June 22, 2006

Designing for the (dis)Organization

Filed under: Information Design — admin @ 6:16 pm

I am currently reading “Information Design” by Robert Jacobson. In the chapter “Chaos, Order, and Sense-Making: A Proposed Theory for Information Design” Brenda Dervin describes that

Information is a tool designed by human beings to make sense of a reality assumed to be chaotic and orderly

This was particularly interesting to me. Organizations function somewhere in between chaos and order, but (as I learned in my knowledge management course) organizations tend to create information that give the perception that everything is organized and working properly. While absolute organization may seem palatable, it doesn’t leave room for the new (i.e. innovation), and, of course, absolute chaos produces perpetual novelty without taking advantage of core capabilities.

So… here’s my question.

Do the increasing number of tools that automatically “organize” information really cause organizations to become myopic to the underlying (and increasing) disorganization? For instance, workflow diagrams tend not to really describe how work is actually performed.
Secondly, (as alluded to above) we shouldn’t caste disorganization as being something to avoid. How can we design information/tools that accurately reveal disorganization (i.e. chaos) that is in need of organizing? And how can we design information/tools to reveal disorganization that is actually healthy and produces alternative perceptions and innovation?