Knowledge and Power

When I started writing on Intregrative Power and Selling in my last post, for some reason it reminded me of the process of buying a car. Before the Internet, it was pretty difficult to get information on how much the dealer was making, what the average true price was for a car, what average finance rates were for a given credit rating. The car dealers used this lack of information as a form of power, and took advantage of this information gap to achieve higher profits.
The end result was that the car dealer won, but the car buyer felt that they were ripped off.
So I started thinking about the relationship between information and power, and how it is used.  It was interesting to find that there is so little on this subject on the Internet.
Obviously, the preceeding was an example of information being used to maintain economic power. The elimination of the information gap, brought on by the Internet in this case, negated to a large extent the auto salesperson’s power. The customer now can look at multiple factors and make purchase decisions based upon costs and alternatives.
It’s pretty easy to see how information hoarding can be used in economic situations.  But it can often be used in situations that involve force. One could argue that Ronald Reagan kept our country out of war during his presidency by making it appear that he would use force when necessary, even though enemy states never knew for sure.  But I’d like to give an even subtler example, this from my own life.

When I was an engineer, I was working on an install at a customer site. In order to be successful, I needed some basic information from a senior engineer.  This engineer did not want me there, so he did not provide me with the information necessary, and as a result, the install failed. I believe that his withholding information to me was a use of force, because there was no economic motive on this engineer’s part to not provide me with this information.

By definition if a relationship is Integrative, information must be as equal as possible on both sides. Both sides must know what the other side’s pains are, and what they can offer to the process. Integration involves both parties feeling that they are on a level playing field, and having equal information is part of this.

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