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05-17-2018 · Leadership & Strategy,

Three Thoughts On The Understanding That Knowledge Is Power

For millennia, knowledge has always been equated to power. Information was once a scarce commodity and those who held the information or knowledge were generally already in power or had the ability to gain it. Since we have now left the industrial age and entered into ‘The Informational Age’ – or whatever we end of up calling it – there is an immense amount of data and information.

Today, information is no longer a scarce commodity, and attention span is the highly prized asset. The goal today is to make the most use of the very small window of attention we get from those we love, those we want to be connected to, and those we do business with.

Power is held by those who own the data or have the faculty in which to control it.

Organizations like Google, Verizon, AT&T, Facebook, and Amazon, all own and hold a tremendous amount of data, and their value will continue to increase in the long-run. Those who control the data or have the faculty to use it, such as Equifax, Axiom, and the marketing and advertising world, are able to use this information and data to drive their success.

At MindMax we work with universities who generally have an extensive amount of data but are not necessarily utilizing it.

People and organizations are drowning in data.

I have dozens of conversations a year with people who say – “Sure we have Google analytics” and “Of course we know what is going on with our website.”

And as we further our discussion they inevitably recognize that they:

  • Seldom look at it
  • Understand very little of it
  • Rarely, if ever, change their tactics and approaches based on the information provided by analytics

As I learn more, through discussion and engagement, I have come to the conclusion that people are overwhelmed by too much information and data. For 20+ years business analytics and dashboards have been the holy grail of the data and information world – but more is not always better. Precision around the display and communication of that data and information is more important than its volume. And I encourage people to always start with the question:

“What now?”

If the data shows X, or the data shows Y, how does your behavior change?

Not everything is black and white.

I like to think of data and information as a starting point to query further. During my work on the quality movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a tool called the ‘5 Whys’ which was used to determine the root cause of a problem by repeating the question. One of my favorite things to do is to dig deeper and understand the story behind dashboard pains and seeming anomalies in trends or reports. And as I reach new depths, I find the narrative of why something is happening, is incredibly valuable in effecting the desired change in behavior or approach.

I find when asking someone, or inviting a group to change behavior, many people are reluctant to move forward unless they can understand why – and the why is different for each person. Having a variety of ways in which to respond gives me a better opportunity to help that group or person to move forward successfully.

If you are looking to develop a stronger appreciation for the question ‘Why?’- a book I strongly recommend is: “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”- by Simon Sinek.

In conclusion, the ability to measure along with the access and control of data is tremendously powerful. And with great power, comes the importance of great responsibility. It is my hope that those who possess this power exercise thoughtful responsibility.

What I am grateful for is the realization and acceptance of not knowing something is the first step in meaningful learning.

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