Information, by a broad definition, is structured, processed and organised data that informs a user. In simple terms, it gives context to data and allows decision making on a specific topic or application. For instance, a single customer’s sale at a particular restaurant is information this becomes information if the company is able to pin-point the most preferred or least preferred dish. Similarly, an inventory of a store’s stock can be used to make informed decisions on stocking or replenishment.
When used in social settings, information use may include seeking information about opinions and other dynamics. We seek information on sales figures, latest news, what happened last weekend at an important conference or at an entertainment event. With the increasing sophistication of the Internet, information seeking can take many different forms. Some people seek information about celebrities, politicians, bands or charities; some others seek out information about businesses, the products and services offered by companies.
A major part of developing an effective information literacy and information source strategy is understanding where the need is highest. In organizations, where there are many disciplines, goals and agendas to track, people will need to have quick access to relevant information from diverse sources. This will allow them to quickly and accurately track progress on individual projects or overall departments. Without this information, people may become ineffective at their jobs and perform at an unsatisfactory level.
The need to support employees is also a key component of information use. Many managers believe that providing information and providing a range of alternative perspectives help to build productivity and enhance employee performance and this has been proven to be true in various settings including the private and public sectors. A major component of information behavior management focuses on encouraging people to use information wisely. It encourages the use of multiple sources of information, and encourages people to develop the ability to reason and evaluate information.
A major element of information seeking behavior management involves encouraging people to contribute by making their own input, and providing systematic approaches for making their contributions meaningful. Organisations need to establish formal information systems and provide training to staff to facilitate the development of sound information seeking practices. When people are properly trained, they are capable of making informed decisions about projects and processes. Ineffective information use and inappropriate motivations for gathering information can lead to a loss of strategic opportunities and therefore affect the businesses overall performance.
It is important to note that formal information systems need not be overly expensive or overly complex. Simple designs with clear goals, clearly defined roles and clear procedures are sufficient to support successful information seeking practice. Furthermore, it is important to tailor these systems to specific organisations so that they are effective in meeting the specific needs of each organisation. Developing work roles around information sources and practices will allow managers to make informed decisions regarding the allocation of resources and thereby improve the quality of the overall organizational performance.