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From Y2K to the Information Age: How Businesses Are Benefiting


Our real-time world offers businesses a gold mine of consumer behavior and preference data. And this is important to furthering innovation and enhancing execution.

After turning the page on Y2K and all the dire technology warnings that accompanied it, we are beginning to realize that ticking the year 2000 was much more important than concerns about the internal programming of computers and clocks. Maybe, just maybe, Y2K was about the mystique and realization of winding down the chapter of the Industrial Age and starting a new one: The Information Age.

And turning that page of history has been, and will continue to be, an incredibly volatile transition.

Much of this volatility revolves around business adaptation to new technologies and opportunities, coupled with a more vocal and empowered consumer. Every bit of news happens in real-time, with a swarming media (social and traditional) ready to comment and stir the pot. There is simply no time to waste in this new world.

But this real-time world also offers businesses a gold mine of consumer behavior and preference data. And this is important to furthering innovation and enhancing execution. Privacy concerns aside, corporations now have more consumer data than ever; they know what item is being purchased, by whom (with demographics), and where, when, and how an item is purchased… all of this in real-time. And the tracking of consumer behavior is leading to new technologies in search and marketing. From the ever-changing preferences in Google search to the recent announcement of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) "Graph Search," accumulating data is becoming a top business priority. Welcome to the Information Age. So much to do and explore, yet so little time.

Consumers are more than just data points, though. They are people. And empowered people at that. A renewed voice through blogging and social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) have ushered in a renaissance of individualism. We are now more aware than ever that we can effect change. Yet this power surge is in its infancy and will no doubt run into challenges.

The rise of the individual has clearly added tension to the relationship with, and amongst, traditional power sources like government and media. The advent of social media media is chipping away at this power by allowing people to report on news and events, while sharing their collective voice in real-time. As well, our increased awareness that businesses and government are tracking much of what we do (and who we are) adds a very real element of friction (and volatility) to this battle for power.

Without a doubt, the Information Age has dynamically changed the playing field for business, media, government, and the individual. The elements of real-time marketing and reporting, coupled with the advent of social media, have increased the speed of technology, innovation, and consumer empowerment. We are still in the early innings, so expect more volatility in geopolitics and financial markets. Remain patient, be opportunistic. The world is adapting and transitioning to new opportunities presented by The Information Age. In real-time.

Editor's Note: Andrew Nyquist is an independent investor based in the Minneapolis area. This article originally appeared on his investing and economics site, See It Market.

Twitter: @andrewnyquist
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