Frank Underwood and the Power of Information

March 27 2014

Authors: Erasmus Holm & Justine Rodian

Most people have been swept off their feet by fictional Congressman Frank Underwood, a Democratic-Majority-Whip-later-Vice-President, who works his way to the top of the White House in the Netflix series House of Cards.

Whether or not you approve of his methods, Congressman Underwood can teach us a thing or two about information management.

Here’s how:

Underwood sees the big picture and plans his moves upon it. By upholding an overview he’s one step ahead everyone else. “I don’t want to assume. I want to know” he says. And he does. On his whiteboard he has an overview of every congress member, their vote patterns and interests. And when he needs something done, he knows the doings and desires of his friends and enemies and knows exactly who to go to.

Example: He uses his knowledge of Congressman Peter Russo’s drinking and driving to make him not testify against a political decision that has big consequences for Russo’s hometown. Despite the fact that Underwood's method resembles blackmailing it clearly embodies the popular saying ”knowledge is power.”

Underwood is also very agile. He adjusts his strategy to his surroundings; he reacts quickly and changes sub-strategies whenever necessary to reach his final goal. (That ends up causing the death of Peter Russo and journalist Zoe Barnes.)

The foundation for Underwood’s success is information. Gathering, organizing, and using the information at his disposal and acting cleverly upon it, paves the way for Underwood.

The parallels to business are clear: It can pave the road to success for organisations too. The information that is – not the killing and blackmailing.

To recap:

  • Plan a long-term strategy and keep an overview
  • Gather and master information and act on it
  • Stay agile in order to adjust according to the environment

Today’s increasing amounts of business information demands more than ever for organisations to master it and to have one reliable set of data to present to employees, customers, suppliers and partners. Because whether in politics or in sales - in the words of Underwood himself: “There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”

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