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Spoonfeedin WOrld

Business – Organized Information is the Next Moonshot

John Sviokla

The media is busy repurposing footage of Buzz Aldrin’s desire that President Obama fund a mission to Mars. As much as I’m a sucker for a great adventure, I think the brave Commander Aldrin asks us to conquer the future with a model from the past.

The biggest bang for the buck is not sending human bodies, at vast cost, to distant places in our universe. We should instead send robots and probes that extend our senses and spirits to those faraway places — and work on our ability to make sense of the data they collect faster and better. The military already lives this idea with its growing use of the Predator aircraft, bomb-sniffing robots, and other autonomous intelligent vehicles linked to situation rooms where the best experts evaluate the battle in real time.

The central theme of the information revolution is that more and more intelligence has simultaneously moved both toward the edge and toward the center. Look how fast the BlackBerry took off in the corporate world once you could access email on the go and how easily it enables both decentralized and centralized action, allowing us to review, assess, share, and coordinate information.

Companies (and armies) win by coordinated action. So with these new capabilities, the question becomes: how well does your firm gather all the relevant information available and make sense of it in real time? How well is information shared to those who can actually take action? Who knows more about your relationship with your customer — you, or your customer? These questions are relevant to every firm, yet few are on top of these simple questions.

Those leaders who build an organizational system that can gather more information, make sense of it quicker, and take action more decisively have crafted an organization with a higher collective IQ than their competition. Consequently, I believe the next “moonshot” is figuring out how we can raise the collective IQ of the people who are gathering and making sense of information that can be collected remotely. The good news is that there are new not only new technologies to easily gather information, from sensors to video feeds, but there new bundled capabilities that can help.

Take the example of “augmented reality,” which places information about any location and augments it with data from a host of sources. A video of a new subway application for Apple’s iPhone’s 3GS can give you a feel for what I mean. In the video, you see a person holding up their phone and “seeing” subway information “placed” on top of the physical geography the person is walking in. Imagine every high value information environment overlaid with useful information, supporting your most productive decision makers.

Imagine — any service force could have information about the device to be serviced routed to their phone just by pointing the device at the appliance in question. Think about how productive your salespeople could be if they could have facts about the company, client, or product right in front of them in real time. The question is, can your firm gather, organize and deploy this information so it is usable by those who drive the revenue or make the big decisions?

As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, few businesses are investing in how to make their workers smarter, faster learners and better team players — both crucial in this new environment. Yet there are examples from the world of science and the military in which management is creating new ways for people to share and learn — in real time. These organizations are raising the collective IQ of their workforces.

Today’s challenge is not having more information; it’s devising a less-resource intensive way to collect it and an efficient way to filter and disseminate it. We know that the only way out of this time of deep recession and burgeoning national deficits is to increase the productivity and inventiveness of our economy. Given that Xerox PARC — whose goal was to raise the collective intelligence of mankind, and whose fruits gave us most of the information revolution we know today — cost $100 million in today’s dollars, and that the moon shot cost $150 billion, PARC was a much better investment than NASA. Raising our collective IQ is my vote for the next moon shot — and it’s a lot more practical than dancing on Mars.

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September 30, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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