Still lately, I have newly realized how having too much information and making too much information available can lead to not to better decisions, but rather to too much complexity.
For instance, ARod finally managed too hit his 600th homerun after listening to a sportswriter’s anecdote that demystified the magic of the round number. He was told, “You are already the seventh person to hit 599 homeruns, how will being the seventh person to hit 600 change anything?”
Similarly, I remember being overwhelmed by the seating choices when I bought tickets to the game. Box office or StubHub? This section or that? This price level or that one? I couldn’t decide. My budget ruled out the most expensive options, yet there were still more choices than I ever had when buying tickets to a ballgame. My ticket-buying experience came to mind when I noticed that no one anywhere in Yankee Stadium seemed displeased by their seating choice when ARod hit his homer, especially not my daughters.
I’m not blaming computerization for my confusion. When any seat would have done, I could have bought any seat. Once ARod had his key, the homerun came, and in retrospect, Bill Clinton’s election seemed inevitable once he focused in like a laser beam on the economy.
Rather the existence of too much information tends to reveal a lack of focus in our thinking or even to elevate lower priorities above higher priorities as we search for the perfect fit at the absolute lowest price. For instance, I’m helping friends plan a trip now for next year. We’ve agreed on an economical trip to a beach destination during next year’s school breaks. In an earlier time, that would be enough planning and the tickets would have been purchased, probably based on someone’s recommendation of a similar trip. Today, however, beaches must be compared, prices evaluated, different airports examined, and finally TripAdvisor examined, all for the information nugget that would accomplish what? Raise one vacation above another, reduce the cost by $50, or save a little driving.
We invite information overload. I think we increasingly see this in our work environments, too. In the age of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google search, and websites, we need to simplify. Before acting or purchasing, asking does this purchase or action help me reach my customer, serve my customer’s needs, or reduce my costs of serving the customer? If the answer is no, well…figure it out.
Computers and networks can be blamed for part of this experience. Information is now so cheap that it can be provided without intelligence. Still what is information without intelligence? And who tasked computers to provide intelligence? We, the user, are still supposed to provide intelligence. Just as Clinton understood the central message of his campaign and ARod learned that one homerun is just one homerun, and I learned that a seat is just a seat.
And once we do, magic still happens.