Saturday, August 07, 2004

Demise of the Super Star

Military thinkers are moving away from reliance on individual expertise, and developing strategies that depend on collective expertise and organizational intelligence.
In the organizational equivalent of natural selection, leaders in industry and senior commanders in the military have long been selected for their superior intuition. ... Experts use intuition rather than rational decisionmaking to make sense of situations. These experts discern patterns and relate these patterns to their prior experience and/or knowledge to determine the nature of the situation and the appropriate response. ...

It is becoming increasingly clear that the complexity of the situations faced and the responses needed have outpaced not only decision theoretic approaches, but have also outpaced the ability of even the best of experts (super stars) to deal with the complexities involved.
  • First, the sources of complexity are accelerating. These sources of complexity include the variety of events and entities that are connected, the density of the interactions, and the speed of interactions that make it difficult to relate a cause to an effect and almost impossible to predict cascading effects.
  • Second, it takes a long time for individuals to become experts and senior decisionmakers in industry and the military, spending decades to arrive in positions of leadership. This means that the bulk of their experience is well aged, increasingly out-of-date, and of questionable relevance.
Intuition is not only unlikely to help (in the face of growing complexity and volatility), but may often be misleading. Rather than rely on individual genius, Information Age processes tap collective knowledge and collaboration.
from Power to the Edge, pp 88-89

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