Thursday, February 05, 2004

Stretching a Single into a Double:
Creating for Value, Consolidating for Value  

Baseball, like most forms of non-artistic work, is overstuffed with available information for many sources. Just as a baseball researcher might use Baseball-Reference.com or Baseball Prospectus' stat line-up or CBS Sportsline's array of numbers or buy custom research from single-man expertise shops like Eric Enders, people in the military world might use Jane's Books or free intel from their own government's agencies or send out gatherers/spies of their own or buy it from free agents, or, as sometimes happens, just make it up if they can't find anything that serves their current mission.

Each sensible creator of new information, individually, is a blessing, because she might deliver something of value that no-one has thought of or nailed before. Further, he may present something marginal that while in & of itself doesn't add much value, it opens the eyes of another researcher to a way of looking at things that enables him to produce something original and valuable.


The challenge is The Diseconomy of Scale. Yes, I know people commonly talk about the Economies of Scale, but general scale worshippers come to their conclusions from a personality predisposition that worships size, a very typical early-childhood condition that most people pass through, while some get stuck there cognitively (see the work of Jean Piaget and other structuralists on learning theories -- citations available if you write me). For every economy of scale, there are three to thirty diseconomies of scale. Generally, "More is Less."

There is so much information available, some of the valuable stuff can "disappear" in the overwhelming volume simply because no-one, not even someone with an obsessive-compulsive personality leaning, can find it all and then remember where it is.


But thanks to Jonny German (great baseball name, eh? Sounds like a fleet-footed 4th outfielder of the 1920s) we have a new resource for sorting it out. Like many of my favorite reference books (The Encyclopedia of Dictionaries, The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, et.al.) it's not creating any new content/research, it's consolidating and making navigable the infernally obese wealth of existing resources.

German's site, Batter's Box, has a looooong article on various on-line resources and on which you can find which statistics (traditional and sabermetric). If you're interested in the numbers end of baseball, bookmark it. It's an (already-meaty) work in progress.


Outside of baseball, there's rarely a Jonny German to save your bacon. Past the Age of Enlightenment, there hasn't been a lot glory in providing value by consolidating existing resources. Part of the constraint has been organizations don't like to provide resources to synthesize or organize the info they already hold. Most finance people find it hard to understand or attach a value to the knowledge that inevitably pops up when existing knowledge is moved around and re-aligned in new relationships. And since most big organizations are dominated by finance people and the people who faun over them, and since many of the people who are attracted to big organizations are "color-blind" to the Diseconomies of Scale, leadership is rarely going to fund the Jonny Germans to clarify, organize, make into reference library quality knowledge.

If you think your own organization is suffering from too much information, take at least a five minute walk through Batter's Box and see what German has done. It'll give you one idea of how to short-cut search time when you're looking for that one kind of data you need move decisively.

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