Archive for August, 2007

I came across a book at my university library entitled “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands.” Having lived in drought-stricken states (California and Utah), I was naturally attracted to the book. Thumbing through it’s pages I came across a figure illustrating two residential landscapes (pg. 4). The first landscape illustrates a “landscape draining resources” with arrows depicting runoff flows as water is drawn off the roof, away from the house, and into the street. This design makes perfect sense for anyone who has had to deal with a flooded basement after a heavy rain. The second landscape features  a series of contours, cisterns, drain spouts, and vegetation designed to collect / harvest the rainwater–still drawing water away from the basement, but storing / utilizing it rather than simply discarding it into the municipal sewer.

The book seems to illustrate two approaches to water management: 1) irrigation and 2) rainwater harvesting. Irrigation involves the artificial transportation of surface and groundwater for agricultural, residential and commercial applications. Rainwater harvesting is the collection and application of rainwater for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes. Although these two methods of water management need not be exclusive, our contemporary society seems to favor irrigation. As the author, Gary Nabhan, of the book states,

“Surface water and groundwater–secondary sources in the hydrologic cycle–appeared to be more convenient, profitable, and dependable than rain–the primary source. Surface water and groundwater became the “primary” water resources in our modern water management system. Waste became more common than conservation. We came to see rain as a source of flooding that needed to be drained away.

Although the environmental implications of this book appear tremendous, this afternoon, my mind is on my dissertation and on helping team members effectively share and process information. If we think for a moment of information as water, can we draw some parallels between information management and water management? What would be considered as primary vs. secondary sources of information? Which of these sources of information are we most reliant on? Do we tend to view primary information as “a source of flooding that needs to be drained away”? Are we spending so much time creating tubes and pumps to push secondary information around, that we’re overutilizing our informational aquaphors? Are we focused on the consumption and waste of information, or are we also doing our part to put new information back into the cycle?

A spiritual parallel may help guide our thinking. Here’s a quote I came across by Elder Richard G. Scott, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

“There is an irrigation analogy normally used in the Church of ‘getting the water to the end of the row.’ However, at stake and ward levels [local congregations], it would be far better for you priesthood leaders and auxiliary officers to simply ‘let it rain’ from heaven. Your sacred callings give you the divine right to inspiration. Confidently seek it. Wherever you live in the world, in the smallest branch or the largest ward, a struggling district or a fully organized stake, you have the right to be guided in fulfilling your inspired assignment to best meet the needs of those you serve” (“The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” Ensign, Aug. 2005, 67).

The primary source of information concerning spiritual matters may be easily identified, but applying these principles in business or in academia is a little more difficult. In these latter cases, individuals may serve as the primary source of information when they are creating new knowledge / information. When they are simply restating what they learned from others, they are serving as secondary sources of information. Both sources of information are important, but which of these two are receiving most of the focus in our information systems applications? How can we take a more balanced approach to information management in our organizations and in our personal lives?

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