to the first "Information and Society" column. This is a
place to examine information issues in a social context (think LIS
This month I would like to discuss the phenomena
of information hoarding. I'm not talking about a two year backlog
of email in your inbox. By "information hoarding" I am referring
to the withholding of information from others. Information hoarding
can happen in any collaborative environment and in any size team.
Information hoarding can occur for many different
reasons. Information is power. By withholding information from others,
one might be attempting to gain or maintain power. In a competitive
environment, information hoarding might be a way to ensure job security.
One who withholds information from others may be attempting to become
the only source for particular information, thus making themselves
an "expert." Power, security and respect are all tremendous
Information hoarding may also be a way to hide one's
ignorance. By sharing what they know, one may actually be exposing
what, in fact, they don't know.
However, not all information hoarding occurs in the
interest of self-preservation. There may be well-intentioned reasons
for information hoarding. A co-worker may withhold information in
an attempt to spare their co-workers from dealing with an unpleasant
or tedious situation that they themselves are willing to endure.
Perhaps information isn't being hoarded. Perhaps
it isn't known to the person possessing it that what they have might
be useful to somebody else. Perhaps the information is thought to
be proprietary when, in fact, it is not.
By being able to recognize and understand the phenomenon
of information hoarding in ourselves or in others, we are better equipped
to build environments where collaboration flourishes and results in
a successful team!