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Five Signs your Company has an Information Hoarding Problem

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Five Signs your Company has an Information Hoarding Problem

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When many people think of hoarding, the first thing that comes to mind is the TV show where houses are packed full of stuff. People can’t easily find things that are important to them – and most of the time they don’t even know what is really under the piles that have built up over the years.

While most companies don’t have issues with piles of trash and clothes, many do have a hoarding problem – but instead of things, employees are hoarding information. Here are some of the telltale signs that your company has a problem:

The same people are constantly answering the same questions.

While it is nice to have your go-to experts, if a handful of folks are constantly answering the same questions, it’s probably time for a shift. Documenting answers to frequently asked questions in a simple knowledge base gives everyone easy, searchable access to the information. It also provides a platform for input and collaboration around the best answers in specific cases. This frees up those go-to experts to focus on new initiatives.

You are forced to reinvent the wheel when you’re putting together presentations.

Does it feel like Groundhog Day every time you pull together information for a presentation? Now exactly where did I find that image last time? Where is that intro paragraph I used last week? Imagine if everything was cataloged in a central company hub where the most commonly used and approved information was easy to search and find. Think of the time you’d save if you didn’t have to recreate pieces that already existed.

If one person left, the company would lose a ton of institutional knowledge.

Every company has a couple of these folks. They often take on a mayoral role within your organization and are well versed on everything from company history to how and why decisions were made in the past, to customer examples and anecdotes. The problem is that this information is undocumented and lives in the minds of a handful of people. It’s important to not only encourage them to share – which many will in a heartbeat – but also encourage documentation in an open forum so everyone present and future can access and learn from it.

Answers and files live on individual laptops and are shared through email.

“I’ve got it right here. I’ll email it to you.” How often do you hear this? Do your company’s most frequently used files sit in folders on desktops? Not only is this inefficient, but it is hard to keep up-to-date when individual files are spread throughout the organization.

Transparency is not valued as part of your company culture.

Do you work in an environment that rewards collaboration and information sharing? Do people discuss their failures along with their successes? Or, do you keep everything hush-hush and under wraps until the last minute to avoid input and conflict? The truth is, that while it may make you feel exposed to share your shortcomings along with your wins, the goal of transparency isn’t to focus on individual performance but to learn from the experience and use this knowledge to build future plans. And leaders in the transparency movement don’t just encourage employees to share, they create communities where it is expected and rewarded.

Do you recognize any of these symptoms of information hoarding? Shifting to an open collaborative environment won’t happen overnight but it can be done over time with the right attitude and technology tools.

“Anyone who thrives when people are in the dark is in ever more danger of working in the bright light of transparent information.” -Seth Godin

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