. What if our recipe of magical syrup was disclosed to the world? We will be no longer competitive anymore.
As you can see, disclosing all information is not a strategy that works in reality.
The second easiest approach is to close all the information as much as possible. This is the strategy in which your security office loves, and engineers hate.
As we see in the introduction, this will eventually result in organizational failure. It is important to know the right balance of closing/disclosing information.
Key to Successful Information Sharing
The key to successful information sharing is education. All of the people in the organization need to understand how to treat information appropriately. What information can be shared? Who can know? How should we treat it? Otherwise, we cannot share classified information with the people. We know “Information wants to be free”. Even if one of the people did not handle the information appropriately, the secret is no longer a secret. But as long as people know how to treat classified information, we can safely share it.
The role of the manager is also important. Managers naturally have more chances to know more classified information from top management. Some of the information cannot be shared with all the team members. But the manager can be a translator to appropriately “downgrade” the information so that we can secure the classified information while conveying other unclassified parts.
As you appropriately manage information to your team, your team will make more organizational success.