Elephant Post: With All the Information At Your Fingertips, Do You Still Feel Uninformed?

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We all have trillions of pieces of information at our disposal through paid or free information providers. However, does that actually make us better informed? That is the question we asked our contributors to discuss this week, and, as usual, we got some pretty good perspectives on this issue.

Our contributors were split on the issue and pointed out some of the difficulties in handling all the information in a productive way. You'll see terms like "separating out the wheat" and "over-informed", but you also see things like "that's okay" and "as informed as I need to be." It seems that even those that feel uniformed have certain methods that they use to help them cope with all the information in a way that gets them through the process (just not as smoothly as they would like it to be.

Enjoy the different perspectives, and don't forget to read next week's question (conveniently placed below) and add your own perspective on the issue of what are you doing to improve efficiency at your organization? Since "efficiency" seems to be one of the code words that came out of the shake-up on 2008, we thought others might want to see if others are actually implementing new efficiency measures, or if they are still just talking about doing it.

Steven B. Levy
Author, teacher, consultant

I spend more time separating out the wheat, but it's still there amid the ever-increasing chaff. Thirty years ago, I'd spend half an hour over breakfast each day reading the NY Times fully (while trying to keep the ink from rubbing off on my shirt -- and of course spending a few minutes doing the crossword puzzle). Now it's easier to pick and choose specific stories from multiple sources, but I still spend about 30 minutes keeping up with the real world and the legal world. (Kenken has replaced the crosswords, though.)  Hint on the fastest way to cut down on chaff: Put a block on any site or source that refers to celebrities by their first name! Famous isn't the same as newsworthy or even interesting.

Elaine Knecht
Director of Information Resources

It's all relative. I work hard at keeping current in several areas that are "mission critical" to my mind. For the rest, I skim lots of headlines. I can tell I'm "informed" because I am regularly delivering previously unknown-to-them information to my clients. As long as I know more than they do (about a given topic) I'm as informed as I need to be.

Cheryl Niemeier
Director of Library Services

My real answer is both yes and no, but since that was not an option I answered yes. With so much information out there, I think it is inevitable that I may feel uninformed and that's OK. I can't possibly be informed about everything. But I am very glad that I have resources at my fingertips to tap into so much knowledge in order to become informed if need be.

Kathleen O'Connor
Manager of a small public LL
Not sure… I need more data before answering

From my POV as a person without much of a legal background (if you count temping in many big firms in SF in the 80's and 90's doing donkey work) to having started from scratch here at a rural public law library. No training, no documentation worth using, etc.   I was already an "Internet groomer" (See Nina Paley's comic of Mimi & Eunice) and was able tolerate the amount of reading and digging and embarrassing questions to get this place up to the 21st Century.   If I hadn't had the computer admin experience and savvy, I would of been pretty clueless. But yes, I have MANY bookmarks and notes to follow up on and I will never get through all of them-especially if I restrict myself to company time.

Pat Orr
Manager of Library Services

If and when I realize that I'm uninformed on a particular topic, I know where to find the information. Whether it's the mass media trying to fill a 24 hour news cycle, or vendors /publishers hoping to convince me that I need more information doesn't matter.  I don't need to know everything about anything. I just need to know where to find it.  Keep calm, and carry on.

Chelsea Baldwin
Asst Dir. Academic Achievement
Not sure… I need more data before answering

The answer to this question is both yes and no.   On the yes side, I have the most information and access to the most information I've had in my life. It's organized so that I can quickly pick out relevant pieces, place on the back-burner intriguing but not relevant pieces, and discard irrelevant information. It's also gotten to the point where entities such as Amazon, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! are pretty good at providing me with content or suggestions for things I am genuinely interested in and even introduce me to completely new-to-me concepts and ideas that I enjoy and have relevance to my work and life.   On the no side, institutional information dissemination as well as the dissemination abilities of individuals within the institution (me included) can leave a lot to be desired. Frequently the information that is needed for operating within an organization resides in people and not within any formalized, or accessible, information repository. There is still a lot of stuff that you can only learn by going and having a face-to-face conversation with someone.

Bob Wells
Executive Director

I am over-informed on matters which I will not be putting into play.  People have been creative enough to get those ideas in front of me.  I hence have less time for research into what I need to know, and I am certain the unknown is there because I get caught in drafts from those in front.

Amy Bowser-Rollins
Litigation Support

audiobooks and podcasts, but only because I do it during my 1 hour commute each way in the car.  So to answer the question, I feel very informed these days.

Next Elephant Post Question:
How Are You Implementing Efficiency At Your Office?
One of the buzz words that came out of the financial market crash of 2008 was that law firms needed to become "more efficient" at what they do. Of course, the Knowledge Management world has been telling law firms this since the late part of the last century, but only finding luke-warm response to making processes more efficient (especially if it butted heads with the almighty billable-hour.) Therefore, the next Elephant Post question asks your perspective on what types of efficiency processes do you see actually taking root in your work place? Are they working, or are the lawyers finding ways of working around them and going back to their old ways of working?

I know that someone will take the argument that clients don't really care about efficiency… what they want is firms that are more "effective." So, for those arguments, tell us what you think is the difference and why implementing processes that improve efficiency does not necessarily result in more effective ways of practicing law or conducting other business within an organization. I look forward to reading the different perspectives on this issue.

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