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Just Trip Over Them

Today is a sad day – when we learned of the passing of renowned physicist and author, Stephen W. Hawking. Most of us know of him through his guest appearances on popular television programs or through some book we had to read in college.

While beyond the day-to-day thought process of most of us, Dr. Hawking spent his entire life in searching for theories to explain the universe. Said differently, his work revealed many landmarks in the struggle to find a unified theory of nature.

This may not seem relevant to many of us who work to manage information better and more effectively, but think about the size of the task that he undertook compared to the challenges that we face in our endeavors.

Trying to solve our information compliance challenges, we are often muddled by external factors, politics, and historical processes. Dr. Hawking first had to work through the existing theories and then move on to prove theories others had never even contemplated.

One of Hawking’s greatest discoveries is known as Hawking Radiation, which turned our understanding of black holes upside down. It transformed them from destroyers to creators – or at least recyclers. Until that time, black holes were understood to destroy all matter that entered them. Dr. Hawking, however, found that certain particles should also radiate from smaller black holes. In an interview in 1978, he states that he wasn’t looking for them at all: “I merely tripped over them. I was rather annoyed,” he said.

A Unified Theory of Records Management

Let’s apply this revelation to our challenges in our smaller universe. We are faced with the daunting challenge that many secretly (or not so secretly) believe can’t be solved. When we look at our current information management practices and realize that the problem is too big and filled with challenges, we may be tempted to believe that accepting that “this is the way it is” could be much easier. We make small attempts, implementing processes and technologies, but never realize the pinnacle of our efforts by managing all information effectively. As Dr. Hawking said, “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”

We must take a page out of Dr. Hawking’s notebook. He had very big and grand ideas of what he believed and through a lifetime of research, he never reached that final, definitive answer. He made tremendous achievements, inching his way to that destination. Along the way, he turned many beliefs on their sides, disproved others, and redefined the way we understand the universe.

Like Hawking, look at your information management challenges in the grandest way possible and identify those steps along the way that get you moving in the right direction. Achieving the small efforts takes those theories and makes them real. It also makes the detractors and naysayers stand up and take notice that your efforts will actually lead to positive results.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”

Consider taking small steps in your information management journey. These can be the unification and simplification of retention policies, getting your network shared drives under some form of policy, or even implementing an information lifecycle throughout your content repositories. These steps will go a long way to improving your business, increasing productivity and ensuring compliance across even a sub-set of your universe.

Take it from one of the greatest minds of all time, Dr Stephen Hawking: sometimes not looking for the answer will reveal results, as long as you do the work.

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