A Human ‘Internet of Things’

In an unpredictable, volatile world failure is inevitabile — how you embrace failure shapes how successful you are in the long-run

Robust strategies — building high walls for protection — provide comfort but no room for manoeuvre if the environment suddenly shifts. The dominance of Blackberry for business communications saw the parent company RIM populate their board with lawyers and accountants to protect this position — leaving them too far removed from the ground level to sense or respond to the launch of the iPhone, which rapidly decimated their business.

Drones not Death Stars!

A heightened sensitivity to weak signals of what’s coming — similar to how experienced drivers anticipate potential hazards before they happen and therefore avoid them — is a developable skill. Organisations can accelerate this key component of anticipatory awareness by activating a human equivalent of the ‘Internet of Things’ — a Human Sensor Network — capable of sensing and responding to early signals across an entire network.

Privileging action over idealism, control and expert opinion

Harnessing human capabilities to sense and respond (rather than predict and plan) privileges what can be done — with the resources you have — over what you’d like to do in an idealised world (‘if only you had more of X, or less of Y’). Such Anticipatory Awareness is activated by bringing three core forms of human cognition (a sunk resource) online:

  1. Trajectory-tracking — or ‘getting ahead of the curve’ is focusing on how events are actually unfolding rather than assuming a straight line extension of the past. As young children have trouble catching a ball, for they go to where it is now rather than where it will be, many Executives seek ‘transformations’ to where the world is nnow, not where it will be. Tapping networked intelligence improves anticipation of where your industry’s trajectory is going, so you can intersect it to your advantage
  2. Convergence — the ability to connect new with existing information to synthesise new knowledge about how to act in radically-appropriate ways.
  1. De-privilege external expert knowledge for the future they’re prescribing is unknowable, therefore false. Instead, enable meaning to be discovered across your network and allow action to be taken on the frontline. Develop feedback loops free of delay and distortion that enable key signals to flow freely around the system — spreading contextually-relevant knowledge about how to act — and generating momentum
  2. Recognise that exploration and action are intertwined. All actions are acts of discovery and all exploration is action — there is no Plan, Do, Check, Act — there is only action, which you must learn from. This doesn’t mean you can’t prepare before acting, just that you must recognise the limits of analysis, debates and preparation and appreciate the greater value to be generated by learning through doing, in a safe-to-fail way.

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