Could Information Flow spell the End of the “Great Recession”?

24 03 2009
Back in Boston

Back in Boston

It’s good to be back in Boston after 3 months of travelling around the world– finally back in my own bed, back with my friends, and back to being able to write on this blog.

I’m not sure what I expected to happen to the business environment whilst I was away, but I think it’s safe to say that no one would’ve expected the deterioration that’s happened over the last few months. Since I’ve gotten back, it’s been interesting to see the various different viewpoints I’ve heard on what the current recession is, and how long it may last – everything from a very doom and gloom “10+ years of darkness” from Mark Turrell, my former CEO – to rather more optimistic visions of “over by this summer” from one of my former clients.Credit Crunch

All we ever really know about recessions however, is that they very rarely conform to the timelines we predict for them, with things getting worse quicker than expected, and likewise businesses recovering faster than we expected – no one ever comes out with an accurate prediction (that I know of– by all means let me know if any of you find a reliably accurate source!). One would think that with the pace of change still at breakneck speeds however, that the pace of change/recovery within the markets would be equally quick – with the effect of information flow and arbitrage essentially magnifying the classic economic indicators – on the one side magnifying the negative effects of the banking problems we’re currently still facing – but then probably helping us to come out of the other side that much quicker too…

It was then with interest that I read a blog post by my friend, Donald Smith on his “Perspectives on Connected Innovation” Blog. The post, entitled “The Race to the Top – Information Arbitrage” – details a new goal in organizations as they embrace social media to both save money at the bottom, and look for value-adding advantages from unique information sources at the top.picture-3

As he puts it:

“Today, value comes from the following statements:

“Did you see?”

“I found…”

“Check this out…”

Information is driving a “race to the top” in terms of value. Each newly discovered tweet, story, or theory could be the nugget that wins recognition, fame, or accomplishment. So we mine Twitter and read RSS dumps trying to identify the tidbit that will be most valued by the organization. ….. No longer do I need to spend hundreds of dollars on professional groups to network in my industry or thousands of dollars to bring in consultants. The web makes this information more accessible and in most cases free. The challenge for employees is to make the information palatable for the organization to devour.”

Don, and I say this with unabashed extreme jealousy, has the enviable situation of being on a paid sabbatical to explore the whole world of innovation and social media for his company – to essentially develop and disseminate a flow of information on this subject for the corporation’s benefit. There was a time, not that long ago, where a company doing something like this was not that alien (pre-2001 for example..) but now? During a recession?

Combine that then with my experience on a recent job interview with a large company (and former client) for a role where I would be leading a team to drive a flow of innovations into the organization to solve problems 3-4 years out. Based on my previous experience, companies generally expect roles like this to generate some form of identifiable value every year in order to justify budgets and also as a prime measurement of performance amongst other things. But this company was different – it seems that they see value in simply establishing a flow of new insights, innovative thoughts, and information even if it doesn’t lead to actual executable implementations. Again, in a so-called massive recessionary environment – this is either incredibly progressive – or incredibly reckless – thinking.

Unless, of course, we’re all wrong about where we are in the economic environment. Could actions like the one exhibited by Don’s company and the one I interviewed with be a sign that the market has bottomed out?ist2_5267850-volatile-stock-market

As I commented on Don’s Blog – the point at which companies stop looking at the bottom line and start valuing input other than cash is typically only seen when a company is growing and prospering. Could the development and recognition of information flow as a source of value be a sign that the recession is beginning to finish? Some may think of that as optimistic – but it’s not the only signs out there – and the ramifications for a business world that embraces the massive information flow that is driving the social world at the moment is quite…interesting to say the least.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? – if so – please share!








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