May 24, 2011 at 04:57 PM
written by Michael Munson

Information Sharing and its Impact on How We Form New Ideas

I’m reading a book called “Where Good Ideas Come From.” This weekend I watched the YouTube video celebrating 100 years of IBM (not to be confused with IBM’s 100th birthday because it’s older than that). That video led me to watch another one explaining the history of the Internet.

The common thread through each of these experiences is a theme: one idea or piece of information leads to creation of another, leads to another, leads to another.

The book makes the argument that in most cases the next new good idea is a somewhat incremental advancement from what exists already. Not only is it unlikely that an amazing new way of doing something that has never been done before will be created, the chances are slim an “ahead of its time” idea would gain market acceptance, because the market just isn’t ready for it.

The IBM video, indicating a company achievement in each of the last 100 years, makes that quite clear. There is no monumental leap forward in the technologies IBM has developed over the last century, on a year-to-year basis. They have all been incremental, building on past ideas, slowly over time. Deep Blue first had to beat the best chess player before Watson could master Jeopardy, for example.

The video about the history of the Internet makes clear how the entire worldwide web is predicated on sharing information. The Internet quite simply would not exist if those that helped piece it together had any trouble sharing information with other parties. Sharing is what it is all about.

The takeaway should be clear. We as people only develop our next best ideas after being exposed to the previous best ones. Therefore, maximizing the development of good ideas requires maximizing the amount of information shared between people. And because of the nature of how ideas are developed, the degree to which the information is wider and deeper, will be reflected in the quality and breadth of ideas to be hatched in the future.

Sponsorship has been severely held back by the notion secrecy and holding information close to the vest leads to the best outcomes. If you can make the case for why keeping information secret is somehow moving things forward and improving the outcomes generated from sponsorship investments, you are arguing against the laws of nature. That’s a powerful force to refute. Eventually anyone that tries succumbs to it. One example: music labels vs. music sharing technologies.

People say sharing deal sizes is somehow going to hurt a brand or property, but exactly how? Specifically. A “we don’t want our competitors to know” answer is a hollow and naïve response. If competitors are doing their jobs they will know. All keeping information secret - that can be found - does is force spending resources on totally unnecessary pursuits and exacerbate market inefficiency.

We know markets with price transparency create more transactions, and that more transactions get us to the true market value of something. So why make it difficult to find out the truth? We’re not talking about trade secrets or information that will compromise a competitive position. Even if I knew how much a particular brand spends to the penny, on sponsorship rights, I’m not going to know what it spent on activation, a more important number. Moreover, I won’t know how the brand is quantifying its results or what they are, a much more important number than what is spent on rights. History teaches us there will be a day sooner than you think when sharing sponsorship deal sizes is common practice.

What about deal relationships and activations? It sure seems that if we could tell who is doing what with whom, with greater knowledge, faster, more better ideas would be developed to lift the performance of your particular enterprise and grow the sponsorship market. We should record the important things we do and make them available for all, because the more we know, the more we will know what works and doesn’t, the faster we will know it, and the better ideas we will develop to improve outcomes. Isn’t that what we all want?

At the end of the day, it’s all relative anyway, because there will always be competition. My point in this post is to advocate for becoming more efficient with information sharing so we can drive down the need to spend money on pursuits further away from where sponsorship activities create value. It not only makes no sense to spend so much money, the opportunity cost of not sharing is incalculable.

The only reason I was able to write this is because I was able to piece together a few different sources of information that combined to inspire the idea to make the case for how important information sharing in sponsorship is. Absent the specific information I encountered, I couldn’t have developed the idea to make the case. Was it a good one? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the publisher, SponsorPitch, LLC.