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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Related to tribal business:

In the 21 September 2004 edition of Reveries, Tim Manners describes little global giants. He quotes Barnaby Feder from the New York Times,

“Big companies are good at identifying the intellectual property that is needed in a niche, but smaller players are often better equipped to get there.”

When economists like Ronald Coase describe companies, two of the conditions they write about are access to information and the costs of doing business. When information was scarce and the costs of interacting with many different business inputs were high, companies got big. Today, with almost costless access to nearly limitless information some companies are scaling back but still delivering in a big way. That explains the size of the two companies Tim mentions.

But, an aspect of information that continues to trouble current economists is it’s value. As I wrote earlier, valuable knowledge is useful knowledge and ironically, in an ever-growing sea of information, capturing useful knowledge seems to be increasingly difficult.

This is a challenge recently described by Mark Kingwell and Clive Thompson:

MARK KINGWELL: … Information ‘is’ now too plentiful to be considered valuable in itself, or in general. But of course particular bits of information are as valuable as ever. The trick lies entirely in finding them, and finding out what purposes we are trying to serve with them.

CLIVE THOMPSON: It’s interesting, in that context, the current rage for ‘intelligent agents’ to filter out the info-glut. The idea seems to be that only a new technology can help keep in check the forces that technology has released.

MARK KINGWELL: I think that the metaphor of the filter is significant. It implies that, if we can just calibrate the filter properly (i.e., educate the writers or critics in the appropriate way), we can make the glut of information serve our chosen ends.

There really isn’t any better technology for sifting than people. This is a meta-human skill. Establishing cognitive links between discrete sources of information is, so far, humanity’s one great hope for employment in an increasingly information based economy.

This explains part of the results observed so far in the sift experiment. The entrepreneurs I’m working with are reaping significant gains from the cognitive links I share with them.

Commentary

[…] Presently the core differentiator between business person and designer is imagination. Imagination is a juggernaut meta-human skill. You can get a computer running business simulations, cross-referrencing case studies but there are two key areas that remain the sole domain of humanity: cognitive synthesis and imagination. Imagination lets designers see problems and opportunities in the abstract where commodity builders see things in the linear progression of basic mathematics. […]