In Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote "water, water everywhere – nor any drop to drink." Well, ask poetry lovers, if he were around today and working in a typical organization, Coleridge might have opted instead to write (or perhaps Tweet) "information, information everywhere ¬- nor any insight to find."
While at times organizations may find themselves lacking equipment, talent, capital or even customers, there’s no shortage of information. On the contrary, there’s an overwhelming, unending surge of information that increases exponentially. And that’s a problem.
Why? Because information is, paradoxically, not inherently all that informative. It’s two dimensional and flat. When it’s not prioritized and put in context – that is, when it’s not insightful – it can and often does lead to regrettable decisions. That’s why in the aftermath of a workplace crisis, we typically hear organizational leaders wish for a time machine so they could "know back then what they know now."
In other words: if "back then" they could have accessed valuable insights instead of smashing into towering walls of information, disaster could have been averted, opportunities could have been exploited, and headlines would have highlighted a success story instead of warned of an object lesson.
So this begs the key question: how can organizations ensure that they access insights – and not just information? Fundamentally, they must deploy a workflow and collaborative project management system that achieves the following seven objectives:
1. It must automatically update in real-time, so that employees are always accessing the latest, most accurate and complete data.
2. It has to be accessible by in-house and remote teams, and with 24/7 uptime.
3. It has automatically to put all conversations, data and project assets (e.g. files, URLs, etc.) in context, so that they’re relevant for designated groups.
4. It has to retrieve data rapidly, and be supported by tagging and keyword-driven searches.
5. It has to be robustly simple and intuitive to use. While there may be a learning curve, it must be designed for rapid adoption and usage.
6. It has to enable collaboration so that workgroups, divisions and departments can efficiently manage issues, solve problems, etc.
7. It has to integrate with other technology solutions used by the organization, so that data flows instead of collides.
We’ve left the Information Age behind, and now we’re entering into a new phase; one that might be called the Insight Age. However, for the immediate future (which in era terms is about a few centuries, give or take), not all organizations are going to celebrate this new time.
Organizations that realize and rely upon the seven objectives listed above will have plenty to cheer about, because they’ll be accessing valuable insights that lead to better, smarter and safer decisions.
Organizations that don’t…well, there’s always wishing for time machines. And poetry. Lots and lots of poetry.