How Holacracy has shown its limits

We have been reporting periodically in this blog experiments in a new organizational form, holacracy (see ‘How Holacracy responds to the challenges of the Fourth Revolution organization‘ in February 2014 and ‘How the Implementation of Holacracy Appears Challenging‘ in March 2015). It is now official: the experiment has been terminated as it failed.

vanishing_humanIn the Quartz paper ‘Zappos is struggling with Holacracy because humans aren’t designed to operate like software‘, the demise of the method and the negative outcomes at Zappos are described quite dramatically. The reason quoted is that the human element was excessively removed in the rigid holacracy method: “Ironically, as it seeks efficiency and attempts to eliminate human emotion, Holacracy imposes layers of bureaucracy and adds unnecessary psychological weight on to employees.”

Holacracy is too rigid and bureaucratic. It is not designed to address the challenge of complexity, which requires agility and scalability. This view is developed in the excellent post ‘Holacracy Is Fundamentally Broken‘ on Forbes.

Let’s never forget that organizations and projects are first of all a human adventure!

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How Google is Becoming an AI-centric company

After search-centric companies, and then mobile-centric companies, here come AI-centric companies! Following the trend such as at IBM, The new strategic impetus at Google is the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence in all its services, with dramatic quality improvements.

google_aiThis interesting NYTimes article ‘the Great AI awakening‘ is worth reading. It hightlights in particular the work of a particular division at Google called “Google Brain” with a focus on the usage of neural networks for deep machine learning and outcome quality improvements. According to the paper, in particular for the ‘Translate’ application, “the AI system has demonstrated overnight improvements roughly equal to the total gains the old one had accrued over its entire lifetime” (i.e. since 2006).

The paper also interestingly gives an account of the historical moves that have made machine learning based on neural networks mainstream in the past few years.

Let’s brace for similar improvements in a bunch of similar services that we are increasingly using in our daily life!…

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Why We Need to Connect With People to Get More Often Below Superficial

Following up from our post ‘How Everyone you Will Ever Meet Knows Something that You Don’t‘, the issue then becomes how to share this knowledge. How can we be in a position to better exchange knowledge through our daily interactions with people?

coffee connectionThe reality is that 95%+ of our daily interactions with people remain at a too superficial level to figure out what it is they know we don’t know. The issue is then to figure out how to setup those conversations in a way to enrich our experience and their experience.

It all comes down to connecting in the right manner, demonstrating interest to the person, its interests and aspirations. It also come down to a benevolent attitude that does not seek immediate advantage or profit from the relationship.

Of course that takes time so we can’t do that for everyone we meet, but we can certainly do better.

Benevolence is important. I had written first the first sentence of this post “how to benefit from this knowledge”. But the point is not to benefit, but to share!

Let’s try to learn more about the world by connecting better with more people, learning exciting new stuff we did not even know existed and sharing our knowledge too!

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How Artificial Intelligence Challenges Our Regulatory Approach to System Risk

Our current approaches to the regulation of system risk management and prevention of deadly accidents remains very much deterministic. In the most critical applications such as in nuclear power plants or aircraft controls, regulatory authorities require a deterministic demonstration of the links between input and outputs. Superfluous code that is not used needs to be removed, just in case. Older processors are used which reactions are fully known.

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How to test fully HAL’s reactions to all possible events?

With the advances of Artificial Intelligence, this won’t be possible any more. In particular because the devices become black boxes that have learned to behave in a certain manner most of the time when exposed to certain stimulus. However deterministic proof of the relationship between input and output is impossible and we don’t quite know how it really works inside. It can only be a statistical measure.

This situation is an extensive challenge for the regulatory authorities that will have to regulate safety-critical applications based on AI such as automatic driving. Most current regulatory approaches will become obsolete.

Some regulatory authorities have identified this challenge but most have not, although this will constitute a real revolution in regulation.

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How IBM’s next strategic move is in Artificial Intelligence

After reinventing itself as a consulting company in the 1980s (after being a hardware company), IBM is reinventing itself again, this time around Artificial Intelligence, as described in length in this excellent NY Times article ‘IBM is counting on its bet on Watson, and paying big money for it‘. Whether that will effectively replace the struggling consulting activities remains to be seen, but this time this seems to be a major strategic move.

ibm_watsonOne of the interesting aspects from the ability to analyse large amounts of data is the possibility to help human decision. In the example quoted in the article, while in 99% of the cases of cancer diagnostics the machine arrived to the same conclusion as the experts (doctors) it also proposed in 30% of the cases alternative treatments, due to the fact it had digested the 160,000 cancer research papers published yearly.

This move away from consulting (which was very successful in the 1990s and corresponded certainly to a real need) is also another confirmation that the economic future probably lies in developing AI applications instead of IT systems consulting. Food for thought for many IT consulting companies!

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What the Benefits of a Deep Conversations Are

Deep conversations are arguably some of the most valuable moments we can spend.

deep-conversationsI love this analysis of conversation from Valeria Maltoni in her post ‘Inventing Options for Mutual Gain‘:

Conversation is not just our ability to verbalize information, it’s also our ability to process information, of becoming aware of what we know, the internal dialogue we have with ourselves and our mind, the interaction between what we think and what we say, but also between what we say and what we do.

Many of the most productive conversations we have lead to an understanding of sorts. In some cases they allow us to connect with one another in a way that leads to solving a problem, advancing a project, and creating opportunity for a next step or action.

Spot on what a great, deep conversation can achieve.

How often do you have deep conversations? Think again. You might want to have more.

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How the Collaborative Age Organization’s Network is Both Identity and Value

The Collaborative Age’s organization identifies with its network, but the network is more than that. Let’s look at it a bit more in detail.

people-in-networksThe network is composed of all stakeholders. It is from where the organization derives its direct revenue (clients) and where it creates its permanent value (collaboration between contributors). Some participants might be at some times clients and at other times contributors. Contributors may be full time or part time, or even occasional. They may have met or they may not have met. They may stay in touch with the organization loosely for some time and suddenly become very close contributors.

The network is the value of today’s organization. The network limits are a bit fuzzy and that is perfectly fine. The network is everything, and maintaining and expanding it should be the aim of all modern organizations, irrespective of if participants are within or outside the core organization.

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What Constitutes an Organization’s Identity Today

In the Industrial Age, the identity of an organization was very much defined by its physical location and assets. In the Collaborative Age, the identity of an organization is rather its network.

network-boundariesIndustrial-Age organizations had definite geographical locations that belonged to it, and often linked to very large and unmovable capital investments. It allowed to define a border between what was inside and outside of the organization. It was rare and even sometimes forbidden to go back home with anything that belonged to the organization.

In the Collaborative Age, walls and geographical locations are not so important. They may exist as just the means to an end: improve collaboration, and will generally be somewhat temporary (as they are not associated with expensive capital investments). Rather the important asset of organizations is its network, both internally and externally to the organization. And it also forms it identity, because the organization is now akin to the network it fosters.

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How To Personally Network More Effectively

Our network is important for success and fulfillment. In her post ‘A Smarter Way to Network for Decision Makers‘, Valeria Maltoni reports “According to research conducted by Rob Cross and Robert Thomas, the executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks —made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy.”

networkThere is a way to network more deliberately so as to more effective. What I find particularly interesting is the need to have diverse networks. The quote above concentrates on a closed organization but of course networks need to transcend arbitrary boundaries and this principle is applicable to our personal network in general. It can be a particular network related to a religion, sport activity, children school, combined with one or several work-related networks.

I firmly believe that a lot of the value I personally bring to people comes from my exposure to very varied industries, countries and practices. Having a number of very different networks creates a lot of value and many opportunities.

I am learning to be more deliberate about this diversity. What about you?

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How Electronic Services Significantly Change the Service Value Chain

In the banking industry, it is estimated that 80% of the client value (i.e. fees) is still generated by the 5% face-to-face contact. The 95% client contact through internet and mobile does not generate much value. In a context of much lower returns in general for the financial industries, banks are confronted to a key dilemma: increase e-banking and convenience but without losing opportunity for creating revenue!

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Most younger customers never visit bank branches

This is a typical example of the impact of the Fourth Revolution on institutions. Bringing services online is not just a transpose of the actual brick and mortar relationship and value chain. It creates the question of creating a whole new value proposition.

And it so happens as well that if simple transactions can easily be carried over to online interfaces, more complex transactions still require a more in-depth contact, either by phone or face-to-face. In the banking industry those transactions carry the most fees: investments and loans. But keeping branches open create significant fixed costs that see their return diminish. The manner of implementing those interactions in an online world still remains to be invented.

The main lesson for the moment is that by bringing current services and transactions online, believing that the value proposition will remain similar is an illusion. It will change significantly and it will need to be reinvented.

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Why Social Media Presence is a Now a Must

Using social media today is not anymore an option. And this is the case as well in the professional world. If you don’t have any presence on Facebook or LinkedIn, or a minimum proficiency in social media, you look outdated and inadequate in the new world of work.

social_mediaLet’s thus face reality: you have to have an online presence in the world today to exist.

It is not any more adequate to take a position of ‘non interest’ or ‘privacy defense’ to justify not to use social media. Not having any social media account to relate to brands or interests will increasingly become a handicap in the world of work and beyond.

We are not obliged to share the most intimate details of our lives or the faces of our children. But a minimum online presence around our interests, and the maintenance of a minimum social network, is now a must.

Strong message for all of you that have not yet started using social media!

Hat tip to Paul Hermelin, Cap Gemini CEO, for inspiring this post from his remarks at a conference.

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How Artificial Intelligence For The Masses Is Coming

I stumbled upon this great story of a japanese farmer using Artificial Intelligence (AI) – or at least some form of learning algorithm – to develop a cucumber sorting machine using cheap technology widely available -see for example the Quartz post ‘The ultimate promise of artificial intelligence lies in sorting cucumbers‘. For the technical geeks, the full description of the contraption is here on a Google blog.

cucumber_sorting_machine
The cucumber-sorting machine!

The inspiring part of the story is of course how a japanese farmer could leverage such technology for cheap and using available cloud technology and cheap raspberry-type devices. This shows the amazing possibilities offered for cheap today to those that are able to grasp them. If you read the more technical blog, we can also understand that it still has taken some effort to get the machine learning in place, but the amazing thing is how it can transform anybody’s lives by tinkering with readily available stuff.

Technology for the masses is coming. Let’s not underestimate its potential.

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