We are in an era of knowledge abundance. Traditional management theory focuses on knowledge scarcity. We need new management strategies to deal with so much communication and so much knowledge.They say knowledge is power but, if that were the case, academics would rule the world. Knowledge in itself is not power; rather the application of knowledge is where power lies. They say a little learning is a dangerous thing. Well too much learning can lead to paralysis and a lack of decisive, timely action.
These are wonderful times for people who like new challenges. They are particularly wonderful times for content professionals. Today, organizations are producing vast quantities of content in the form of emails, presentations, reports, and webpages. Better ways to manage this content are badly needed.
There are two basic theories of content management out there. One is summarized by an old saying: "the more the merrier." This theory believes that everything that is said and written is of some value to someone-maybe not now, but at some time in the future. What we need, this theory claims, is better software "filters" that allow us to get to the content we need right now.
Editors and publishers are bad people, according to this theory. They're censors who, until the Web came along, kept back the really valuable stuff, only showing us what they thought we needed. How dare they! Nowadays, we don't need editors, once we have a good search engine.
In this world, the future is about finding diamonds in the dirt. I grew up on a small farm in Ireland and I've done a fair amount of digging in my time. I never found any diamonds, and I've never met anyone who has ever found a diamond while out digging in their garden. Nor do I know of many diamond-mining companies digging in the dirt for Irish diamonds. In fact, it looks like the future of diamonds is synthetic and that they'll be grown in labs--no more dirt.
I happen to be a big fan of editors and publishers, because I believe in the second theory of content management-the "less is more" approach. Editing is not the same as censoring, and publishers do not take away our freedom to choose. All over the world, organizations have become accidental publishers of huge quantities of content. To professionally manage this content, they need professional publishing processes.
The "less is more" approach does not mean less choice or less knowledge. The key question here is: how do we use our knowledge more effectively? If I give you a 2,000-word report when I could have written you a clearer report in 200 words, that's not effective. If you can't find what you're looking for on the intranet, it's not effective. If you need to read so much and take in so much knowledge that the opportunity passes you by, that's not effective.
Time is the diamond in the dirt of the knowledge society. We are constantly trying to find time. Knowledge is only useful if we act on what we know, so we need to balance the time we spend knowing with the time we spend doing.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.