Do you remember the days of filing cabinets, sifting through reams of folders to find what you needed? It seems archaic now when we can find almost anything at the click of a button. The cloud is a convenient repository — easy to access and even easier to search — for everything we need in our day to day work.
The digital age has made physical storage of information and data virtually obsolete. This shift has also impacted a fundamental part of how we collaborate at work: the exchange and storage of information. When we factor in hybrid working, the effect has become even more pronounced.
But what happens if the cloud fills up — how do we make sure people have what they need to work collaboratively? The prospect of a digital dark age, when we can’t access anything remotely historic because our tech is moving at such a pace, is something Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf has raised as a possibility and which continues to spark discussion.
With everything moving to the digital ether, the organization of our information — and our people’s knowledge of how we catalog it — has become critical. So how can we as communicators make sure this vital guidance and our messaging isn’t lost in a digital black hole?
Addicted to Convenience
First, we should consider how much convenience the digital world offers. Searching for 10-year-old documents isn’t the only thing that comes easy. Messaging is instant and with a few clicks and swipes we can go from ordering food to our door to booking flights to the other side of the world. We’re conditioned to take the path of least resistance.
This digital convenience has also brought pressures: the scarcity mindset has made us fearful, productivity paranoia is worrying us when working remotely and — on the flip side — digital-fueled convenience has made us lazy, all of which is affecting the way we interact and collaborate with our colleagues.
We casually beam everything into the cloud, but what happens if we don’t have established storage processes? Or what if we do have them but don’t understand how they work or simply choose not to follow them? It’s how institutional knowledge and skills can be lost.
When you consider the sheer volume of stuff we’re creating — the world’s expected to generate 181 zettabytes of data by 2025 — we may have to be choosier about what we keep.
If our people feel there isn’t the capacity — in terms of storage, time or working practices — to share their knowledge and skills, they may choose to hold on to them. This can impact workplace culture, lead to a breakdown in peer-to-peer exchange — often the best way for us to learn — and make it increasingly difficult for people to find what they’re looking for.
We should all first reference the Google model: access to information is good, but access to trusted, high-quality, relevant information is better.
Businesses need to establish clear principles on file organization and create spaces for knowledge sharing, while we as communicators need to be the satnav of that information to keep it from falling into a black hole.
To maintain the satnav mindset and achieve these goals, ensuring you publish impactful content, here are five important things to consider before sharing and publishing information:
- Is this quality information? What some people want employees to know versus what employees’ care about knowing can be polar opposite. Sturgeon’s Law says 90% of everything is likely to be throw away content. Be the filter: would you expect others to consume what you’ve written, or what you’ve been asked to communicate?
- Is it helpful? Be critical. Will your information support people in their role, or will they consider the time they spend looking at it a hindrance?
- Will people care? If they don’t, they won’t pay attention to what you have to say.
- Is there a clear purpose upfront? We decide in the first six words whether we will continue reading, so every message should be clear in its intent from the start.
- Is now the right time? We’re bombarded with competing information, and it rarely arrives neutrally. Landing your content at the right time can be the difference in making sure your message cuts through.
Navigating Collaboration in the Information Abyss
Collaboration relies on the seamless exchange and accessibility of information among team members. When information is scattered, disorganized or buried in the digital black hole, it becomes challenging for employees to work together efficiently. Moreover, incomplete or inaccessible information can lead to miscommunication, duplication of efforts and delays in projects, ultimately affecting team productivity and outcomes.
Let’s agree to publish relevant information, keeping it simple while working with stakeholders to siphon away hyperbole and irrelevance, and making sure there’s an easy route for knowledge sharing.
With a compelling voice and broad knowledge of digital technologies, Tony Stewart — head of digital at scarlettabbott — brings unrivaled passion to his work in the employee engagement space. Weaving together his expertise in collaboration, community and communication, Tony joins the digital dots to find solutions that solve internal communications challenges for major brands across the globe. From apps to chatbots, and social media platforms to enterprise social networks, Tony has a gift for surfacing and translating business benefits through a deep understanding of both message and medium.