The economy of free information is questionable as we presume that if information is obtained freely then it is as good as what we pay for. In some ways this is true with a significant amount of information obtained from businesses, individuals and organisations who genuinely provide valuable information for free. It wasn't until recently that I realised that many businesses strategically minimise their costs by seeking out information to improve or sustain their businesses for free. I understand the temptation with so many things out there for free that I didn't realise how many businesses were not only looking for free information but operated unethically by actively seeking to obtain content for free including breaching copyright. I can't say I'm surprised with social media offering to run your business for free and unimaginable information at our fingertips whenever we choose to look for it that the temptation is there.
It isn't the acts of seeking to obtain something for nothing but the economy of the situation that caused me to be disturbed. It is the Google doctor debate but in the world of business that concerned me as the reality is that if everyone sought to avoid paying professionals for their function then they would soon cease to exist. I recently had a situation where I was approached for advice on how to solve a particular business issue which I entertained for the sake of being kind and generous only to realise most of the way through the conversation that the person had not asked my business name and in fact, didn't care as they were getting help for nothing. This isn't to say that I helped them enormously but it was an act that I felt was not really in the best interests of both parties as there was no intention to engage our business and I wasn't interested in targeting the information specific to their business needs. What an economy that would be! With supply and demand on the table but no-one interested in a fair trade that would fulfill the needs of both parties. If only there were tariffs involved so that I could compare this to the world as we know it right now.
The idea of mutual benefit in business appears to be challenged in what I am witnessing with many businesses seemingly only interested in what they can obtain from a transaction rather than seeking to engage in a fair one. It does make me sad as the reality is that the cost cutting mantra appears to be driving us into recession rather than the logical concept of spending to promote spending in general. The problem as I see it is that advice for a price is becoming harder as time goes on with one person telling me that if they want to know anything they just turn to Google. I am concerned if we as a business community are relying solely on Google to serve us answers as I can honestly say that I often find myself challenging the information I find. I hope that if I am thinking that most information that is free is incomplete, misleading or so general it is not really fit for purpose that this also occurs to my business peers. I hope that there is an understanding that something for nothing is often like getting something from Kmart and expecting it to be the same quality as something you buy that is twice the price with the odd item that is fit for purpose. I also hope that you agree with that statement as I am tired of hearing how great products coming out of this store are which I will often consider as slightly better $2 shop items which is only great if you are happy with the limited life and / or quality of the product. The lowest price guarantee idea only ensures that in order to keep prices falling that you must continually sacrifice something or many things in order to achieve this while still maintaining a margin...where do you draw the line?
As a former engineer I like to ensure that what I buy brings me the value I expect and so I shop accordingly for the things I buy whether it be a product or information. It is true that when you buy a fridge these days you shouldn't expect it to last 25 years or more and certainly not from a brand you have never heard of. I consider my circumstances and evaluate the pros and cons for my decisions in conjunction with my education, experience, knowledge and capabilities. I expect that if I require specific knowledge, skills or experience outside my own skill-set that I will likely have to pay someone for those services, products or advice. I also expect that if I am approached for information that I should not expect that business or individual to engage me for my services given it is not always economical to do so. Saying that, I think it is reasonable to expect that if you have no intention of engaging or paying my business for our time or advice then this is something you should communicate and you should also be prepared not to get upset if I feel I need to change the subject. So how about our weather lately...crazy!
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