The high cost of now

The closer you get to the source and moment of information, the more it costs.

If you wanted to be the first person to see Nokia’s new phone, you could have flown to Berlin, as Robert Scoble did. Or you could have been the second person by obsessively hitting refresh on his posts. Or you could have been the tenth person by having it show up in your feed later in the day. Or you could wait a week and see it everywhere. Or in a year, get one on eBay for $5…

If you want to know how the stock market did in 2006, you can spend ten seconds and find it in Wikipedia. If you want to know about today, you’ll need to invest a few clicks and you’ll get the delayed results. Or you could pay a lot of money for a stock market terminal and get the current prices. Or you could even risk prison and get some inside information about what’s going to happen before it happens.

More than ever, there’s a clear relationship between how new something is and how much it costs to discover that news.

You can check your email twice a day pretty easily. Once every fifteen minutes has a disruption cost. Pinging it with your pocketphone every sixty seconds is an extremely expensive lifestyle/productivity choice.

Sure, go ahead, stay hyper-current, but realize it’s not free.

Zara, the European clothing chain, deliberately invests more than the competition in getting close to the ‘now’ of unit sales by store. As a result of this investment, they are far more agile (and more profitable) than most other stores.

The interesting questions:

Are you getting what you’re paying for in your quest for now?

Is it worth it?

Sometimes, in our quest for the new, we overpay. Most of the time, moving down the curve will decrease your costs dramatically, without hurting your ability to make smart decisions. Alternatively, when you choose to spend the time (or money), leverage it like crazy.

I bet you are overspending on now. Not everywhere, just in the wrong areas. Worth an audit, probably.