“Information sharing” isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a reality for modern-day government operations. However, sharing is difficult. We learned from the 9/11 Commission that the lack of information sharing was a major factor leading to the terrorist attacks that claimed thousands of lives. Looking at the commission’s report, most Americans shake their heads and bemoan the inability of the federal government to have prevented the attack.
The problem seen with information sharing between the FBI and CIA is not unique to those organizations. It’s not even unique to the federal government. We have all faced the challenge of needing information we did not have or did not know existed.
More information often comes with more power. Sometimes you may not share information because of the natural tendency to hoard it. Sometimes hoarding happens inadvertently because you may not know who needs your information or how to share it. In other cases, you might feel your data is simply not good enough to share. And lastly, you may also feel that sharing your information dilutes your personal importance or value. It doesn’t have to be that way, and you are the one with the power to become a sharer, not a hoarder.
The following five proven steps encourage information sharing among team members, organizations, agencies, and even nations. Follow these steps to address hoarding in your own organization and get your hands on some of the data that will be of greatest use.
Designate someone to oversee and manage the information sharing community.
The first step is often the most overlooked. People assume that just by creating an information sharing community, the sharing will naturally take place. Unless someone is designated to manage the community, information sharing falls by the wayside and is forgotten.
Find a data curation expert—or even better, a team of data curation experts with strong communication skills and a solid grasp of what the community needs—and give this team/person the authority to lead the information sharing efforts.
Pay equal attention to actual security and the appearance of security.
The appearance of security is just as critical as actual security.
Stanford’s research into website credibility finds that 75% of your impression of a website’s credibility has to do with design. Several other studies find that you have about 50 milliseconds to build trust through your website online.
While appearances do matter, it is better to be secure and unappealing than to put up the veneer of security and professionalism while remaining susceptible to vulnerabilities.
Trust is key to information sharing. Would you enter your credit card information on a shady website? If you don’t feel that the platform is secure, you’re not going to put your data there. Do not leave this up to chance. Your organization likely has protocols in place to vet websites for security protocols. Make sure your platform is secure and also “appears” secure.
Prime the data pump.
No one wants to be the first one to arrive at a party. The same goes for information sharing. If you decide to join a sharing effort and don’t see any data, you may feel someone is trying to take advantage of you or that there really is no need to share data because no one else needs it. Either way, you’re most likely not going to post your data in a vacuum.
If you want others to share something, provide them with a little something to get started. There is a ton of open source data out there waiting to be used, you just need to go out and take advantage of it. If you cannot find anything of value for your specific mission, try creating an example of the kind of information that is needed and be the leader in posting data. Someone has to be first.
Boost the ego of those with the data.
We are humans, ergo, we tend to like being needed. The reason many people hoard information is that it makes them feel important to hold a piece of the puzzle that others cannot access. Take advantage of this very natural human emotion and feed the ego of those with the information. Tell them how much it would benefit the community.
If you know they have something specific, ask for it specifically.
Advertise information sharing successes to help data providers feel good.
There are many ways to advertise successes in the group. This can be simple “thank you” emails for the contribution to the community, a success story for how their information helped, or stats showing how many people viewed or downloaded their information. Regardless, go out of your way to demonstrate to those who have shared information about how their efforts have aided the mission.
With these five steps, you are well on your way to building a collaborative team with many data contributors. You will need to revisit these steps continually to ensure information sharing is still taking place; these levels of collaboration require attention and maintenance and won’t keep themselves going automatically. Whether you do take these steps internally or seek outside help, stop the hoarding. Overcome your fears of information sharing and set out today to develop the proper strategies for success.
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