Be Data Literate – Know What to Know
by Peter F. Drucker
Executives have become computer literate. The younger ones, especially, know more about the way the computer works than they know about the mechanics of the automobile or the telephone. But not many executives are information-literate. They know how to get data. But most still have to learn how to use data. Few executives yet know how to ask: What information do I need to do my job? When do I need it? In what form? And from whom should I be getting it? Fewer still ask: what new tasks can I tackle now that I get all these data? Which tasks should I do differently? Practically no one asks: What information do I owe? To whom? When? In what form? A “database,” no matter how copious, is not information. It is information’s ore. For raw material to become information, it must be organized for a task, directed toward specific performance, applied to a decision. Raw material cannot do that itself. Nor can information specialists. They can cajole their customers, the data users. They can advise, demonstrate, teach. But they can no more manage data for users than a personnel department can take over the management of the people who work with an executive.
The First Challenge
Information specialists are toolmakers. The data users, whether executive or professional, have to decide what information to use, what to use it for and how to use it. They have to make themselves information literate. This is the first challenge facing information users now that executives have become computer-literate. But the organization also has to become information-literate. It also needs to learn to ask: What information do we need in this company? When do we need it? In what form? And where do we get it? So far, such questions are being asked primarily by the military, and even there mainly for tactical, day-to-day decision. In business such question have been...