Information, Technology and Speed

In 2010 several forces are coming together that make our lives more difficult.  One is the overabundance of information.  Those connected to the Internet and social media are inundated with data coming from emails, Facebook postings, LinkedIn updates, twitters and the ever present smart phone.  The second is the technologies that are available to help in processing this information such as; filters, aggregators, key word search tools, along with those that allow us to “time-shift” or capture new information on our own schedule.  TiVo, Hulu, You-Tube, and On-Demand tools like Brainshark allow us to see and learn at our own schedule. The third is the rate of change or speed, which I have commented on here and here. The implications for this convergence of information/technology/speed for the CMO are significant.

First he/she must learn how to handle and then process the information overload.  This can be accomplished by following some basic rules, guidelines and disciplines.

  1. Have and follow a simple well defined strategy.  Dick is fond of saying you can’t do anything without a strategy, which is absolutely true.  My favorite example is the US in WW II.  Our goal was to win the war.  The overarching strategy was to win in Europe first, then in the Pacific.  Everyone connected to planning understood this strategy and implemented plans and tactics in support.
  2. Learn and implement the tools that are available with the new technologies.  Some examples are:
    1. Use filters and files that are available in your email application.
    2. Use an RSS aggregator like Google Reader to capture and present all the blogs that you are following.
    3. Identify key bloggers by using a key word searches that are specific to your area of interest, for example Google “Marketing Bloggers” and see how many hits Chris Brogan gets.  Google Human Resource Bloggers and see if “Punk Rock Human Resources” comes up.
    4. Learn how to use the search capability on tools like tweetdeck to find out what is being said, real time, about a subject.
    5. Use the time shifting, on-demand, tools that are available to learn (and relax).  This ability to absorb new information on your schedule is unprecedented, and allows you to plan and learn/relax at your schedule…giving you the information you need to in making decisions.  An added plus is that you can turn it off if it is not new or relevant, saving precious time.
    6. Use a smart phone and link it to your computer calendar so that you always have a calendar with you.
    7. The norm today is to go to a website to find the information needed. If it isn’t there the seeker quickly moves on. (Note that if your web site isn’t “user friendly” in providing information, then you have lost a potential sale.)

There are many other advantages that the new technologies offer; the point is to learn their capabilities and use them.

Second, today’s CMO must be more disciplined, more directed, in order to accommodate the influx of information.  Specifically,

  1. In order to absorb all the information, adopt a strict discipline of how you deal with it. Some examples are:
    1. Discipline yourself to read your email only from 8:00 to 9:00 in the morning, or 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon.  What ever time you pick, stick to it.
    2. Blogs can be read at any time.  Don’t feel that you have to go through them all every day.
    3. Long ago, before there was an Internet, I worked with a person who emptied the paper in his inbox into the trash can every evening, without looking at the contents.  I asked him how he could do this…wasn’t he worried about missing something important?  His response was “If it is important, they will come and see me.”  That approach wouldn’t work today, but there are two take-aways.  (1) Much of what we deal with isn’t important, and (2) If it is, people will contact you directly.  My suggestion is to have a distinctive ring tone for your important people, (the boss) and let the rest bounce to voice mail.

Third, recognize the “speed” aspect of the information deluge, and work accordingly.  Today programs and plans are put into place in weeks instead of the months that were used 3-5 years ago.  Frequently CMOs feel uneasy about at the speed with which decisions are made, feeling that they don’t have enough information, even though they are drowning in it.  Today programs are planned and executed quickly.  Waiting for the “final” bit of information before reaching a decision can be fatal and doom a plan to failure.  The key is to plan and execute, and as the plan unfolds, adjust the course to meet the goal, as nothing ever goes as planned.

In short, use the technologies that are producing the ever increasing amount of information to assist you in processing it.  Doing so requires a new way of looking at the information, recognizing what is wheat and what is chaff, and perhaps adopting a new personal discipline in daily processing and learning   Use the information gained to execute your plans aimed at reaching your strategic goal, knowing that new information will cause you zig where you had planned to zag, in order to reach your goal.

In his book Too Big to Fail, Andrew Ross Sorkin describes in detail the financial collapse of 2008.  Among other things, it provides a good example of the information/technology/speed troika.  No-one involved in the decision processes had ever done anything like this before, nor did they have all the information, but they were driven to decisions by the speed at which companies imploded.  I strongly recommend it.

Is your strategy simple and well understood by all?  Are you using all the new technologies?  Are you handling information in a disciplined way?

RHM – 3/25/2010

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