Traditional organizations are Reductionist by culture. They need to have cause and effect lined up. They need to feel that effort on its own will deliver a result. They are obsessed with focus and efficiency.
So how then can they use Big Data and Social Media effectively to discover things that are real but are not obvious? How can tech firms sell Big Data Solutions and Enterprise Social Media and expect a reductive culture to use this technology well?
The Cynefin framework has five domains. The first four domains are:
- Simple, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all, the approach is to Sense - Categorise - Respond and we can apply best practice.
- Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense - Analyze - Respond and we can apply good practice.
- Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe - Sense - Respondand we can sense emergent practice.
- Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act - Sense - Respond and we can discover novel practice.
Traditional organizations, by their culture, can only work in the Simple and the Complicated quadrants of life.
The value of Big Data is to discover "Emergent" and to test Novel properties. To see things that cannot be seen as an act of deliberate study. The Value of Enterprise Social Media is also to reveal Emergence and to test Novel properties from the crowd of employees and all those that touch the enterprise.
People embedded in the reductionist mindset cannot do this. And if they could, the culture of the organization will force them to be more deliberate and so miss the emergent. They are not allowed to play either and so cannot test the novel.
Image Source Peter Fryer
How do you get around this culrtural blindness? I think that a good start is to have a Hacker Department. Euan Semple was at one time, Hacker in Chief for the BBC. Peter Rukavina has just been appointed Hacker in Residence for UPEI.
What happens is that this can start a viral infection in the culture. So long as Euan was at the BBC, with no real power, he could and did make a massive impact. Since he has left, the BBC is reverting. Look at Andy Carvin at NPR! Andy's influence has been huge and mainly because his bosses let him get on with stuff. Who would know what his work on Twitter in the Arab Spring would lead to?
A tiny Trojan Mouse, such as Andy Carvin at NPR, Euan Semple or Peter Rukavina, can make a huge difference and move the entire organization. Tiny new things that contain the seeds of change.
If I was a CEO and wanted to create value from Big Data or from Social Media, I would set up a small office that reported to me and look for my own hacker in residence to be the agent and chief hacker. I would let them have a lot of space and time to discover things and I would give them access to everyone and to everything.
If I was the CEO of a big data firm or a firm that offered Enterprise Social Media, I would have a stable of such hackers and I would lend them out on yearly terms to my clients.
I would do this because I know that a reductionist eye cannot see emergence or play enough to see novelty. I would do this because the new competitive issue is not efficiency but in seeing the emergent and discovering the truly novel.
We see this in science. Most of science today is confined by a redutionist approach. All of this will be over turned in the next decade by other scientists who can cope with working in the Complex and the Chaotic sectors.
So even if you as the CEO may be stuck there too, you can at least use logic to know that having a Euan, and Andy or a Peter will be good for you.