Tony Karrer has had a number of posts on effective search skills, PLN's, skills needed for knowledge workers, and skimming/scanning for information. This got me to thinking, do I hoard information the way some people hoard coffee or paper products? Am I unable to access my short term memory because:
- I have so many useless facts in my head (such as where all of the Natural Gas Pipelines are connected in the US, including producers, distributers, and major end users) I can't keep other facts in there unless they are interesting to me?
- I need time to sort and sift through all the facts I have that I just put new information on top of the pile "for future reference" (like the piles of readings on my desk)
- I don't really need to remember it, but I don't want to get rid of it in case I need it in the future. Therefore, it really doesn't get thrown away (out of my memory) but is damaged because of all the other useless facts in there weighing it down. This is why I am always one card away from the correct card.
There are two types of hoarders of material objects. The first time hoard because they were deprived as a child and there is always an unconscious fear of shortage in the future. The other type usually have an addiction or psychological disorder in which they feel more secure with the material objects around them.
Do we do the same with information? Anyone who has ever been caught short in a meeting or had their job affected because of lack of knowledge wants to make sure that will never happen again. As a result, he or she will try to find excess information and background/understanding so as to not be caught unawares (and having to admit to not knowing). Others feel comfortable "knowing" and use internet searches and time to find out more information as a way to avoid work or situations they don't enjoy (in other words procrastination).
So how do we know if we are hoarding information? How do we "let it go" so the collecting knowledge does not turn into the problematic "hoarding information"?
The social aspects of hoarding
The problem with hoarding is that consumers are taking products away from others that may need it. This creates a shortage and poor distribution of resources. If we hoard knowledge, we will are keeping it from others that might need it rather than sharing it. We also might be misusing our own skills that would be better used for both individual and group uses.
To avoid hoarding knowledge, therefore, we should:
- Share our knowledge through social software such as blogs, community software such as blogs, and social bookmarking programs such as delicious
- Be aware of our knowledge needs and not make impulse "searches" for information that might be interesting but really never useful.
- Find alternative places to "store" our knowledge (or access knowledge) for the future. But limit the number of "places."