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Monday, June 9, 2008

Information Management Principle #2: Information is a means to an end

9:19:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
There is no value in information which is not – sooner or later – being used. Information that might be of use sooner or later holds a potential value, but that value is not realized until it is actually used for something. Simply put, information is just a means to an end.
Information has no value until it informs a decision (Ross Mayfield)

Information is power, but only if you act on it correctly. (JP Rangaswami)

Information serves as the basis for beliefs, decisions, choices, and understanding our world. If we make a decision based on wrong or unreliable information, we do not have power--we have defeat. (Robert Harris)
Content (text, images, sound, video) is a vehicle that can carry information between humans. When the content is found and consumed by a human, it is turned into information - given that the person consuming it is able to interpret and understand it. The person who consumed the content now possesses information. The person can choose to use it or not to use it, or simply keep it for later use. When the information is used, i.e. informs a decision, then it can create value and thus be valuable. The decision which it informs might lead to an action, or it might lead to a non-action.

Atanu Dey chooses to categorize information into “actionable” information and “pure” information. Information that can be used immediately is actionable information and pure information is something that holds a potential value but is not used immediately:


"Actionable information is something that enables a decision to be made and action is prompted as a result. Pure information is something that does not result in an immediate response or action. Pure information is “good to know” as opposed to actionable information which is “need to know.” Economists may call pure information a luxury good, while actionable information is a basic good.
Let me also say that some information can be extremely valuable even though it is hopefully never used, at least not for what it is originally intended for. In the post “Perspectives on the Value of Content”, Tommy Bengtsson uses the example of SOP:s (Standard Operating Procedures) for emergency situations in a power-plant to make this point:
No one would enjoy having to “consume” the content, but having it around “just in case” brings value to the company, the employees and the people living next to the plant. It can also be an issue of legislation compliance. Content has to be created, categorized and published in order to meet certain rules and regulations, even if no one ever would act on the content. If the content is missing, the company can be prosecuted and having to pay serious fines.
There is a lot of potential value in the information (meta-data, or rather meta-information) that tells us that the SOP documents exist, where they exist, that they are accessible for the right persons and that they are of sufficient quality. This also tells us a little about how valuable meta-information can be. The information that it describes - typically encoded as text and other types of content in a document - can be located and consumed thanks to the meta-information. If there is no meta-information, the information might not even be found at all thus having no value even though the potential value might be enormous.

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