The implications of information imbalance
Maslia, a rising senior the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, is the 2017 summer fellow at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
There’s a day in every intro to microeconomics class when the professor walks to the board and lists, one after another, the reasons that markets fail. From externalities to public goods, there are a handful of items in economic theory that can cause competitive markets to go awry. The issue of information asymmetry, however, manifests itself in almost every economic transaction. Information is a commodity and any imbalance of it can have large implications for a market’s ability to allocate resources efficiently.
I begin with this, not just to prep for my economics course this fall, but to underscore something that my time with the Community Foundation solidified. During my 10-week fellowship, I was afforded the opportunity to work across multiple teams. I engaged with initiatives both within the Community Foundation and throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area. If I looked at every project I worked on, organization I saw, civic leader I spoke with and meeting I attended, one thing would stand out above the rest.
Information isn’t enough.
This idea is not unique nor is it revolutionary. It is, however, essential. The success of any venture, whether it be a local initiative or a Fortune 500 company rests on understanding this. Your organization can have the brightest staff. You can have tons of data. But it’s all for nothing if you do not know how to manage your information.
Entities must have established, strategic frameworks that allow and encourage a positive exchange of information between stakeholders.
In any office, staff across departments must be plugged into the activities of their peers to understand where and how they can contribute. The same is true on a macro level. If multiple organizations in a city are all addressing one problem, but there is little engagement and knowledge sharing between these groups, then we are allocating resources inefficiently.
It isn’t easy, though. Companies have investors to tend to, nonprofits have limited financing and people are just generally busy. But it takes a commitment from leadership to invest and commit to such a culture change. And as we progress more deeply into our data-centric world, the management and stewardship of information is increasingly going to be just as important as the data itself.