Staying in the Know
In an era of information overload, getting the right information
remains a challenge for time-pressed executives. Is it time to
overhaul your personal knowledge infrastructure?
BY DAVIDE NICOLINI, MAJA KORICA AND KEITH RUDDLE
A COMMON THREAD runs through many recent corporate setbacks and scandals. In crises
ranging from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill debacle to the Libor rate-fixing scandal in the City of
London, the troubles simmered below the CEO’s radar. By the time the problems were revealed, most of
the damage had arguably already been done. Despite indications that large companies are becoming
increasingly complicated to manage, 1 executives are still responsible for staying abreast of what’s going
in their organization. But how do you keep tabs on what your competitors and employees are doing?
How do you spot the next big idea and make the best judgments? How do you distinguish usable information from distracting noise? And how do you maintain focus on what’s critical?
Many management experts have assumed that better information systems and more data would
solve the problem. Some have pushed for faster and more powerful information technologies.
Others have put their faith in better dashboards, big data and social networking. But is better technology or more tools really the most promising way forward? We think not. In this article, we
maintain that the capacity of senior executives to remain appropriately and effectively knowledgeable in order to perform their jobs is based on a personal and organizational capability to continually
“stay in the know” by assembling and maintaining what we call a “personal knowledge infrastructure.” And while information technologies may be part of this personal knowledge infrastructure,
they are really just one of the components.
How do CEOs
stay on top of
the information they need
CEOs need to have
formal and informal
practices they can
rely on. Dashboards
are beneficial but
CEOs need a diverse
inner circle to feed
and act as a sounding board to test
They need to question whether their
for gaining information allow them to
stay on top of what
The researchers found that most
CEOs’ work was conducted
verbally and was accomplished
with and through other people.