In a 2012 TED Talk, technologist JP Rangaswami challenged listeners to treat information as food. Considering such, we should ponder whether in today’s world—where the volume of information and data continues to increase exponentially—we are becoming stuffed.
Too much food is bad for you; does it follow too much information is bad for you? Perhaps we need to think about efficiencies and effectiveness, as well as the costs of consuming, processing, and storing huge volumes of data. Are there risks when applying a data diet? Will a compliance professional be held accountable because the information that could have prevented a regulatory breach was available, but he/she failed to consume it and react?
Imagine if we treated information in the same way we treat food. My body is not a temple, but I am particular about the food I allow in. It is not so easy to filter information; I choose my sources, but I need to retain an open mind to new flavors, ideas, and contributions, all of which can provoke new thinking.
As compliance professionals we need to carefully select our sources and recognize when we have consumed enough information to make an informed decision. We need to manage costs and ensure we do not accept or provide sugar-coated information, because it is our job to give stakeholders the facts their heads need against the details their hearts and stomachs may crave.
The supply chains for food are often direct, joining consumers to raw materials, fields of crops, and orchards full of fruit. In contrast, the supply chains for information can be complex, obscure, and entwined, which can make it difficult to source, trace, and validate. In recent years it has become evident people can and do create significant volumes of fake news while others seek to apply a fake label to the truth and robust facts, all of which makes our role increasingly difficult.
The fact is none of us can be force-fed food any more than we can be force-fed information. We can choose what we consume, and we can choose the source that accompanies our information. Indeed, with the increasing prevalence of fake news, there is a need for increased vigilance and to not accept something that looks nice, because it does not mean it will taste nice. Pretty pictures and charts are not any more accurate than numbers in columns—in fact, they may be more likely to misrepresent and distort the numbers.
As compliance professionals we need to watch the waistline of our businesses, as well as our own as individuals. A balanced diet is key for healthy outcomes and often requires adherence to rules and the rejection of unhealthy options. The same can be said for an information diet—too much and you may get sick.