Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Information Overload – April 2014 – Information Management and the Philosophy of Dr Seuss

Information Management and the Philosophy of Dr Seuss

Shirley Cowcher March 2014

I recently read an article in a Human Resources (HR) magazine that took several Dr Seuss quotes and applied them to the HR industry.  I liked the connection and wondered whether I could do the same for the IM industry. I love Dr Seuss books they contain so many basic life lessons but are presented in such a silly way that it’s hard not to lapse back in to childhood wonderment when you read them.

The approach I took in looking for the Dr Seuss quotes that were relevant to me and my thoughts about the IM profession was what quotes could motivate those in the industry to respond to a call to action to consider the need to embrace the somewhat overwhelming range of issues associated with managing information in this current environment.  This is what I came up with and what was interesting is that each quote seems to be interrelated.

Oh, the things you can find.  If you don’t stay behind.
(On Beyond Zebra, 1955)

As a profession and an industry we each have a responsibility to be constantly looking forward, anticipating what is yet to come. We need to face the future with the enthusiasm and excitement of a child.  Consider asking what’s next and how can I apply that?  Continuing professional development and life-long learning are not new concepts and provide each of us with many new, exciting, challenges.  To be constantly looking forward will ensure that we are challenged, amazed and fulfilled.  If you can’t reconnect with the thrill of adventure for the new and the challenges of uncertainty, just like when you were a child, perhaps the IM profession isn’t for you.

You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.
(I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, 1978)

If all we think about are the things that are immediately in front of us then we may miss out on opportunities.  I sometimes wonder whether many records managers have had their eyes closed to the technological advances and have been unwilling to engage with the ITC industry.  Have we missed our opportunity to step into the C-level of management and contribute to the debate on the value and structure of information from an organisation-wide perspective?  We need to be open to opportunities and be willing to participate in, if not seek out, collaborative projects.  Much like the earlier quote, look at everything with an air of excitement and challenge. Don’t walk around with your eyes focussed down or shut to what is going on around you.

If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.
(Oh, the Places You’ll Go, 1990)

Projects start that impact, or are impacted by, the IM/RM systems of the organisation and yet for whatever reason we have not been involved in the start-up of the project.  For example, ITC system implementations or upgrades, reviews over management systems (e.g. environmental and safety, and security), machinery of government changes or mergers and acquisitions.  The projects have gained momentum and then we either find out about them or we are asked to contribute.  Well, there is no point complaining about what should have happened.  Now is the time to take the initiative and review the project and determine what you can do to make a positive and valuable contribution.  Get happening!  If you have applied the earlier quotes to your work this will happen less frequently because when you have your eyes open to the wonderful things happening around you and you are not looking behind then you will be there at the start and may even be making things happen.

So open your mouth, Lad! For every voice counts!
(Horton Hears a Who!, 1954)

I often hear the phrase “I’m just the…they don’t listen to me.” and I feel an internal cringe.  You are not JUST.  You have been employed because you have a set of skills that have been identified as required by the organisation (You have a responsibility to keep those skills up to date).  You are the expert; apply your expertise across the whole of the organisation.  Find out what is happening and make a contribution at every level.   Remember that sometimes what seem like dumb questions can often challenge assumptions that may be misguided or wrong.  Help to develop a culture of trust that will allow people, you included, to ask the dumb questions and offer up suggestions.  Have an open mind, others may provide a solution that is workable for the organisation that requires only slight modification to meet the compliance and control requirements of the IM systems you have responsibility for.  Be willing and eager to sit on any committees that seem relevant to IM in the organisation and make a valuable, informed, contribution.

If you want to be successful working in the information management field then you need to look ahead; embrace change; inform yourself;  run with any projects that are relevant or on the fringes of information management in your organisation and; speak up.  Make sure that you are the authority in the field and not just for how it was but what will be.  Enjoy the challenge and remember “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one” (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, 1960)