For most of us, our typical workday doesn’t involve much espionage, but that doesn’t prevent us from digging for information like our lives depend on it. There’s no denying that in this age of information, the trouble is no longer not having information, but in fact having too much.

The question changes from what does one “need to know” -- a situation where others decide what information is relevant to you and for you, to “do I need to know” -- where the individual determines the value of the information for oneself and, even more importantly, whether it’s relevant at present: “do I need to know now.”

Timing is Everything

The information we come across on a daily basis has a specific relevance index that is tied to a period of time -- the information can become more or less significant as it ages and to the individual that it is presented to. Unfortunately, this index is better seen in hindsight.

Data that may seem insignificant one day, can be critical the next. You might not care that Jessica Simpson has gained weight, but if you’re in the fitness sector, your ears perk up when you find out she’s discovered a revolutionary way of how to lose that weight or, if you’re in the fashion industry, that she’s just launched a new line for fuller-figured women. When it comes to information, it’s a matter of timing and personal import.

Your Personal Filter

With so much information bombarding us on a daily basis, we rely on experts to help us identify which events and data are of importance. In the corporate world, this direction comes from upper management, in everyday life this may come in the form of media.

The ability to choose which data streams we pay attention to is not unfamiliar. With the advent of the Internet most of us have become so adept at filtering large amounts of information in and out of our consciousness, and choosing what material to tune in to, that we hardly notice it’s a skill. But for many businesses, the concept of serving up information rather than force-feeding it to individuals is new.

Many employees are used to being told what to care about, what is relevant and what they should do about it. In fact, the idea of letting employees determine for themselves what information is relevant to their jobs is often perceived as a threat, throwing off the normal pecking order that many companies have traditionally kept in place.

The praised “thinking out of the box” mentality that many corporations prize is actually stifled by the means in which employers allow employees to communicate and interact.

Growth Through Effective Communication

As companies and organizations expand, communication methods get exponentially more complex. Despite starting out with everyone focused on a common goal, project or customer, as organizations grow, groups must branch off and work independently from each other in order to maximize efficiency and results.

This work environment, which often enables individuals to work at a faster pace, results in an even greater need for communication to ensure that everyone is still integrated around a shared objective, that efforts are not duplicated and that good ideas are fostered and not overlooked.

Harnessing Information with SocialText

Enter, SocialText. SocialText works by encouraging companies, groups, and organizations to communicate and network internally resulting in broader distribution and sharing of information. Information hoarders beware, protecting knowledge as a means of control, is a thing of the past.

Through twitter-like signals, activity streams and wikis, SocialText allows companies to harness information and keep it relevant for longer periods of time and to more people by making it easily accessible.

Unlike relying on email for information, SocialText serves up information less intrusively through signals and activity streams, giving the user the ability to determine whether the data is applicable in that instant and whether it can be used to complete a task or help make a project successful. Think of signals as small, digestible, nuggets of information that one can choose to consume—with the added advantage of not offending anyone if a morsel is left on the table, since signals don’t require a specific individual’s response. (See our article on how SocialText takes collaboration to the desktop.)

Using Familiar Tools for New Ways to Communication

Co-founder, Chairman, and President of SocialText, Ross Mayfield, is quick to point out a major difference when it comes to using SocialText within companies: there’s affordance built into the application which allows users to communicate in new ways, but using methods that they are already comfortable with.

For instance, a user can contribute to a Wiki simply by sending an email, and content shared or created can automatically show up in an activity stream, yet demands no change in a user’s habit or workflow. However, the sum of those actions results in a collaborative communication style that empowers employees and allows them to take an active role in using information to their advantage.

Changing the Way Organizations Communicate

The way we communicate outside of our work environment has already taken place. Changing the way individuals communicate within an organization doesn’t happen overnight and often requires a shift in company culture. But this change doesn’t have to be scary.

It’s about building a smarter workforce where individuals are engaged, trusted, and enabled to find out exactly what they need to know.