Intelligence is Intentional

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BFULLER

It is often the case that complex traits such as intelligence are very hard to define. But it is also true that there are “proxy” signs that we can all pick up on. One recurring sign of intelligence for me is “intentionality”. I’ve found in my experience that intelligent people are highly intentional. Look at the minute design decisions made by business greats such as Steve Jobs. They leave nothing ambiguous. They demand high standards. There is no “whatever” in an intelligent’s person vocabulary. Intelligent, focused individuals know that whatever decision one doesn’t make will get made for them. And so, they are decisive!

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Plenty of Room at the Top: the case for a viable man-machine economic future

Feynman1

This post originally appeared as part of the series leading up to the 7th Global Peter Drucker Forum – “Claiming our humanity – managing in the digital age”.

In his famous “Plenty of Room at the Bottom” lecture, the physicist Richard Feynman arguably seeded the concept of nanotechnology.  While there is technical debate on Feynman’s actual role in catalyzing specific nanotechnology research, his more general point as implied in the title of the lecture is clear: there is no reason we should overcrowd in selective pursuits, intellectual or otherwise.

Almost six decades later, we appear to be doing just what Feynman implicitly cautioned against. We are cornering ourselves in the narrow view that crowds man and machine onto the same tasks. The latest witch hunt is underway and gaining momentum. The witches are the rapid innovation in robotics and computing, slated to replace humans in performing increasingly sophisticated – i.e. “white collar” – tasks and so displace jobs across the employment spectrum.

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What does an “innovation economy” really mean?

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Prosperity

We have entered the knowledge economy, but are only dismally realizing its tremendous potential for accelerating human progress and prosperity. While we acknowledge human talent as the chief resource of the 21st century, we fail to utilize the creative potential for a majority of the workforce. In fact, the portion of the employed workforce which utilizes independent judgement has remained stagnant for decades [see Nilofer Merchant]. Regarded from this angle, our state of the art economy is only marginally efficient at turning knowledge into innovation.  Progress is only achieved painstakingly and convolutedly. The lost opportunity cost is tremendous [see David Nordfords].

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Lightfoot strategy

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Light Foot Strategy

There are many models for strategy under uncertainty but few useful metaphors. Just what does strategy under complex, unpredictable conditions look like? Picture yourself attempting to cross a fast moving stream by stepping on small, irregular, slippery and so unstable rocks. Your vision is clear: get to the other side of the stream. You could sit there and contemplate a viable path across the stream, but your plan will be sketchy at best. For one, the water partially obscures many of the stones you’re about to use, making it impossible to make accurate predictions in terms of stability. Off you go. You find out quickly that the best approach is keeping a lightfoot and moving very fast. You never want to lean all your weight on any particular stone. You use each stone with the assumption that it will roll – and so you minimize your time spent on each step. You improvise – you focus on the next viable step, and only see the few stones around it.

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Capital: a brief philosophy

money

Throughout history, money has been both revered and vilified. Some see it as a vice. Others see it as a critical enabler. Yet others see is as a sort of dummy variable that exists only to facilitate two transactions. Most views are rather pragmatic. Philosophical views of money and capital are much rarer.

The (philosophical) argument I am about to make in this very brief piece is this: (financial) capital plays a critical, generative role in the complex process from which the future is born. Simpler still: money is, generally speaking, a good thing. Without money, and the mechanisms by which it accumulates as “capital”, progress would be not only slower but also more convoluted. I will also proceed to point out this scenario is not universal. Under certain circumstances, capital can be a source of instability.

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The end of the “check-the-box” era

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In my 2013 Global Peter Drucker Forum winning essay, Post-Causality: a Quiet Global Revolution in the Making, I made a compelling point that the world is moving away from an “if-then” paradigm. We are indeed moving away from the simple causal credo of the “if you find yourself in this situation, then check this box” type. But it is a slow, protracted transition. According to Nilofer Merchant, between 1950 and 2010 the percentage of the workforce that utilizes independent judgement has been left flat at 33%. But what is independent judgement you might ask? A fair question.

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Leadership: between passion and lunacy

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harlequin

I just came across an interesting article from CNN Money on the story of Microsoft’s Surface product line. Apparently somewhere along the path to the success that the Surface Pro 3 has turned out to be, Microsoft lost lots of money on intermediary product versions. Particularly, they were left with $1 billion worth of Surface 2 inventory. Microsoft never wavered in their support for the guy behind the Surface line, Panos Panay. That my friends, is the essence of leadership. You ain’t a leader until passion has gotten you in a position where you’ve either questioned your own sanity or been suspected of lunacy by others.

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Get (some) business thinkers off the pedestals they self-climb

If you read business literature you would have come across the quintessential business thinker: charismatic, articulate, and endowed with a keen sense of positioning for ever greater fame and reach. But, as is the case with many other industries, the ones who make it to global fame status are often not the most inspired. Politics permeates even the highest of intellectual echelons. I for one have always pursued substance at the expense of politics and fame. And so, it is natural that I get frustrated when I see initiatives of substance corrupted by mediocrities with titles.
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Prosperity by Design

Design Thinking – background

Design Thinking is all the rage nowadays. It is by far the most commercially viable embodiment of the argument for augmenting creativity in the workplace. According to the DT school of thought, creativity has something to do with open-ended thinking. That is because design, as practiced in both the arts and sciences, is an open-ended endeavor. One could tell Picasso to paint a “good” painting, but adding more specific requirements would likely only reduce the genius of the ensuing work. Similarly, one could not tell Einstein “concentrate on improving Maxwell’s equations” and expect him to come up with the Theory of Relativity.

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Exceptional corporate growth

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Double Loop Learning

There’s more than enough literature out there for corporate growth. Academics talk about implementing cultures of innovation. Consultants present case studies on sophisticated financial strategies to drive bottom line revenue. And yet, a fundamental model for growth mechanics remains elusive. In this post I present a model for scalable or better than average corporate growth.

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