Information Trap and Consequences

Every one loves information. Right? This is because we are all taught to believe that information is power. But what happens when one is fed with too much information,most of which is superfluous for taking a decision? Worse still,what happens if the information given is not quite genuine but has a vested interest? We will examine all this in the light of my recent business experience. For the past 2 weeks at work,we have been working overtime on ways and means of coming up with a strategy to handle a competitor who has outsmarted us by feeding highly biased information to our common customers with the obvious intention of winning critical deals. For those who may be interested,we are in the business of manufacturing Transformer oils. These are sold to transformer manufacturers who,in turn,sell to Power Utilities. Our competitor has a simple ‘modus operandi’. He will make a lengthy presentation only on specifications of the product,totally ignoring the performance requirements. Typically,all the international standards(whether relevant or not)will be cited in detail while waxing eloquent on how the Indian Standards are lagging behind. Then,as the customers get confused(customers being electrical engineers do not have a quick grasp of chemistry of oils),he will push forward his case for an oil with an atrocious specification suiting his specific raw material. This ploy had indeed worked more than once and it was quite a while before our management woke up to the realities. Now ,of course,our company has also decided to launch an aggressive information campaign based on the ‘right specifications for the right performance’. It will take some time to control the damage done,but nevertheless,we are confident this will help all concerned in the long term. This business experience reminds me of what management experts call ‘Information Trap’. When one is lost in a sea of information(like our customers from Utilities),one loses the benefit of integrated knowledge. One loses the power of discrimination and under such circumstances can not appreciate whether a piece of information is genuine or biased or has a vested business interest. Very often,we do not know from what distance we should view an information so that we don’t fall into this trap. The information trap typically will result in lack of discriminating knowledge which is one form of ignorance. And the ignorance can ,in turn,manifest itself as stress,as it happened in the case of our clients. Yes, I must emphasize that Ignorance is,indeed,STRESS – NOT BLISS,as is commonly believed! What gives us Bliss is not Ignorance but Knowledge. Ignorance and Stress together can form a ‘vicious cycle’,meaning that more the stress generated the more the ignorance it breeds and vice versa. In the case of our clients,the resulting panic led them to pick and choose the best specifications from all the available international standards (which is stupid to put it mildly). This is because the only way we know of relief from stress is to pass it on to others. The net result is the industry ,as a whole will stand to lose. The customer would be buying an oil which is over-specified for a purpose and therefore would be paying a higher price. The supplier,on the other hand, would be forced to depend upon uncertain sources of raw materials and to that extent service levels would be poorer. How,then,does one get out of this ‘vicious cycle’? The best way is to come up with a ‘virtuous cycle’ (there has to be a corresponding virtuous cycle for every vicious cycle). In this particular case,the virtuous cycle is obviously – Knowledge and Bliss. This is what we have decided to do now to counter the strategy of our competitor. That is,we have undertaken the task of spreading genuine knowledge about oil chemistry,technology and most importantly specifications as related to performance. It will take time but the results will be long lasting.

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Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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