Information Culture

Although information behaviour and information seeking have quite a substantial history, information culture is by comparison a relative newcomer. It was first defined in 2003, in a paper (closed access) by Adrienne Curry and Caroline Moore, as a culture in which the value and utility of information in achieving operational and strategic success is recognised, where information forms the basis of organizational decision making and Information Technology is readily exploited as an enabler for effective Information Systems. Their paper contains a questionnaire that can be used to score the information culture of an organisation. The concept of information culture was then taken up by Professor Chun Wei Choo (Information School, University of Toronto) in a series of papers published over the last ten years, and culminating in ‘The Inquiring Organisation’, published in 2015. The typology that he has developed is shown in the diagram.

information-culture-typologyThe underlying basis for this model (apart from the work of Curry and Moore) is the work of Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn on a Competing Values Framework  which they published in 2011 in Diagnosing and Changing Organisational Culture It also takes into account the research that Don Marchand and his colleagues at IMD Lausanne from 1999 to 2005. is important to appreciate that an organisation may exhibit more than one of these cultures. There is no ‘right’ sector to be in – the issue is about recognising what the balance is in your organisation, accepting it and then ensuring that the provision of information is appropriate. Within each of these cultures there are likely to be different information behaviours, information needs and information seeking approaches. That is why understanding, even at quite a high level, the characteristics of the information cultures is so important. There is a great deal of discussion at present about the patchy adoption of enterprise social networks, but the explanation for this could well lie in the particular blend of cultures in the organisation. This model is sufficiently new that there is little published research to validation this model, though it is the outcome of a substantial amount of research by Professor Choo and his colleagues. However there is a study of university project teams that was published in 2015 which does validate this model.

It is important to see this very useful model within the framework of other aspects of information and knowledge behaviours, which is why I would recommend that any manager involved in providing information and knowledge services in their organisation should read Professor Choo’s book. Although ostensibly an academic treatise it is very readable and includes a number of useful case studies.

See also Information Behaviour, Information Policies, Information Quality, Information Relevance, Information Risk, Information Seeking, Information Sharing, Information Value

Martin White

October 2016

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