Information isn’t power

On my way to work I often end up on the phone with an old friend. I keep threatening to podcast the conversations because they’re often pretty insightful, even if I do say so myself. To make up for it, they’re sometimes just drivel.

But back to the insight.

Today we came to a great conclusion:

Information isn’t power. It’s fuel.

To put it another way, information doesn’t do great things, it enables great things. In order to get the great things out of it, you have to act on it, which means it must have some value to drive action. It must be actionable.

But many folks have this backward. They think the action part is mostly supposed to be about gathering the information, and that once gathered it will somehow produce benefit by its mere existence.

Are you doing this? Are you collecting status reports from your people, filing them away, distributing them to people all in the hopes that by some sort of motive osmosis power will be extracted from them? It may be that those reports contain a lot of information, but it’s not actionable information because it’s not needed.

The best way to differentiate real buyers from tire kickers was to ask about the details of their need. When do they need the product? When do they want it delivered? Why do they need it? If there’s detail in the answers, then you have a real buyer. If not, then you have a tire kicker. They may be interested in buying someday but they don’t have the real need yet. It’s the same with information. If you need it, you know what you need because you have questions to be answered.

If information is fuel, strategy is the engine.

If you have lots of information lying around and don’t know what to do with it, it’s probably a symptom that you lack a focused need. Strategy is what guides the business and ultimately creates that need. Strategy is executed through tactics, which require planning, which in turn requires information.

Symptoms of the lack of strategy:

  1. You’re drowning in reports and other information, but you can’t seem to get value out of it. The need isn’t there, so the information isn’t actionable, and no action is taken from it.
  2. Major decisions are made (not thought about, not discussed, but actually made) as a reaction to outside forces. A customer demands new technology, cancels an order, or switches to a competitor and someone snaps and a decision gets made. The world is fluid and reacting to it is often a large part of business, but it shouldn’t drive the business.
  3. Discussions about “What business are we really in, and where are we headed?” and similar subjects erupt unexpectedly during meetings, and delay activity. The key here is that they delay whatever was about to take place. If there’s no delay, then the eruptions are more likely caused by a lack of communication on the strategy rather than the lack of strategy itself.

Do you have an engine to burn your fuel?

One thought on “Information isn’t power

  1. The missing and critical ingredient is knowledge. The knowledge to know what is useful information and what isn’t. The knowledge to know what to do. The knowledge to know what information is missing. Information on its own is useless. As an industry (printing), knowledge is not developed.

    Information or even knowledge is not power.

    Power is power.

    Why do so many stupid managers make bad decisions. It is because they have the power to do so. Knowledge has little to do with how they make decisions.


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