Bye Bye Mr.Memory! Hello Mr. Insight

In the Alfred Hitchcock film 39 Steps, the opening scene features a stand-up act by a man introduced to us as Mr.Memory. People paid money to come to this show. He was someone who had committed at least 50 facts per day into his memory and could answer any audience question. The questions range from the distance between Winnipeg to Manitoba to baseball statistics. Today we do not need Mr.Memory nor do we  appreciate committing facts into memory. We have Google, or bing or the next big search engine.

If you look closely at Mr.Memory’s act it was still an entertainment act. If it was a rote regurgitation of facts the audience would not have paid good money to get there. He was witty and the audience was laughing.  Mr.Memory would have bombed if the audience were bored or laughing at him instead of at his jokes.

Google or not,  data, information and facts have  always been available to those sought them. Data might not have been free or there were transaction costs but was available. People protected data as if the value is intrinsic to the data. Value  is not intrinsic to data. Value is created from the insights one derives from these to serve a market and gain upper hand over the competition.

There is a quote that was attributed to Sam Walton (I cannot verify the authenticity): “I am not so much afraid of someone stealing my data as someone can make better decisions with it than I can”.  Whether or not Sam Walton said this the statement holds true.

Mr. Memory  may not have  job today but he knew then that his advantage came from doing something different with the information – delivering entertainment that competed for customer wallet share against other forms of entertainment.

Do you, as a decision maker, just seek data for its own sake or create actionable insights that deliver profits?