Unleashing the Potential of Information

One blog I make a point of always reading is by John Battelle. I read his book ‘The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture‘ about the early days of Google a number of years ago and found it a fascinating read given his access to some of the internal workings of Google as the business grew.

Like many of my favourite bloggers, he tends
focus on some of the bigger tech trends that are taking place in society and his post earlier this week is no exception.

In a world in which most of the population tend to forget just how much data records our every move (whether we’re leaking it as we access web services via third party authentication log-ins or learning a coue of weeks later that it was stolen, a result of our own blind trust in services and businesses that are amateurish about securing it), he talks about the concept of potential and kinetic data.

It’s particularly interesting to me because he frames the difference as explaining how some of the fastest growing modern tech companies are experiencing explosive growth precisely because of the fact that they’ve worked out how to release that potential. If you can build a business that focuses in unlocking that potential, you’re onto something that’s really valuable.

So for example Airb’nb, Uber and Nest have each discovered ways to release data that existed in what were previously ‘dumb’ environments and brought them into the structure of the internet. By building businesses in this way, they have unlocked potential information about:

  • merchandise (Amazon, eBay)
  • spare bedrooms (Airbnb)
  • transportation systems (Uber)
  • our home environments (Nest)
  • real-world relationships (Facebook)

And of course another great example is Google itself – a business which discovered how to convert potential information (links on the web) into kinetic information (search).

You could argue that it’s a subtle distinction – but I feel that it’s a key one. We’re all guilty of speaking confidently about how Big Data will change everything but for the most part, organisations are still flailing around trying to record everything possible in the hope that this will become somehow useful in the future (hello NSA…).

But if you’re looking for business ideas and want to make a real difference, think about one area and focus in on how you make that leap on converting potential to kinetic information. You might just stumble across a huge idea for a business.

photo credit: jah~ cc