Information as Power

German Approach

Germans believe that the mere possession of information can provide almost the same value as its conversion into action. In Germany knowing can be as advantageous as doing.


American Approach

Americans believe that information is of value only to the extent that it can be converted into action. In the United States knowing and doing always beats just knowing.


German View

Americans are often seen as not understanding the importance and sensitivity of certain kinds of information. Americans can be impulsive. Acting on valuable information means revealing that information.

American View

Possessing information at the expense of acting on it is a strange concept to Americans. The German idea of scoring points through mere possession is antithetical to collaboration.

Advice to Germans

In the U.S. business context you’ll seldom score any points, seldom gain any advantage, by knowing something without putting that knowledge to work. In fact, your American colleagues will consider you to be less capable. Discuss with those colleagues how they define the statement “information is power.”

Advice to Americans

Be careful about prematurely judging your German colleagues as less capable. There are, indeed, many situations in which it is better to wait before acting on valuable information. We all know the phrase “information is power.” Discuss with those colleagues how they define that.