Information Mistrust

Facilitating information sharing is the next CIO challenge

Inherently, nobody is afraid of information as
long as it does not harm the person. The problem is when you fear that the
information might get into other hands, and how it will be used then. Whether it
is the big boss, the CEO, or the departmental chief, like a CFO, or it is the
sales rep right at the bottom of the pyramid.  Obviously, the higher the rank the higher is the stake, and,
therefore, higher is the level of apprehension. This fear from information is
not limited to people from the corporate world. It is much more in places like
Government departments, NGOs, and so on.

Unless that information suites you-bottom line targets
have been achieved, sales is picking up-very few people want adverse
information to get to others. Information could be in the form of data and
statistics or a power point presentation on details of a distribution strategy.

Moreover, it is not only because of fear from the external
world that people are uncomfortable with sharing information. It is more from
internal factors-peers, subordinates, superiors-that unfavorable information
is not wanted. A piece of information that does not put me in good light will
harm me-ridicule from peers and subordinates, and flak from the bosses.

The net result is that this non-sharing of information
creates more mistrust among people, departments, and groups within the same
organization. People withhold information within the same team. Does this then
mean that beyond a point information and information technology can be

Not sharing information is
likely to create more mistrust among people, departments, and groups
within the same organization

A very interesting exercise on information trust within a
group, done as a part of an HR training program, recently threw up very
interesting results. The exercise proved that because of mistrust in sharing
information, sub-groups of a large group that could have worked together and
gained market share, actually ended up badly pulling each other down-to the
extent that they heavily lost market share. It is at this point that the role of
the CIO and those who are working on enterprise IT solutions becomes very

Till now the CIO was taking pride in the job of information
management for the organization. He is primarily looking after the infotech
architecture-how should information be collected, collated, and then
communicated and presented. But going forward, the CIO will be faced with a
situation where he will have to ensure that people in the organization are not
afraid of the information. Which means the CIO will have to get beyond the
technology mode, and get into a bit of a philosophy mode. He will have to
convince the internal users that just access to information is not enough. It is
very important that you share information with others, even if they are your
internal competitors in any manner. That is when the full value of information
can be derived.

Obviously, for this the support that the CIO will require
from his boss, the CEO, will be far more than what was needed in the past. In
many cases, it might need to be a top down approach. The solution will focus not
just on sharing information, but also on what the best methods would be, and
practices for sharing that information. For instance, a report on dipping sales
of a particular scooter model should not come to just the sales
head, but maybe to the finance head as well as the inventory head.

Finally, to achieve the above what will be needed is trust.
Various individuals, groups and teams in an organization will have to begin
trusting each other more. They will have to get convinced that trust will be of
mutual help.  Then we will see more
information sharing happening. And we will also see more information sharing
leading to more mutual trust.

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