When Does More Information Become TMI

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tmiIf you don’t know what TMI means, you can always ask your kids (Too Much Information) but the normal context is related to some gross or vile thing where all the information being shared is making you regurgitate.  The emergence of Big Data (why is it always capitalized-makes it ominous?), while apparently increasing analytical ability, also poses significant risks and challenges that must be netted out against all the benefits.  And the constant search for more data in corporations to drive better decision making is the proverbial Holy Grail (now that capitalization I understand).

The internet was supposed to make us all smarter and better informed because it made so much information available to so many people so easily.  While that may generally be true, it is also true that information overload has now become a significant challenge.  Besides the obvious issue of having to weed through mountains of data, a lot of that information is what I call re-generated and not new information.  It’s the same information regurgitated over and over again (where else will you find two references to regurgitate-now three).  People are now paying to get away from the constant information barrage.  How ironic is that?  They spend most of their life chasing the proverbial “hot spot” to get an internet connection and paying for it and then spend money to get away from it.  Not only is there TMI, it also causes another unintended consequence – Confirmation Bias.  The natural tendency in a state of TMI is to seek that information which you already agree with. Thus, you are never exposed to new or contrarian information.  The filters you use weed out anything new to challenge your thinking.  It turns out that the internet may actually be making us dumber and not smarter.  In fact, many studies have reported that the political polarization in the U.S. can partially be attributed to this phenomenon.  For those of you who have been through Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “U”, this will sound like a familiar refrain.  Depending on how your team performed during  Lutts & Mipps , you may have some not-so-fond memories of being confronted with lots and lots of data but not being able to provide the solution.

Corporations face the exact same challenges with very serious implications.  They spend millions and millions on chasing more and better data.  ERPs were not enough – we have them bolted on to legacy systems and then bolt on a bunch of applications on top to provide more data faster because they believe it leads to more effective and efficient decision making.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We’ve even had CXOs tell us that if they just had more data, it would lead to better alignment and collaboration.  If that were the case, the no brainer sourcing decisions backed by incredibly solid analytics would not continue to die.  And the notion that all we have to do is provide a better hammer to the carpenter to make him a better carpenter is a fallacy.  If you don’t agree, then all you have to do is to look at what happened with Boeing and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  There was no shortage of information about the risks – there was no lack of information about them.  Having access to information does not mean that organizations act.  The ability to process information and act on it is totally separated from having all the information.  Yet organizations continue to add to their information infrastructure by providing more information faster and then breathlessly waiting for better decision making to spontaneously erupt.  Better tools do not lead to better outcomes.  Many times better tools may in fact lead to worse outcomes.  Know when you have TMI!!

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Dalip Raheja
Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.
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