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PA helps LSE lead debate on the 'information apocalypse'

20 May 2008

PA recently took part in a keynote panel discussion at a London School of Economics conference on the social and organisational consequences of information growth.

Held on 25 April, the panel included PA’s Knowledge Management expert John Kay; Azeem Azhar, Reuters' former Head of Innovation; James Backhouse, Reader in Information Systems and Innovation Group, London School of Economics; and Richard Boulderstone, Director of eStrategy at The British Library.

They looked at a potentially apocalyptic picture where information overload threatens the ability of businesses to perform - caused by the immense rate of growth of digital data, its transience, its often dubious provenance, its capacity to interrupt. While technology can and does have solutions, all too often companies build in restrictions on information use that seem insane to the generation raised on the Internet.

The solution, the panel agreed, lies not in the technology or in information management processes and systems. Rather it lies in the combination of these with performance improvement - it is a business not technology issue.

John Kay, added:  "These issues - and indeed the broad understanding of the solution - have been around for the 25 years of my experience in this area. The issues are growing in scale, but in dealing with them, whatever our urgency, we will need to do things differently from the way we have in the past. We need to deepen the engagement of all staff in the way they work with information. This means IT and information people helping the most senior management look at one or two key areas of 'what the firm needs to get better at', then working together on what, where and when information is needed, and then looking at how people will need to work, and work together, to make the improvements happen."

"This provides a top-down framework within which to engage all staff in thinking about how exactly things will work for them.  The problem of information overload is so large it can only be solved fully if all the organisation's energies and creativity are applied to it.  But the potential benefit, is enormous."

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