There is no argument that techniques for collecting business data have become more sophisticated over the past quarter century. There is an equally strong argument to say that better decision making and competitive advantage have not been achieved as a result of this sophistication. This failure to improve performance is due to the so-called age of information being based upon two out-dated premises:
- 1. Greater information provides better insight into the future.
This philosophy is only valid in times of relative stability. Technology, globalisation, changing social values, and environmental pressures have all combined to produce increasing uncertainty about the future. With this uncertainty and increasing rate of change, historical information has never been less effective as a guide to the future, a fact borne out by the high failure rate of corporations and innovation launches.
- 2. Greater information provides competitive advantage.
This philosophy is only valid if a) the information you have is useful (refer above), and b) if your competitors don’t have access to the same data. However, in an age where information is ubiquitous this second condition is becoming increasingly unlikely.
In many industries we have the absurd situation where competitors are receiving the same syndicated information from the same suppliers on the same day. The only winners under this scenario are the suppliers of the syndicated information!
This reliance on traditional information sources not only places individual organisations at risk of disruptive change, but entire industries are in danger because of their common approach to data collection and the convergent view of the future that this encourages.
As for the effectiveness of such an approach, you can provide your own assessment by reflecting on the following:
1. Over the past ten years, how much time, money or resources has your organisation spent acquiring and analysing information?
2. Over this same time period what have been the most significant changes or events to impact your industry?
3. And how many of your information sources prepared you for these changes ahead of time?
4. Compared to your competitors, how different is your business strategy?
There has to be a better way!