“Leaders who stay ‘above the details’ may do well in stable times [but]… riding a wave of change requires an intimate feel for its origins and dynamics.” Change is universal and accelerating, meaning leaders must cut through layers of delays and distortions to understand what’s really happening on the frontline and why. Failure to do so severely limits the potential to discover the critical insights needed to make effective decisions. Leaders must learn to disintermediate.
Disintermediation is a process of ‘cutting out the middle man’ - the layers of middle-managers ‘managing up’, only letting their boss hear what they think s/he wants to hear; the consultants who provide simplistic recipes to achieving ‘best practice’, invariably past practice devoid of context; or the knot of bureaucracy people complain about but feel helpless to change. A leader must learn to hear the signals despite the noise, recognise the wood amongst the trees, and understand the cause not just the correlation.
Big data is the current tool of choice for cutting through the jungle of obfuscation. But while Google can answer any question in nano-seconds it can’t tell you what to ask, nor can it provide you with any assurances that the answers you receive are not the work of madmen, fools or snake-oil salesmen. To make effective decisions beyond the routine re-ordering of inventory, or dynamic discounts decision-support technology must not seek to replace human intelligence, but augment it.
Technology must let decision-makers:
Effective decision-support systems should not make leaders dependant on third parties - quants to devise algorithms, programmers to code them, or experts to interpret them. Systems should augment the person accountable for the decision, heightening natural human pattern-recognition intelligence through visualisation tools; triggering the novelty-receptive brain through sharing rich, knowledge-based narratives (things this blog will elaborate on over the coming weeks).
This requires systems that work with the way people really are, not the way we wish they would be. For human beings have evolved over thousands of years as social creatures in networks (clans, tribes, families, and now organisations) and our success in getting this far suggests some secret formula for modern organisations to emulate - a best practice case if you like. And it’s this: technology works when in puts people in touch with people as beneficial variation then emerges.