I received an e-mail announcing a Churchill Club program titled Silicon Valley Fights Back Against the (Information) Monster it Created. A sentence from an announcement for the program states “The Valley and its denizens are trying to combat a problem of their own making: information overload.” I am reminded of the following events, in which my thinking of “information overload” helped trigger developing the theme of “information proficiency.”
In late 1989, the United States General Services Administration (GSA) was doing strategic planning. The Information Resources Management Service (IRMS, a 2,000-person GSA group which I led) needed a mission statement. The following are three candidate themes, each with an image the theme might convey (to the community of perhaps 4,000,000 federal employees that IRMS served) and with an assessment of corresponding value (based on the Direct Outcomes “Achieve Progress” tool).
- Information Proficiency – Using information to make and implement decisions. (Implementation and Insight)
- Information-rich Environment – Useful information. (Information and Transactions)
- Quality Products and Services – Computers and telephones. (Transactions and Infrastructure)
Previously, IRMS had developed an information-rich environment candidate theme, which I found momentarily compelling and then, thinking of information overload, not satisfactory. (My tenure as the GSA commissioner leading IRMS began in October 1989, during this strategic planning.) I devised and IRMS adopted the following.
- Mission statement:
- To help clients achieve information proficiency. Information proficiency is the effective use of information to achieve a person’s job or an organization’s mission.
- Operational themes:
- Proficiency with information to make decisions and thereby set goals.
- Proficiency through information to communicate and implement decisions and thereby achieve results specified by goals.
Later, I used the information proficiency theme as the title for the book Information Proficiency: Your Key to the Information Age.
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