Thirty years ago, pundits said we'd entered the "Information Age," in which information was seen as a valuable resource, equally (if not more) important and essential than the bricks, mortar, equipment, and people that existed in the nondigital world.

Over the decades, the concept of the Information Age has completely permeated the business world. The number of emails and texts and social media posts grow exponentially. The Information Age seems to be everywhere.

Take marketing, for instance. Every company now has a website chock-a-block with information: white papers, videos, e-books, product info, and presentations. The hot topic at industry conferences is "content marketing."

Sales is similarly now driven mostly by customer data. Salespeople are goaded to become data entry clerks to populate CRM databases. Sales managers run analytics to find "insights" about whom their salespeople should be selling to.

Management, ditto. No manager worth their salt doesn't have at least 50 how-to management books on their shelves. And every day, hundreds of slides, full of information, appear on the screens of boardrooms and conference rooms.

There's only one problem: TMI.

Everyone, in business and elsewhere, now has more information--way, way more--than they could ever possibly use. Everyone is drowning in information. Offering more information to people is like throwing a case of Perrier at a drowning man.

But, but ... (you may ask) what about all those smartphones? Aren't they all about information? Uhhh, nope. What people do on their phones--talking, emailing, texting, and social media--isn't about information and data. It's about conversation and connection.

Take journalism, for instance. While a few large outlets, like The New York Times, continue to publish long, substantive articles, most journalism is now reduced to short articles intended to spark comments and conversations.

Consider: Entire governments now rise and fall on the basis of manipulated social media, which isn't really "media" (like TV) but rather a series of conversations. Calling it "fake news" misses the point; it's the conversation, not the information, that wields power.

Generations Y and Z are famously glued to their phones, but they're not consuming information; they're deeply involved in multiple conversations conducted through programs like Instagram. Ditto Gen-Xers with Facebook and Boomers with Fox News.

In short, the Information Age is dead and the Conversation Age has arrived.

Here's the bad news: if you and your company don't adapt to the Conversation Age, you can kiss your future goodbye. The big winners in your market--and indeed in every market--will be the first who "get it."

Published on: Apr 19, 2019
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