Information-Driven Business
How to Manage Data and Information for Maximum Advantage

Robert Hillard
home > blog > post

The Small Worlds data measure applied to business innovation
by Robert Hillard

In my book, Information-Driven Business, I introduce the concept of the “Small Worlds” test on information.  In summary, this measure determines the relationship between complexity and separation in any data.  One of the best ways to apply this test is to use it to determine how innovative a new product or business idea actually is.

There are two things we can learn from the past two decades.  The first is that new and truly disruptive businesses almost always use information in a new way (examples include the way new credit card issuers use loyalty schemes and Amazon’s ability to recommend purchases).  The second is that the information associated with truly disruptive businesses more closely adheres to the Small Worlds principle that separation and complexity have a logarithmic relationship.  That is, adding more complexity in the information only results in users having to navigate a small number of extra steps.

For instance, the telephone network of the early twentieth century was requiring a linear growth in telephone operators to keep growing, but by the second half of the twentieth century it had innovated to ensure that moving from the simplest transaction (calling next door) and the most complex (calling the other side of the world) only added a small number of exchanges.  Similarly, iTunes doesn’t just allow you buy music online, rather it innovates by reducing the number of steps required to relate information on your iPod to the artist and album that you are interested in.

You can preview through Google Books the chapter of Information-Driven Business defining the “Small Worlds” measure.

comments powered by Disqus


blogThe Information-Driven Business blog is published monthly:

2017   2016   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011   2010


Also featured from the Information-Driven Business blog:

Opportunities beyond startups
Is it just me or has the world gone mad for startups and writing software? Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of startups and all that they bring to the economy. However, if you read the business … Continue reading

Email works too well
Everyone who regularly feels overwhelmed by their email would agree that there is a problem.  The hundreds of articles about the issue typically make the same assumption and are wrong. Writer after writer bemoans email as inefficient and an obstacle … Continue reading

The Internet was a mistake, now let’s fix it
Each generation over the last century has seen new technologies that become so embedded in their lives that its absence would be unimaginable. Early in the 20th century it was radio, which quickly become the entertainment of choice, then television, … Continue reading

The Quantum Computer dream could be killed by Information Management
For years now the physics community has been taking the leap into computer science through the pursuit of the quantum computer.  As weird as the concepts underpinning the idea of such a device are, even weirder is the threat that … Continue reading




© 2010-2017 Robert Hillard | Privacy Policy