About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Do you hoard knowledge?

My son told me yesterday on a walk that his teacher complained that he could recall the most inconsequential pieces of information and would include them on his history essays. This lead me to think about the many times people are amazed at the pieces of information that I can recall. And yet, last week when I played a memory card game with my 4 year-old niece and son, I couldn't remember where any of the matching cards were actually placed (much to my son's amusement and advantage as he snapped up the pair).

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:
  1. 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?
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
Why do we hoard?
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:
  1. Share our knowledge through social software such as blogs, community software such as blogs, and social bookmarking programs such as delicious
  2. Be aware of our knowledge needs and not make impulse "searches" for information that might be interesting but really never useful.
  3. Find alternative places to "store" our knowledge (or access knowledge) for the future. But limit the number of "places."


Blogger In Middle-earth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I've never looked on the accumulation of knowledge as a problem, whether inconsequential or otherwise.

Further to this, I've always believed that from childhood we seem to have the capacity to accumulate all sorts of things that may not have any real relevance - but does that matter?

Science researchers the world over and through the centuries have based hypothesis on observation. A significant portion of what is now established theory was first noticed through casual observation. Often they didn't know that what they were observing for the first time would have had any relevance to them. Most of it wouldn't.

It's what one can make of it all that's relevant.

Like "different strokes for different folks", what one person hoards (and might find useful nevertheless) is not necessarily seen as useful by someone else. Indeed, some may find that by airing what they hoard, it is pounced on and criticised by others. This is often observed at meetings of large groups of people, such as at political rallies.

The point I bring here is that the 'hoarder' has to find the right avenue and venue for off-loading hoarded knowledge or skill, but they also have to think deeply about the usefulness of that hoard to others in order to choose the appropriate avenue for the off-load. This has to be done for the off-loading to have any usefulness. Most people can't be bothered, and if they did, few people would be interested.

I think a typical example of this is blogging.

What proportion of people who have sharable knowledge blog about it? I'd say it was very small. But of the few who do blog, what proportion of the global audience is interested?

Analysis shows us that this portion, even for some of the most popular bloggers, is extremely small.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

Great point Ken! I hadn't thought of the "off loading." Don't get me wrong, I don't think it is bad to accumulate knowledge for future use. Rather, hoarders accumulate it "just in case" or to make them feel more secure then forget about it or become overwhelmed (information overload).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

There is a Scottish adage, "knowledge is easily carried". Some may dispute this, for some recalled knowledge is categorised as baggage.

I guess it's all according to the mind set of the carrier.

Catchya later