Hello from Wisconsin! We are delighted to contribute a week’s worth of postings from the Midwest! You’ll see that Wisconsin isn’t just about the cheese—our chapter boasts 120 members from diverse environments: corporate, law, academic, and other settings, many of us from unique national companies and associations. Our state’s two library schools have renewed focus on special librarianship and growing interest from our student members is evident. We are an active, enthusiastic chapter and happy to contribute our thoughts on future readiness! It’s great in the Dairy State!
by Zach Steltenpohl, Wisconsin Chapter, Competitive Intelligence Division
“Light thinks it travels faster than anything, but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always gotten there first, and is waiting for it.”
Eigengrau is the “color” seen by the eye in perfect darkness. Essentially, it is the absence of light, of illumination, and for this exercise, of knowledge. If we compare this to the practices of organizations, just how comfortable are we with making decisions in the dark?
Librarians are often responsible for the collection, retrieval, storage, analysis, and synthesis of information. Keepers of the Light, if you will. Therefore librarians are brokers of enlightened decision making. The difference between guesswork and effective strategic direction. Organizations all too often take for granted how little they know about the subject at hand, however they also take for granted just how much information is already within their organization, and often within the library. A ‘Future Ready’ Library is of no real benefit unless it is providing ‘Future Ready’ decision support, knowledge awareness, and illuminating the path ahead.
“Future Ready” capability comes from “Future Ready” information. An Information Horizon exists between what is already known within the organization and industry, and what will, can, and might be known in the future. While exceptions do exist, the source and method of collection is as important as the data itself for equipping one’s organization for the future. Market research, focus groups, industry reports, data analysis & modeling, syndicated content, databases, et al. can be essential sources for decision making, though this data needs to be understood as coming from within the information horizon. It is effectively repurposing and consolidating already-known information into long-winded briefs and massive pivot tables of data. The future requires more, and you’ll find this on the far side of the information horizon.
What organizations need to expand their information horizon, and illuminate their position in the market doesn’t fit well into PowerPoint slides, spreadsheets, and pithy quotes about “next quarter.” Expanding into new frontiers and conquering the darkness is tricky business, and more often than not the information needed for the future comes from a series of data points and sources that may seem unrelated. Knowing where to look for the information, how to find it, and what to do with it is where dark turns to light, risk to reward, possibility to profit. Intelligence collection, news monitoring, wargaming, and futurism looks at the far side of the information horizon, forging the path for what will happen, not what already has.
The quality of intelligence gleaned about the future is paramount. If a market research report is errant in a few data metrics it might only change a few percentage points, or less. However, if your intelligence reports are off, it might be the difference between a completely different product launch, a different quarter, region, market, or nothing at all. If you base decisions off of this wayward data, darkness may be your least concern. Eigengrau, the color you actually see in perfect darkness is actually lighter than the black of the night sky. The light emitted from a star shines contrastfull to the otherwise unknown blackness of space. Eigengrau is a shade of grey, not black. Therefore no data at all is superior to the false knowledge of misappropriated data. Nags Head, North Carolina provides a prudent example of such faulty data. In the early 1800s a group of pirates known as the Nags Head “Bankers” supplied merchant vessels with ‘false data,’ taking a horse with a lantern tied around its neck, they would lead it back and forth atop a coastline hill at night. To passing vessels this appeared to be a distant ship and they believed it to be a safe route through the treacherous Outer Banks. Until that data led them straight into the rocky coastline where the looters would plunder the ship, often making for a fatal mistake for the ships’ crew.
Blue Ocean markets lie ahead for your organization. Your Future Ready library is the Crow’s Nest, compass, and knowledge nexus of your organization. Your goal for the future is not only to chart attractive growth markets, but to identify the treacherous and perilous as well – delivering the difficult information, as well as the desired. In economic climates such as the current, organizations can be one false data point away from ruin; however so are your competing organizations. The unique advantage and difference can be the library – you. And the good thing about discovering information about the future is that you don’t have to wait for it to happen, you can start right now.
Zach Steltenpohl is the Sales & Marketing Manager for Aurora WDC, which provides news monitoring, primary research, and training to some of the world’s most respected companies. He is an active member of SLA-WI chapter and various SCIP chapters.