We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
I do have an original post in the mix which talks a bit about some of the unseen things at work in the unemployment numbers being posted, but for now here’s the words of Monica Anderson talking about inventing a new kind of programming. From Artificial Intuition:
In 1998, I had been working on industrial AI — mostly expert systems and Natural Language processing — for over a decade. And like many others, for over a decade I had been waiting for Doug Lenat’s much hyped CYC project to be released. As it happened, I was given access to CYC for several months, and was disappointed when it did not live up to my expectations. I lost faith in Symbolic Strong AI, and almost left the AI field entirely. But in 2001 I started thinking about AI from the Subsymbolic perspective. My thinking quickly solidified into a novel and plausible theory for computer based cognition based on Artificial Intuition, and I quickly decided to pursue this for the rest of my life.
In most programming situations, success means that the program performs according to a given specification. In experimental programming, you want to see what happens when you run the program.
I had, for years, been aware of a few key minority ideas that had been largely ignored by the AI mainstream and started looking for synergies among them. In order not to get sidetracked by the majority views I temporarily stopped reading books and reports about AI. I settled into a cycle of days to weeks of thought and speculation alternating with multi-day sessions of experimental programming.
I tested about 8 major variants and hundreds of minor optimizations of the algorithm and invented several ways to measure whether I was making progress. Typically, a major change would look like a step back until the system was fine-tuned, at which point the scores might reach higher than before. The repeated breaking of the score records provided a good motivation to continue.
My AI work was excluded as prior invention when I joined Google.
In late 2004 I accepted a position at Google, where I worked for two years in order to fill my coffers to enable further research. I learned a lot about how AI, if it were available, could improve Web search. Work on my own algorithms was suspended for the duration but I started reading books again and wrote a few whitepapers for internal distribution at Google. I discovered that several others had had similar ideas, individually, but nobody else seemed to have had all these ideas at once; nobody seemed to have noticed how well they fit together.
I am currently funding this project myself and have been doing that since 2001. At most, Syntience employed three paid researchers including myself plus several volunteers, but we had to cut down on salaries as our resources dwindled. Increased funding would allow me to again hire these and other researchers and would accelerate progress.
Now that we have discussed the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of a Push-based organization, I think it is safe to start discussing the Pull-based design and how it is different from the mechanical Push organization. We’ve already said that Push organizations are efficient, results-oriented, and structured. This is the case for every Push organization and every one of the “wanna-be-Pull” designs that have been tried in the last decade or so.
Some of these pseudo-Pulls are the Functional, Divisional, and the Matrix organization. Funny thing is, even though they pose as innovative, they all pretty much end up being rigid and fragile in the new paradigm. So, if the Push organization was mechanically structured, how can one describe a system which does not depend upon the ideas of top-down management?
It means throwing away a lot of things you were taught about hierarchical organizations.
Let’s start by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a Pull-based organization and maybe you will start to see what needs to be checked at the door:
|Flexibility Against the Unexpected||Inefficient|
|Requires No Theories (or Consultants)||Burns Resources|
|Environment is Assumed Ideal||Unpredictable Outcomes|
|Embraces Innovation and Invention||Not Easily Measurable and Transparent|
|Self-Reinforces Against Hidden Risks||Can Be Irrational|
|Never Gets “Too Big to Fail”||Not Always Repeatable|
|Black, White, Grey, Blue, Red…etc.||No Plug and Play Models|
|Handles Complexity Well||Highly Unstructured|
|Creates Emergent Value||Knowledge Agnostic|
If it appears that I have flipped the script from the other Strengths & Weaknesses table, you are not mistaken. One of the wonders of this great and infinitely open system called “reality” are these fun little paradoxes which appear to be opposites. The true embrace begins however, when we stop seeing them as opposites and start to see them as equals to be applied where their strengths are needed.
The greatest future (and present) leaders will be wise enough to effectively choose a Push or Pull approach for the operation at hand, all the while being comfortable with the strange loops their decisions create. It takes a bit of bravery to move into this space and effective leaders will need to be courageous enough to break the mold and abandon the expectations pushed upon them.
If there is a change management plan to all of this it is this: Embrace Paradox and Uncertainty!
Next up: What does a Pull team look like? If it is not “commanded” to form, how does it form?
(NOTE: I have abandoned the discussion of individual personality in this series of posts. I think that by reading about Push & Pull Organizations you will get who likes to be where. If you don’t, here’s a summary: Push can be considered managing others & Pull is self management. Control-based people like Push…Flaky creatives like Pull.)
In the first post setting up for the discussion of Pull, I mentioned that in this second post I was going to go over the personality type that represented the modern push-oriented individual. I think I’d like to stop for a second and before I do that clear something up. After reading the first post again, I realized that I was focusing rather negatively on the current situation in Command and Control (C&C) at the large scale, only exploring the weaknesses.
I want to make sure that everyone understands that C&C is NOT inherently a bad structure or framework for an organization.
It is when the extremes of C&C are taken as the only way to structure an organization that we really start to see the brittle and inflexible nature of this organizational structure. Here, for the benefit of later discussion, is a table which fairly shows the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the C&C hierarchy:
|Highly Efficient||Rigidity Against the Unexpected|
|Conserves Resources||Requires Complete Theories|
|More Predictable Outcomes||Environment Must be Ideal|
|Easily Measurable and Transparent||Shuns Innovation and Invention|
|Logically and/or Reasonably Defined||Can Ignore Hidden Risks|
|Repeatable||Tendency to “Break Big”|
|Plug and Play Models / “One Size Fits All”||Black and White|
|Highly Productive||Doesn’t Handle Complexity Well|
|Doesn’t Require Practice|
I want to ensure everyone gets this simple fact as well:
C&C is a human-made tool just like a hammer or a wrench is a tool.
In this case it is a tool which organizes people and resources into a management framework. Using a certain tool for a certain job can yield more effective results. It only makes sense that we start looking at the emerging organization as needing a more elegant tool to organize people and resources.
I like to tell my friends at Syntience: You can use a hammer to drive a screw into a wooden board, but it is much more elegant to use a screwdriver.
In the post Catastrophic Forgetting, I mentioned that there are some very big brains working on creating new strategies for businesses and the economy at large. The ideas presented by these folks centers around the concept of the Big Shift. Though I am not a strategy professional, per se (Read, I don’t want to learn the old stuff, because it is quickly becoming useless.), I tend to be able to separate the chaff from the wheat when it comes to information. The authors of the Big Shift idea, John Seely Brown, John Hagel III, and my “internet friend”, Lang Davison have hit on a description of a new way of living within uncertainty with which I cannot help but agree. If you are a business professional, I suggest you read up on the Big Shift and furthermore read up on the meaning of Edges and Cores. Mmmmmm…That’s good n’ tasty heresy.
For the purpose of this post on Pull, I am going to start by introducing some terms that will grease the wheels in later posts. Here’s the first, which can be considered the opposite of “Pull”. Here’s a brief introduction to “Push”:
Command and Control
So many of us run around existing in frameworks and don’t even know it. Many of us are blind to the fact that these frameworks are designed to support a current worldview keeping power in our organizations flowing in a specific direction. In the case of Command and Control (C&C), absolute power is held by those at the top. You see, C&C exists in it’s current “2BIG2FAIL” mode for a few reasons:
- The military originally created C&C and soldiers “trained” to always follow orders to ensure objectives were met according to orders issued
- The railroads adopted C&C not only to keep tight control over train schedules (no crashes = good), but also to keep coal moving to centers of production
- Just like coal, the flow of oil can never stop so C&C models were again adopted as necessary to ensure productivity nationwide
- When the modern business structure was created for service and office workers, oil and coal became capital or “resources” and tons of models popped up to ensure conservation of resources through creative control mechanisms
Why did people think (and many think to this day) that C&C was such a great idea?
In my next post, I will delve into the “mechanical worldview” (which is currently clinging for life) in the context of Push v. Pull which I hope will simply answer the question above.
And who are the mechanical worldview believers? These are the folks that still think the world can be explained neatly. That everything can be contained and defined. And that people are machines too…Self-interested sociopaths, only seeking resources selfishly. We are rapidly finding this not to be the case…
To be continued!