Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
the tools we use

To state the obvious, it is more difficult today to analyze the information flows that support investment decision making than it used to be.  While not all of the old structures have broken down,the research puzzle | One commenter noted that my recent piece on “rational choices” was outmoded because the old-fashioned morning meeting had been supplanted by a digital maelstrom that he fights through each day.  Both are operative in most organizations and both pose risks of behavioral errors. the shift to electronic inputs has fundamentally changed certain parts of the decision process.

We don’t often contemplate our tools and how they can alter our analytical avenues; the desire to have the latest and greatest cool tool often supersedes a careful review of how it could change what we do for better or worse.  Perhaps that urge will be muted for a time by the pressure on budgets right now.  (For example, while no one would consider Bloomberg hip new technology, recent articles have said that some terminals are being dropped because they had been used as glorified message machines, at more than twenty thousand dollars a year!tjb research | Advertisement:  If you need to get more productivity from your Bloomberg by using it in ways tailor-made to meet your goals, we can help.)  But for the most part, the new tools don’t cost much, since they use existing or relatively inexpensive platforms; a more important question is whether they add value consistently.

Too often we end up with tools that use us rather than the other way around.  Certainly there are people who are adept at using the latest gizmo in ways that truly support what they are trying to accomplish, just as there are those who end up using it without reflection and wasting copious amounts of time as a result.  The standard management approach to the question is one of laissez faire and so we have, a quarter century on, powerful PCs sitting on everyone’s desk and only a small percentage of users who seem to be able to use them well.

The tools of investment decision makers weave electronic webs of communication, analysis, and transaction.  Some promise unparalleled speed or depth of information, others seek to deliver some greater degree of productivity.  The elusive concept of “quality”You could always wrap yourself in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for a journey filled with musings about quality and tools. must enter into an evaluation of them, or rather how they are used.

Such considerations will resume in greater detail in one week’s time.  Other cohorts and correspondents may send you updates, observations, and directives from the beaches of Mazatlan or the slopes of Colorado, but I’ll leave you alone.  It’s time to unplug the tools and rewind the years; the backwoods juke joints and big city bistros I will find myself in may be worthy of commentary, but you’ll get no beeps or posts or tweets from me.