Spotting an Information Hoarder

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Joel Harding

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Information is power.

Those who control information understand they wield a very powerful tool, they share information with only those they decide need to see that information, and then share only limited amounts of that precious information. 

For those who supply the information to this information broker, they are not allowed to see what becomes of the information. The information broker is in an enviable position of controlling those who work for him and controlling those who work with and over him.

An information broker hates translucency. Information sharing allows the masses to have a collective vision, enabling greater understanding of the forces at work around them and within their community.

Without information they have no knowledge of the ebb and flow of issues that may be swirling around them, they know only of that sliver of information they are given.

An information broker hates technology. Technology enables information sharing.  Information sharing leads to translucency, translucency leads to loss of control of information, thus leading to the perception of a loss of power to the information broker.

An information broker is autocratic.  One who controls information within an organization has consolidated power and can manipulate others, whether consciously or unconsciously. An information broker hates democracy in practice because true democracy promotes information sharing.

An information broker believes in equality, as in George Orwell‘s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” A logical extension might be “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902).

The information broker survives by using the age old technique of ‘divide and conquer’.  As long as the various players do not talk with one another, as long as they do not share, as long as each is separate, the information broker wields power.

The information broker hates perception management and information operations. If the information broker cannot control how he is perceived by others he cannot maintain control. If the information broker cannot control the flow of information in and out of his organization, and more importantly through, he cannot maintain control.

The information broker loves bureaucracy, obfuscation and misdirection.  Part of controlling the information within an organization is controlling who sees what, simply controlling the rules and regulations within an organization, even who sees those rules and regulations, all to maintain control over the organization.

BUT…  an information broker is toxic for an organization. The information broker promotes only those ideas that benefit him or herself. The organization is secondary to his own needs. Those who are in a position to influence or even change the organization in ways to that do not benefit the information broker are marginalized, sabotaged or even ostracized.

If the idea benefits the organization and it also benefits the information broker, it is coincidental and will most likely become a part of the information broker’s resume or list of accomplishments.

I recently did a book review of James Farwell’s “The Pakistan Cauldron“, which is truly an excellent book. As I read the book the first time I realized the leadership of Pakistan relies on being information brokers, negotiating strategic and tactical alliances and negating, even assassinating rivals and other perceived threats. 

This may be why Pakistan is, in many ways, still in the stone ages.  If your organization does not seem to be evolving in ways beneficial to its members, employees or workers, begin a search for an information broker. 

Many years ago I did a systems engineering study for a defense agency and at the end of the second week someone pulled me into their office and threatened me: ‘If you destroy the empire I’ve worked so hard to build, I’ll get you fired’.  I did and she did.

I succeeded in compressing an 18 month process down to a few days, in the process approval packets no longer went across her desk (correction: sat behind her desk).  I lost my job shortly after that, but it was worth it – someone thanked me for what I did a couple of weeks ago.

How does one bring down an information broker?  Simple: communicate, share ideas, promote democracy, promote transparency and keep as many people informed as is possible.  In a small to medium sized organization, this is straight forward.  It is only after a few thousand people are involved that communications become complicated and more formal agreements must be established.

Find those that are committed to the promotion of the organization, especially those who understand the information broker and the inherent problems, and take slow, deliberate actions. Promote the organization, above all.

What if the information broker refuses to change?  *grin* I’ve been doing some research lately…  you’ll like it.

Cross-posted from To Inform is to Influence

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