Back in December I wrote a column for the Enterprise Systems Journal on the notion of triangulation as a key data collection and analysis strategy that is increasingly relevant in an economy characterized by information abundance. My central point was that:
In organizational (and other) settings where you are attempting to make sense of—or draw useful inferences from—a multitude of noisy and conflicting sources, the principles of triangulation offer a workable strategy for developing useful insights in a finite and manageable amount of time.
In navigation, the more widely and evenly dispersed your sightings, the more precisely you can fix your position. Focus your data collection on identifying and targeting multiple sources of input that represent divergent, and possibly conflicting, perspectives. Within an organization, for example, work with supporters and opponents, both active and passive, of a proposed reorganization or systems deployment to develop an implementation strategy. When evaluating and selecting a new application, seek out a wider assortment of potential references, vendors, and analysts. [Trust, Verify, and Triangulate]
Since that column, I’ve watched several of the recurring discussions (e..g Doc Searls, Eric Norlin, and Kent Newsome) about the changing relations between MSM (Main Stream Media) and new media forms such as blogs. Thinking about the contrasts between information collection and analysis strategies sheds some light on this debate. We used to live in a world with a handful of authoritative sources we learned to trust. With a bit more sophistication we added verify’to trust. Both those strategies work in a world of small numbers of sources, but breakdown in the world of multiple, conflicting, and contradictory sources. Triangulation then emerges as a viable alternative.