information dominance

Overcoming Information Dominance in the Workplace

Yesterday I spoke of the idea that it is not good to rely on information dominance in order win at games.  Today I would like to extend this concept to the workplace.

There are people in the workplace who maintain job security solely through information dominance.  Sometimes it is feigned as “word of mouth” or “rule of thumb” procedures developed from “experience”.  Sometimes, this maintaining of information dominance is unintended (e.g. person is unable to communicate effectively) and sometimes it is is deliberate (e.g. person does not show trainees where to find the available work instructions).

In my time working within a single large company, I have found cases like these pretty common.  I imagine there may be workplaces where it is more or less common, but based on what I have seen, there seem to be a fair amount of people who rely on information dominance in my workplace.

But why rely on that?  Are there no other ways you can show your capabilities without happening to have more information than others on a certain topic at a certain time?

I have a mindset that it’s not the possession of information, but how I use information that differentiates me.  I should be open to sharing with you the information I have, so that you can have a better chance for success.  After that, maybe together we can accomplish even more.  And if we happen to be competing for the same job position, well, I must develop the other skills I have so that I can still compete and beat you out for the position.  Wouldn’t we both be stronger because of that?

In our advancing society, where getting information is becoming easier and quicker, I should be more ready to willingly give up my information dominance in a given situation.  I may be relying on it if I try to hold on to it.  Eventually, someone else will come along who might have more information than I do, ripping that dominance from my possession.  What would I do then?  It may be unsettling when considering that my position at the workplace provides me an income, but it is becoming more necessary that I figure out what other skills I have and how I can develop them.

Being able to figure out what kinds of information are important for a certain situation seems like a good skill to have.  Recognizing the importance of decision-making with incomplete and/or extraneous information seems like another good one.  These types of skills represent some factors which can differentiate me from others, ways I can succeed without having to rely on information dominance.  As an employee, it’s these skills I will need to win at the workplace.  Outside of the workplace, these kinds of skills can also give me a better chance of winning at life.  It’s with this in mind that I seek to teach others what I know, so that they too might have a better chance at winning, and so that together we might win even more.

Don’t Rely on Information Dominance

Suppose I wanted to play a cooperative game with you.  If I wanted us to succeed, I would teach you all that I know about the rules of the game.  I would not withhold information about the rules from you, for our success would depend on both of us understanding how the game works.

Now suppose I wanted to play a competitive game against you.  If I wanted to beat you, would I teach you all of the rules of the game? Would I teach you the same as if we were playing a cooperative game?

I think so.  In fact, I think I should focus even more on teaching you in the competitive environment than in the cooperative environment.  I would probably beat you at chess if you didn’t know that knights move in an “L” shape or that pawns can take pieces diagonally in front of them.  But why would I be proud of that?

If I have more information about the rules of the game than you do, then why would I feel like I have accomplished anything special after beating you?  I can teach you all the rules of a game, but I can have the confidence that I will still be able to compete with you.  Shouldn’t I be proud if I were to teach you everything that I know about a game before we start playing, and then still beat you?

I should not have to rely on information dominance to win.

There are games where information is obtainable during playing of the game (e.g. Bridge: how many cards of a suit are left at a certain turn, Poker: what cards you hold in your hand), and it’s not this type of information I am referring to that should be divulged (although it would still be impressive to win while giving out all this information).  It’s the rules of the game, the mechanics of how the game works even before we start playing, that should be shared and discussed.  Shouldn’t we both have more fun competing if we know that we are starting with the same set of information about the game?

In the long run, it’s not the state of information dominance that truly differentiates you winning from you losing.  It’s the skills you use to collect, analyze, and act based on information that makes you a winner.  The internal thought processes and methods you use happen to be applied to a particular game at a particular time, but it’s those skills that would enhance your ability to beat someone else in a different game, even when they have information dominance over you.

And you should be proud of that.