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By Fiona Czerniawska, Gavin Potter (auth.)

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Brands and information do not mix well: if we knew exactly what all the ingredients in Coca-Cola were, mixed in their exact proportions, the drink would probably have less of a fashionable mystique as we would also be able to make it ourselves if 30 BUSINESS IN A VIRTUAL WORLD we chose to. The same is true for many of the brands on the market today: how many of us know how washing powder works? We buy on brand (and perhaps price) rather than information. When we start to think about it, it is very rare that we make informed purchases.

We have used computer hardware and software to automate what we already do – to speed up processes, reduce error rates and minimise costs – but not to change our lives in a profound sense. Our cars may have on-board computers, but we still use them to get around; our fridges have circuit boards, but they still keep food cold; our factories may have robots, but they still weld metal. We should, perhaps, be less amazed at what we have achieved than what we have not even begun to attempt. The reasons for this are numerous and, until very recently, the technology itself had been difficult and expensive to exploit.

Business in a Virtual World © Fiona Czerniawska and Gavin Potter 1998 40 BUSINESS IN A VIRTUAL WORLD was to farmers. It is not about quality, flexibility, or time, but is a revolution about the availability and use of information and expertise. 1 Information has always been the poor relation of information technology. As organisations, we have been happy to give it away, lose it or even ignore it while paying vast sums of money for the hardware and software that can process it. This is because, until very recently, information has always been seen as a mere representation of something else – it was recycled information about something.

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