Information Seeking: An Organizational Dilemma

By J. David Johnson | Go to book overview
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Table 5.2 Costs and Benefits of Differing Levels of Ignorance
Level of
Costs Benefits
High (1) Don't Confront Problems
Lack of Coordination
Lower Integration
Opportunities Foregone
(2) Comfort of Denial
Easier Control
More Anomie/
Easier to
Lower Information
Processing Costs
Low (3) Increased Conflict
More Difficult to Control
Higher Information
Processing Costs
(4) More Likely to
Confront Problems
Greater Coordination
Higher Integration

esteem and frustration, that result from an unsuccessful search ( Hudson & Danish, 1980).

These consistent patterns of findings have been articulated in various "laws" of information-seeking behavior. The classic law of "least effort" has been evoked to articulate why channels are chosen first that involve the least effort ( Broadbent & Koenig, 1988; Doctor, 1992; Hudson & Danish, 1980; Krikelas, 1983; Pinelli, 1991; Saunders & Jones, 1990). Mooer's Law suggests an information source or system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome to have the information than it is not to have it ( Culnan, 1983).

Beyond these generalizations lies the basic assumption that people desire to know. In user needs studies of the public, done for libraries, from 10 to 20 percent of respondents report that they have no question or problem for which they need answers ( Krikelas, 1983). In sum, in many instances, the costs of obtaining information make ignorance, or at least less than complete information, a preferable state.


As a way of summarizing this chapter, we will organize our discussion around the dimensions presented in Table 5.2. The cells in this table are classified by levels of ignorance (awareness of things known to others in the organization), and the costs and benefits of ignorance for organizational mem-


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