Sunday, January 24, 2010

Controlling Information: Products, Process, and People

I've been noticing lately how a few people with whom I interact are always in the know. I bring something up and they can talk with me about it. They may not know all of the details, but they've got the key points.

These people, in general tend use at least one of the following tactics to control information:

Products - These people start the day with a newspaper (or maybe even a Kindle that contains a newspaper). They check their RSS feeds. Maybe they have a relevant email from a mailing list. Information is delivered to them every day, on their terms. If something important happened, they've heard about it.

Process - The experts in this area structure their information consumption. Jeffrey Hoffman, CEO of Priceline.com (who recently gave a speech at Chicago Booth), sets aside a specific time of day to randomly browse new information and consider possible implications for the future. Tim Ferris ruthlessly cuts out anything that will not help to make a specific decision. The processes are very different, but they are both consistent, replicable, and effective.

People - The holy grail of information control. If people who use this tactic don't know the answer to a question, they pick up the phone. In a minute, they have the answer. They don't personally know all of the answers, but they know who does know.

I'd bet that the most powerful people in the world all use at least one of these tactics. How many do you use?