In his book The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics, Thornton May explores the consequences of living and and business in the era of information abundance. His perspective is summarized in pdf of of the first chapter.
I have written and spoken about the impact of information abundance for many years. By itself, info abundance is simply a positive spin on information overload. It is the consequence of abundance on our business and professional lives (increasingly intertwined) that are interesting.
May's observations get to the heart of why we care at all – to create value i.e. innovation, service to customers, leadership, risk management etc. The importance of information and shared insight in enabling these value creating activities is well accepted. But there has always been a caveat that the volume of available information is overwhelming, so we can only do our best. During the first decade or two of our digital transition that caveat was a valid. May's list of”New Know Realities” points to how this is changing.
This was underscored for me recently during a conversation with a CEO who observed how important it was to build a culture of continuous learning. To paraphrase, if people within the organization are not learning their value to customers is diminished which in-turn means their value to the organization is diminished. Leaders can't let that happen.
May's New Reality #1 is “You will be expected to do something with information.” He observes:
All this newly digitized information has had, relatively speaking, little impact on behavior and little impact on organizational outcomes. We are now exiting a historical moment of undermanned and only occasionally acted-upon information to an environment requiring much more aggressive information management. You as an executive will be held much more accountable for your data management behaviors. You will be expected to transform “data lead” into “knowledge gold”.
This concept of doing something with information has a cold, hard reality – we have 24 hours in a day and we have a finite amount of attention we can devote to anything. This is why the next phase of innovation in information management must focus on how information is used rather than how it is produced and stored. While those two macro considerations are related a focus on the later is going to produce incredible changes in our ability to do something with information. That is why relevancy is the next killer app.