Zack, Michael H. - Information Framing and Uncertainty

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

Zack’s model of information and framing offers an interesting way to characterize the kinds of situations appropriate for the information gathering styles of either P, A, E or I. He describes the difference between information needs and framing needs. When we have information needs, we have a framework in place that helps us typify the missing information. We understand the overall cognitive model in terms of cause-effect relationships, conditions and goals, participants and so on. However, we are missing information that will let us connect all the dots and resolve our uncertainties. We have to go out fact-finding. (Zack, 2001; Zack, 1999).

In other situations, we may have all of the information we need, and more! We don’t need to go out and find facts. We need to make sense of the facts we already have! We need a structure, an order, a model, or some other kind of framing device that will reduce the ambiguity in our data and give the facts roles in some coherent account.

Just as we can lack information or frames, we can have too much or too many of both. In all of these circumstances, we have to improve our information state. It turns out that each operative style within the structure of concern fits best with one of the four information problems we can have. I make those connections below.

P – Equivocality (Variety of Frames): Restrict information by reducing the interpretations and perspectives that are in play. P’s are impatient with multiple perspectives, and prefer to suppress discussion in favour of action.

A – Overload (Variety of Information): Restrict information by excluding whatever exceeds the established frame. A’s exclude what doesn’t fit.

E – Ambiguity (Lack of Frames): Seek information that will supply models and dimensions for organizing large amounts of data. E’s like examining things from new perspectives.

I – Uncertainty (Lack of Information): Seek information that will allow you to flesh out all of the interpretations and perspectives that are in play in order to reach resolutions and move forward. I’s will seek the opinions of others before deciding.

1. Zack, M. H. (1999). “Developing a Knowledge Strategy.” California Management Review, 41(3), 125-145.
2. Zack, M. H. (2001). “If Managing Knowledge is the Solution, then What's the Problem?” In Y. Malhotra (Editor), Knowledge Management and Business Innovation (Vol. 41, Chap. 3, pp. 125-145). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.
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