How many of us in records and information management are dealing with our problems in isolation?

I’m writing this from a bar at which I’ve organised the first (in what I hope will be a series of lunches) for people in Information and Records where I work.

I’m hoping that it will give us a forum to discuss the problems we are all dealing with so we can learn from the best and worst of the collective experience.

It’s not something that I think we do well, which is a shame, because when we’re dealing with complex problems, the experience of our peers provides the best barometer for what can be successful.

One of the hallmarks of complex problems is that you can often take courses of action that are completely opposed (ie. add resources vs. take them away), and get an improvement from both.

What this means, is that most complex problems are going to be solved by trying multiple things, and seeing what works.

When these experiments are cheap, and are entered into in the expectation that some will fail, we learn about our organisation without having to trade masses of political capital for a large project with no real guarantee that it will work.

The best source of experiments are our peers in other organisations (or in the same organisation if it’s large enough).

But how often do we get together to do it?

My experience is that it doesn’t happen very often. I’ve spoken to people at organisations in the same building, or neighbouring councils who are doing the same project but are totally unaware.

When we deal with problems in isolation, we have to do our own experiments, or our own projects, and only learn from our own experience.

We’re about to head into the quieter time of year where not much project work is likely to get done – so why not take the chance to call some of your peers and talk about your project plans for the new year and whether they think they’re likely to be a success. It’s not a natural thing to do – but it might just save you from wasting a project, and the most critical commodity of all – time.

The knowledge to solve all of the problems of records and information management exists in the community and we can all do better if we make time to go out and give what we’ve learned to each other – it’s likely to be the most valuable gift of the year.

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