In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
— Herbert Simon (1916 – 2001)
Information is one of those things that intrigues me. It’s a love-hate relationship. I love learning, I love absorbing new information, and I love the idea that in this day and age its all at my fingertips. However, good information is hard to come by, most information will never be put to use (in one eye, out the other), and some information that you get is just plain wrong.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has had an obsession with information for a long time. It’s a deeply personal obsession for him; if you haven’t read about him, you should. Talk about a success story: going from penniless foreigner who had to walk hours to the nearest library, where he consumed books by the bucketload, to one of the most successful men in the world. Information truly is power (and, apparently, wielding information is even more power).
Considering one of my majors in school is Information Systems, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that information interests me so much. Applying it to the business world interests me even more. I mean, how can people expect to optimize their company if they have no idea what’s going on? Often, management has a depth of experience in their field that can cover it up and make it seem like they’re doing OK. Then, out of the blue, a competitor comes along that isn’t faking it: they have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions. All of a sudden that first company, the one without the information, just can’t compete.
That sounds a lot like what Business Intelligence systems are for (the subject of my team’s first place win at Cal Poly Pomona), but it goes deeper than that. I guess at some point it seems like there is a battle to be waged between intuition and information. I’m sure there have been many such a battle fought already, but it seems like it will become more prevalent as information is recognized as a key success factor. It certainly helps that data is becoming easier to collect and aggregate. CEOs and top level management seem to advocate large doses of intuition. Jack Welch, previous CEO of GE, certainly advocates as much in Jack: Straight from the Gut.
I view this battle of intuition vs information as one of the key problems that will face companies here in the near future. It may not be splayed across newspaper headlines that “APPLE IN INFORMATION VS INTUITION CRISIS” but it’ll be there, bubbling beneath the surface.