Friday, January 22, 2010

Find Me More Information! Wait A Minute . . .

My classmates and I are presented with a huge number of business problems every week. The problems are often ambiguous and imperfectly described, and I hear this comment all the time: "If we had more information about X, Y and Z, then we would be able to make a decision."

The classmates are right that more information would lead to a better decision, but they are ignoring an important fact. When we are in a business and we need to make decisions quickly, we will rarely have the time to find all of the information that we want in order to make a decision.

It's a perplexing problem. I think about it a lot, and I notice when somebody writes about it. Take this quote from a New York Times article by Thomas Friedman:

We are shifting from a world where the key source of strategic advantage was in protecting and extracting value from a given set of knowledge stocks — the sum total of what we know at any point in time, which is now depreciating at an accelerating pace — into a world in which the focus of value creation is effective participation in knowledge flows, which are constantly being renewed.
The new advantage sits with those who can tap information flows so that the largest amount of useful information reaches them.

My teachers are doing a great job teaching us students to make decisions in ambiguous situations. We need that skill. Even with amazing information flows, we will face uncertainty.

However, my teachers spend very little time teaching us how to construct efficient channels of information flow. That's unfortunate. Looks like we'll have to teach ourselves that skill.