The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 4

The Unintelligent Organisation

Matt Moore, University of Technology Sydney

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I am taking a different approach to this episode, looking at the concept of the Intelligent Workplace from another angle. In this episode, my guest Matt Moore introduces the topic of the Unintelligent Organisation. I know that sounds a little different to the direction of the previous episodes, but trust me on this one.
 
Matt, a lecturer at the University of Technology, has over 20 years experience working in diverse roles such as Knowledge Management, IT Design and Strategy and Collaboration Management. Matt prides himself on bringing people together in new ways to create new ideas, new products and new experiences…enabling smart people to achieve their potential.
 
So, what are Unintelligent Organisations and where does the Intelligent Workplace fit with this concept? I’ll let Matt explain…

Chris:
My guest on the podcast today is going to explore a bit of a different angle in terms of the intelligent workplace. Today we are going to be discussing the unintelligent organization joining me in this discussion is Matt Moore. He’s a lecturer at the University of Technology with over 20 years of experience working in diverse roles such as knowledge management, IT design and strategy and collaboration management. Matt prides himself on bringing people together in new ways to create new ideas, new products, and new experiences, enabling smart people to achieve their potential. Sounds like you might just be an advocate for the intelligent workplace. So why are we speaking about unintelligent organizations? Well, let’s find out. Welcome to the intelligent workplace. Matt Moore.

Matt:
Thanks very much Chris.

Chris:
So great to have you on the podcast mate.

Matt:
Happy to be here.

Chris:
I get this filling it might be a little bit different to some of my others.

Matt:
Let’s find out shall we.

Chris:
Sounds like a bit of fun. Now mate, you’ve had some really, great and diverse roles in your career. What’s been some of your highlights?

Matt:
So Chris, I’ve, I’ve worked for places like price With the house coopers and IBM and Oracle, and even the on the other end of the scale of financial regulate to where we’re from, my knowledge management programs. I actually want to talk about my last role a little bit. So I was managing a team of very smart people, people with far deeper and broader technical knowledge than myself. And the question I ask myself is, what could I possibly bring such people? And a lot of it boiled down to asking dumb questions and being an outsider and stating the obvious, and frankly helping them communicate their knowledge and ideas to people with nest less knowledge than me, but also there’s patients.

Matt:
And that combination of ignorance and patients can be very powerful as I think we’ll find out later in this discussion. Although my first job was actually working in a toy shop and I’ll probably never talk that.

Chris:
So man, I’ve been chatting with my guests about the concept of the intelligent workplace. But today for a bit of fun, we’re going to spin it around and talk about the, this whole concept of the unintelligent organization. So before we get people pressing stop on their podcast players, can you explain why you feel it’s relevant in this discussion?

Matt:
When we were discussing this podcast cost, I raised the concept of the reverse brainstorm. So I think you should start with that. All right, [crosstalk 00:02:05] So if you ask people to envision a state where their organization is fully intelligent and collaborative and innovative and all that good stuff, they really struggle.

Matt:
Other than they give you vape platitudes or they tell you about something they read somewhere or they saw that vendor demo. However, when you asked her about the stuff that isn’t working, in fact, when you ask them what they would do to make their organizations as stupid as possible, well like, you just goes through the roof [crosstalk 00:02:35] people coming up with lots of suggestions. And yes, they’re venting, right? But you can harness that energy to take me somewhere positive. And that kind of tells us that first there is a lot of unintelligence in organizations. And secondly, it implies to, if we can reduce it by just a small amounts, we can get huge benefits.

Chris:
So what we’re really identifying is our consumer’s pain points in a way.

Matt:
We are right. And you know, as a sales person or consultants or somebody that wants to make change, like pain is a great place to start.

Chris:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Now let’s take the word intelligent or intelligence. And this seemed to be a lot of confusion around the definition of it in this context.

Matt:
Okay. So intelligence is the hot phrase of the day. If you compare it to 2010 the hot phrases, the day we’re all about social and collaboration. [crosstalk 00:03:22] And now it’s about intelligence. So I’ve spent the last two years of my career on the buy side and I’ve been seeing opposite vendors and trying to get them to tell me the truth. And lots of people are talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning. And then you dig a bit in and you find what they really mean is they’ve got a chat box, right? Which is fine, which is nice. But for me, that’s not really what intelligence is. Intelligence is, it’s about learning. It’s not just about knowledge, it’s about, it’s just about your position. It’s about your velocity of where you’re going and the kinds of tools that can help you do that. I mean, what I would say is that I think compared to some other buzz phrases, blockchain, I think AI is actually real and has actual uses.

Matt:
Right? And digging into it, I think we’re just starting to explore the potential opportunities that these tools give us.

Chris:
Yeah, it’s still pretty early days, isn’t it? But they offer a lot of potential, don’t they?

Matt:
Absolutely. So, just as an aside, right? So at UTS I run a seminar series and, and normally get, we get about 20 to 30 people coming along and we ran a session on machine learning and we positioned it around what people are actually doing. So we’ve got people from organizations that are doing this stuff right now and we just got a hundred people. We filled the room. Right. So there’s a lot of interest and which like you say, we’re just starting to touch on the real stuff, the juicy stuff there. Useful stuff.

Chris:
I know in we run functions and we put the words AI or something around that, in the title for the lecture or whatever, we get a lot more bums on seats, that’s for sure.

Matt:
Absolutely. And of course the challenge is that’s, okay, what’s aspirational, should we say if we’re being kind and what’s actually real? That’s, I think that’s a challenge for people at the moment.

Chris:
Now, what are the other concepts we’re sort of thrown around in there and earlier chats was this concept of functional stupidity and why smart people do dumb things. This fascinates me.

Matt:
Fascinates me too. [crosstalk 00:05:09] And to be fair, and it’s partly because I’m not sure I’m smart, but I’ve certainly done some dumb things.

Chris:
Go on I’m hearing you.

Matt:
A bit of Paul Kelly referenced there.

Chris:
Oh yeah. I’m loving that. Thank you.

Matt:
So should we talk about kind of what functional stupidity is?

Chris:
yeah, let’s go.

Matt:
So a gentleman called Carlo Chipola a few years ago, come up with this framework for people and he put people in four categories. So he said, intelligent people help themselves and others. Bandits help themselves, but harm other people. Helpless people, help others at the expense of themselves. And then there are stupid people and stupid people hurt both themselves and others. And if you think about that, people say, well, I’m not a stupid person. What could that possibly mean? Right? So we’re going to go on to other kinds of thinkers. We’re going go on to, Matt’s Elvis and Andre Spicer and that they come with this concept called functional stupidity, and they wrote a great short book called The Stupidity Paradox. And for them the question is why do people do dumb things? Right?

Matt:
And the, the example of that, the key way is perhaps the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing recession. Now, many of the people involved in causing that had advanced maths PhDs, right? They were smart by any criteria that we use in society. And yet their behavior almost destroyed the global economy. So the question is them. So why do people do that? So the definition that these guys come up with is functional stupidity goes on where it is normal for people to be excessively narrow and focused in their thinking. And when that leads to largely positive outcomes, and that’s an important observation, right? Something that could have catastrophic consequences in the long term may be rational to pursue in the short term they said, okay, so okay, so why do people do this? Right? So there were certain patterns if you behavior that you see, so you pee, you see people not thinking through their assumptions, right? not asking why they’re doing something and they’re not considering the consequences of doing that.

Chris:
Which is always dangerous, isn’t it?

Matt:
Absolutely fatal. And then again, why do people behave this way? So it can be cause of becoming because of cognitive bias, which I think part of a lot of people in your audience will have heard about[crosstalk 00:07:21] those are the things that are kind of built into our brains about how we view the world that we’ve kind of inherited from our caveman passed, right? Then there are the motivations you’d give people. So if all your KPIs are about performance this quarter, that will drive certain behaviors and then the emotions that people have, right? Then there are also the moral frameworks they have going into things. You start talking about things like ethics there. All right, so there are all these causes that lead smart people, right to do dumb things.

Chris:
And is this functional stupidity at the core of your concept of the unintelligent organization?

Matt:
It’s certainly in there, I think they nail some of those issues really well. There’s another guy called Patrick Lamb who’s talked about ignorance management that also kind of nails this stuff. But I think at its core, most organizations are full of smart people try to do the right thing as they see it. And yet stupid things keep happening. All right, so we need a way of explaining that.

Chris:
So let’s spin this around for a second. How can the intelligent workplace then help businesses from falling into this trap?

Matt:
So I can help us in the spice to have some comments here, right? and really what it boils down to is around cognitive diversity. So the things they talk about is we’ll listen to outsiders engage your critics, engaged newcomers to your organizations, right? Find Devil’s advocates, embed reflection to what you do, conduct things like postmortems premortems, and what those things boil down to, are either finding new voices to introduce into your discussion or creating spaces where you can be self critical. All this stuff is easier said than done, but bedding, these kinds of practices into your organization will make you smarter.

Chris:
I like that. Don’t, don’t believe your own hype and getting other opinions from external to you. I think that’s really important in creating a diverse workforce.

Matt:
Hundred Percent Chris hundred percent.

Chris:
So our collaboration and decision making tools, some of the key elements of the intelligent workplaces war on this functional stupidity?

Matt:
I think they could be worthy foot soldiers in this war.[crosstalk 00:09:26] So if we go back to the causes of the functional stupidity, all right. The question is do these tools encourage you to review your assumptions or the consequences of your actions? And do they enable you to engage different points of view? Right. And I think a lot of this comes down to how the tools are used because they can do that, and they can also do the opposite.

Matt:
Right? And I think at the core of this is something about the mindset of senior executives, right? And I think if the mindset is right is around how do we get the truth, how do we challenge our thinking? Then analytical tools can do that. They can be fit bits for the organization. You think you’re doing this much exercise, but really you’re sitting on a couch, eating chips or they can bring out other points of view. So collaboration tools in, in medium sized to large organizations, there are especially powerful for people that sit in geographically distant locations, in smaller parts of the organizations that not might not be heard or for junior people who again, might not have a voice, right?

Matt:
So if used well, these tools can absolutely help you be less dumb. The, the, the, I think the other thing to say is what I see a lot of happening in organizations is tools actually getting an unfair share of the blame. I used to work for a big international professional services firm and every year we would poll people about knowledge management and ask them what their biggest blockers were. And they would always say the tools. And yet when you sat down and asked people about the actual things that blocked collaboration and learning, they are more likely to talk about structure and culture, right? So we collaborate well with those that we share a target revenue with, but not with anybody else. And I think, the issue with tools is people tend to blame the things that are visible and they’re also not perceived as being their fault.[crosstalk 00:11:19]All right. So I don’t want to let tools off the hook, because you will hate a badly designed tool. But, I think also sometimes they take an unfair share of the blame.

Chris:
And then, and then sometimes you have, you know, software supplies coming in and selling them as silver bullets, but they don’t work that way.

Matt:
So I think they are silver bullets in that silver bullets are designed to slay mythical beasts that don’t actually exist,[crosstalk 00:11:40] and also, I’m not, I’m not a bullet expert, but I read somewhere that silver bullets through actually slower and less accurate than that bullets.

Chris:
There you go. I’ve learned something today. Something more.

Matt:
Exactly. So, so spike. So steer clear of silver bullet people.

Chris:
It’s not fair enough. So I might have, have you got some advice for companies who might be looking to begin their journey into this whole intelligent workplace room?

Matt:
So I think first of all, you need to understand your current workplace need to understand where you’re at, what you do well, what did you badly, especially the latter. Especially if you think you are the smartest guys in the room. You probably take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. And you might need to get some outsiders in to do that. I think this is most of good for organizations that are doing well because the attitude is if they broke, don’t fix it now it probably is broke. But you just haven’t seen the cracks yet. So hence you needed to get that external point of view.

Chris:
You need to get that mindset of continual improvement is a great thing.

Matt:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Right. And to kind of take that point a bit further, then you need to start reducing and minimizing your stupidity. Right? So is there done this in your processes, your technology or your people dumbness in process mean that might mean that you have no processes and you need some or alternatively that your processes have grown and sprawled over time and needs to be pruned back or even redesigned. With tech it could be something a little bit similar. You might have lots of tech that you haven’t implemented well, right. In some of the right people not being involved early on or on the other hand, because you’ve blown the budget on the build, and you haven’t spent any time on adoption and change, which is something I’ve seen a huge amount of.

Chris:
Yeah. The sense of a key thing.

Matt:
Yeah. And then with people it’s like, okay, is it because you haven’t trained them because you perceived them as being an expense or that you don’t value them or that you don’t manage them properly and that means that you don’t listen to them on the one hand and then you don’t coach them when they need it on the other. I think, as we started this conversation, there’s a lot, a lot of opportunity just driving out your dumbness.

Chris:
Oh 100% agree. Yeah, the intelligent workplace is a magnificent thing, but you need to have all of your other building blocks in place to be able to really make an effective don’t you?

Matt:
Absolutely.

Chris:
Now look, something we haven’t touched on just yet is artificial intelligence, but I think it’s pretty widely recognized that it does play a part in the future and in intelligent workplace and however that may look, and another something that you are actually well versed in. So I want to ask you my billion dollar question that I ask of all of my guests.

Matt:
Hit me.

Chris:
Once the machines are doing all the work, what will humans do? Are we destined to become the pets of AI in the future?

Matt:
Well, I’d hope so. Right. Most pet sign counter, since we’re fair, pretty enviable lives.

Chris:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Matt:
And frankly when I look at the pain and suffering in the world. Most of it seems to be caused by people rather than machines, although I do worry that the machines that we are building are actually too like us in some respects.

Chris:
That’s interesting. Yeah.

Matt:
However, one thing I do know about humans is that we excel at making work for ourselves, so I can’t see the robots taking all of it.

Chris:
Okay, well that’s a, that’s a bit of an interesting spin on things. How do you see AI fitting into the intelligent workplace in the most efficient?

Matt:
I’m not sure we fully know yet. Again, as we mentioned earlier when we really started this journey, but again, I think how can we use AI to, give us feedback about how well we’re doing and I think to begin with, AI is not actually going to be that smart. It’s not going to give us these blinding insights that we hadn’t thought of, but it will start creeping in at the margins and helping us perform better. I’d like to see more robotic coaches frankly.

Chris:
Fair enough. Now bringing this all back to the initial topic, which was the unintelligent organization and identifying that you are unintelligent was kind of the crux of it all. You know, I’m sitting here thinking we kind of already do that in some way, shape or form in some businesses. I know we’re doing ours and we call it design thinking where we identify personas and we interviewed personas, we identify their pain points and we look to solve their problems. Is that really at the heart of everything we’ve spoken about today?

Matt:
I think it’s definitely a very powerful tool to have in your arsenal. I think having some of those design thinking techniques, which are when they’re done well, are built on both empathy, understanding other points of view, and then bringing in divergent points of view. I think that can absolutely be part of your journey.

Chris:
Fantastic. Well maybe we are doing something right. That’s fantastic mate. Well, look, thank you very much for joining me today. I really enjoyed your point of view on, you know, the unintelligent organization, how that fits into a future workplace or how we might fit it in, in a way that’s actually going to provide some value into the future workplace. So I thank you for your time and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Matt:
Thanks very much, Chris. It’s been a pleasure.

Chris:
Cheers, mate.

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