Connecting the dots

Connecting dots

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Everywhere we go most of us are leaving behind “signals” – dots if you will – about where we’ve been and what our interests were. When we’re moving in the physical world, many of us are more or less tracked by our portable electronic devices. When we move about in the virtual world, we are leaving digital signatures everywhere. This creates a massive opportunity for positive improvements and also an opportunity for abuse if not downright sinister activity on the part of governments, businesses and scammers.

On the positive side, we will be able to depend on more targeted information, advertisements and search results based on the trail we leave. We will be adding to the data that allows for tracking flu epidemics or deleterious environmental effects. Authorities will be able to better understand the movements of criminals and terrorists. We will be able to understand information flow within our organizations as well as communications between our organizations and our clients. All of this will make it possible for even further productivity improvements for businesses and individuals. Connecting the dots can be very helpful for productivity and security.

As an aside; the contentiousness of this topic is clear as we can see from all the media hype over our own government’s activities in “spying” on us. We have taken them to task for not “connecting the dots” around the 9/11/2001 attack on the U.S. on the one hand; and on the other hand we are really worried about our government agencies collecting the dots in order to protect them because the dots we are creating are swept up along with all the other dots being created in the digital world. We’re going to have to come to terms with that inherent conflict. Since it appears that very few U.S. citizens trust their government in the first place, this will not be an easy thing to settle.

On the negative side, we only have to remember the warnings given by Jaron Lanier in his book Who Owns the Future? As we interact with our digital devices at home and on the road, we leave continuous signals as to where we’re going and what we’re doing. There will be no hiding for the average person. We aren’t likely to go back to the old days of not being connected, so we will have to deal with these negative consequences and learn how to let individuals own, control and profit from the information they create. Connecting the dots can be very lucrative for either large organizations alone, thus creating a big chasm between elites and individuals or, if we listen to Lanier, we can make sure the playing field is level thus building a large middle class of connected citizens.

But in thinking of the positive side, I’m wondering what you are doing to use the information that you have already gathered to improve your business. Are you looking at turning the data into information then into knowledge and then into actionable wisdom? Are you prepared to make further investments in your Information Technology Infrastructure now that we are seeing the benefits of previous decades of investment? Are you concerned about creating a further digital divide? Will you support individuals owning their own information and being able to profit when someone else uses it – including your own company?