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Oftentimes, organizations fall into a sort of groupthink mentality. The only information they accept as valid is that which corresponds to their preconceived notions. Information theorist Christopher Burns relates the concept of living in an “infobubble,” an organizational bubble where all of the information used to make decisions is coming from inside the organization. Burns says there are three barriers information must cross to get through the infobubble: language, concept and truth. The concept barrier is very difficult to cross because information may be “contrary to the concepts that we hold about the world.” He goes on to say, “Information that is against self interest is the most difficult of all information to handle.”
A person’s ability to use information literacy skills to overcome these biases and filters is paramount to his or her success in mastering the discipline of mental models. The importance of mental models as they relate to learning organizations cannot be overstated. MIT learning researcher Daniel Kim said, “The mental models in individual’s heads are where a vast majority of an organization’s knowledge (both know-how, and know-why) rests.”
The importance of a person’s ability to create and challenge those mental models with valid, relevant information is crucial to organization health and success. “As mental models are made explicit and actively shared, the base of shared meaning in an organization expands, and the organization’s capacity for effective coordinated action increases,” Kim wrote. This coordinated action is vital to the success of the learning organization. Informal leaders carry a great deal of the burden for this cultural phenomenon. What knowledge workers hold as “true” doesn’t always come from above, but from the person next to them.
Florence Mostaccero says, “Informal leaders at Coors are extremely important in the acceptance of our ‘people before technology’ culture. We call these people our ‘torch carriers.’ In our World Class Operations rollout, we have spent the time through training and informal support of the implementation teams to gain their hearts and minds around changing the way we do our work utilizing world-class best practices. These people are the advocates for the changes we need to make and they look for ways and processes to make themselves and others in operations better than the best in manufacturing. With world-class processes, we can achieve world-class results, and the technologies will then give us the competitive edge.”
Information literacy is becoming a part of mainstream thought in the process industries, out of necessity. The growing body of knowledge will eventually become so large that no one will be able to function effectively in any aspect of their job without possessing these skills. Not only will these skills be vital to our own success, but to the mutual success of all with whom we associate. Partners will demand these skills as a means of creating strong alliances. To lack the ability to appropriately use, share or safeguard information is already a business faux pas. In the future, it will become a serious liability.
Organizations are more than the people from which they are constructed. A learning organization is interplay between people, the relationships they build, and the knowledge they create together. No expert systems or asset management software can replace the human ability to see new connections. Only by developing and supporting an environment in which these relationships are encouraged, will organizations best capture collective knowledge and reduce the organizational drag that has plagued manufacturing in the process industries for so long.
|About the Author|
ControlGlobal.com is exclusively dedicated to the global process automation market. We report on developing industry trends, illustrate successful industry applications, and update the basic skills and knowledge base that provide the profession's foundation.