6. The Structure of Information Flows

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Who does and does not have access to what kinds of information. Information flow is neither a parameter, nor a reinforcing or slowing loop, but a loop that delivers new information. It is cheaper and easier than changing structure.

For example, a monthly public report of water pollution level, especially nearby the industrial release, could have a lot of effect on people’s opinions regarding the industry, and lead to changes in the waste water level of pollution.

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Perhaps the most important change in the recent past is the invention and evolution of the World Wide Web. For the time being at least, information can flow in almost any direction. Few have the power to stop it. The freedom of humans increased dramatically. With access to the WWW we can learn from anyone and communicate with anyone–who is on the Web. This has huge implications for the relationships between professionals and their clients and between businesses and their customers. Professionals must now become coaches rather than simply knowledge holders and dispensers. Businesses who don’t heed the advice in the Clue Train Manifesto will suffer. Those professions and businesses who fail to shift their mindsets will be replaced by members who are more adaptive.

To change the behavior of a social system or of individuals, information must connect to care stories, must result in influential conversations which must lead to public commitments and to public concerted action. This is the key. As individuals and groups shift assumptions and then want to shift goals and rules of the system they must use information flow to influence others. Political organizing is necessary to influence legislatures to change the incentives of the system. Social organizing is necessary to influence health behaviors. Families and groups can begin shifting the microsystems of health themselves and thus create the stories and case for larger scale change. Persnal health information and  knowledge are essential for personal participation in effective health behaviors. Personal involvement in health behaviors must take into account the ability of the individual and their social network to effectively participate–using the Patient Activation Measure, or the like. Predictive health information is essential to prevent illness and maintain personal health as long as possible.