The introduction of computers and the web combined with an explosion in information have lead to an overabundance. Finding ways to use information in the best possible way is becoming a vital skill.
Many people, when confronted with a problem, begin a broad search for information. They assume that enlarging the information space inevitable will lead to uncovering the information needed to solve the problem. By doing so, a lot of information waste is taken for granted.
A more effective approach is to begin with asking the question: “What information do I need?”
And secondly: “ What information is available”
If you plot this on two axis you get a matrix with four action boxes:
I Some information is available and relevant. No action is needed
II Some information is available, but not relevant. This is information waste, no action is needed
III Some information is not available, nor relevant. No action is needed
IV Some information is not available,but relevant. A strategy is needed
Box IV is extremely important. A strategy is needed to obtain the relevant information.
- Could we get that information? How?
- Who could have that information?
- Who could know someone who could have that information?
Using this matrix prevents looking for solutions in box I. Relying on this box means that you are using the information that is just right in front of your desk to solve the problem at hand. The information of box IV is far more interesting, because it forces you to look at non obvious information.
Box I information may lead to poor problem solving.
Box IV information is called Cassandra information. Cassandra, from the Greek mythology, knew what would happen in the Trojan war, because she had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo. But when she rejected his advances, he made sure that nobody would believe her. So the information was there, but not available.
See also How to deal with overabundance of information by Lex van Gunsteren
Setting up an information matrix is one of the search lights to be used when wearing a White Thinking Hat. Under the Six Hat Thinking framework, you focus your attention on searching for information when you are using this particular Thinking Hat.
Photo: Womans Face And Abstract Technology by Victor Habbic, By Jastrow [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons