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Using Information to Make a Decision

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1. Let me start by asking what does "using information to make a decision" really mean to you? First, how do you determine that you need to "make a decision" in the first place? Then, how do you determine that information would help you make it? (Obviously, not all decisions require information in any meaningful sense - for example, whether to have Wheaties or Cheerios for breakfast.) How do you determine what information might help? Is this determination likely to be affected by whether or not you have the information in your hand or whether you'd have to go looking for it? How do you determine that you have enough information? And how does having the information in front of you really affect your choice process?

Finally, how do you weight the information you're using - that is, determine what's good or not good, trusted or slanted, helpful or not helpful, too little, too much, or just right, etc. etc. etc.?

2. There an interesting new twist on social media these days -- namely, the new social media aggregators. Basically, these websites purport to score your overeall presence on the Internet and determine just how influential you are. A good example of this is Klout.com. When you sign up with them, you get your score (in my case, truly humbling -- a massive 22.).On the other hand, when I signed up with Mywebcareer.com, I find that all things considered, I have a nice respectable 743. Am I hot, or what!

Anyway, I'm not necessarily suggesting that you run out and sign up with either or both of these services, or any of the others, although you might find it entertaining. But I would like you to think a little about this idea of social media aggregation, and what it means for the future. What's the long-term value of these tools? Who's interested, and why? And why might you at some point find it useful to participate in these exercises?

3. I suspect that you all receive a lot of email. So do I. Let me give you an idea. In my Gmail account (the one I use for most personal and private business correspondence) there are currently 7817 messages; this represents the traffic since last December 1, less some deleted. It does not include the 4188 messages in my Spam Folder (they are deleted automatically after 30 days, so multiply that by 7 months for the spam total). Nor does it include my other ten email accounts, including the big one -- my school account -- which has some 2000 messages dating back to last December. In short, I get a LOT of stuff. A lot of it is quasi-spam -- that is, advertising or other newsletters, or other stuff of some value, but not personal.

So how do you handle your own volume? I must confess that I handle most of mine by ignoring it. Of course, that means I sometimes miss messages I should have. But I'm pretty stymied about what to do.

So tell us about your own email traffic, and what you do about it., When we've got some reasonable amount of thoughts on the table, I'll pose another related question for your consideration.

4. The venerable New York Times has been, interestingly, one of the news sources most interested in creative uses of New Media to interact with traditional print journalism. In fact, they have a very useful website explaining and illustrating some of their experiments; you can find it at http://beta620.nytimes.com/.

If you get a chance to take a look at it, I'd be interested in your reactions to it in general, and to any specific things there that you find particularly interesting. I'd also be interested in your general thoughts about the interaction of print media with online media. This is going to be a hallmark of the rest of your careers, so it's something that you'd better be thinking about.

5. Recently Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs (namedrop: his daughter and my daughter were BFF's in middle school 20-some years ago) announced the coming of iCloud -- their new online sharing service. You can read a good summary of it here. Initially it seems to be targeted at music, but the implication is that they are seeking to implement the first real personal cloud, where you can store all your personal stuff and access it anywhere through any one of several different "information appliances".

So what do you think of this? Are you ready to commit your stuff to the cloud? Are you really aware of how much of you is already committed to the cloud? [HINT: I wasn't myself, until I started thinking about it systematically.] What about this as a societal trend? An organizational trend? Your thoughts, and even more so, your thoughts about your colleagues' thoughts, are welcomed.

6. One of the hottest trends in current enterprise information systems is what's often referred to as "big data", that is, giant databases of stuff gathered from customers (e.g., all the information about your supermarket purchases automatically entered each time you swipe your Von's or Safeway card through the checkout to get al those cool discounts), websurfing, suppliers, internal monitoring, etc. Big Data was first enabled through the enormous increases in the availability of low-cost data storage (down to $30 per terabyte at Fry's Electronics, as of today's paper), but it took the development of good data analytic tools to really spark the trend (if you're interested, here's a good summary of the issues in Big Data, but it's not compulsory.)

So the question for discussion basically is to what degree ought organizational decision making be driven by "evidence" derived from analysis of trends in Big Data? Are such data reliable? How much power might the analyst have over the results? What other kinds of information, if any, might be used for decision making? Big Data's not going away, in fact, "Huge Data" may be just around the corner, so how can we best harness this new horse to the enterprise so that it doesn't run away with everything?

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The information to make a decision is examined.

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1. Information has to have some purpose to be used in decision-making. Information about cars will not help you make decisions about your bank account. Therefore, the first thing to do is determine if you need information and what type. Then searching through experience and your own knowledge base will help you decide what other information you may need. The information may come from others, more knowledgeable, books, the magazine one read last week or an internet based source, including social media. The fact there are so many ways to get information makes it easier to obtain and more overwhelming as well when trying to decide what good information is and what is not. Once determining the ...

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