Ignorance will kill your company
Has anyone else noticed the workplace can be a funny business these days? After consulting and advising on business and IT strategy for many years, in the days before Google, IT was a complete unknown to business nowadays most people are using computers all day long and given five minutes on Google everyone is an expert. No matter whether its IT or marketing or finance, everyone thinks they are an expert on everything. After reading a few blogs, Google results and internet forums you are now expert in something you’d never heard of before breakfast. It comes down to ignorance.
What is ignorance?
Matters which are obvious are sometimes ignored, not taken into consideration. This is not limited to those of low intelligence but extends to the highest levels resulting in disastrous scenarios that could, with more wisdom, have been avoided. People with superficial knowledge of a topic or subject may be worse off than people who know absolutely nothing. As Charles Darwin observed, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
Ignorance can stifle learning, in that a person who falsely believes he or she is knowledgeable will not seek out clarification of his or her beliefs, but rather rely on his or her ignorant position. He or she may also reject valid but contrary information, neither realizing its importance nor understanding it. This concept is described in Justin Kruger’s and David Dunning’s work, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” otherwise known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.
Alpine-iQ co-founder Keith’s famous analogy is ‘you don’t go into your dentist and tell him how he should do your root canal treatment, debate his prognosis because you’ve been on a internet forum that morning, would you? Or do you? …Seriously??
So given a complex problem at work, a new project, something you have no prior experience or knowledge of doing before, what do you do? Who do you ask? How do you get the answer? For example what can you do about the current tough market conditions? If a new competitor was to enter your market in six months that would wipe all your revenues, how quickly could you respond, adapt, innovate and survive?
You need to find the answer, trust that answer and get consensus on the best approach. Ask your neighbour, manager, colleague, anyone…. who will invariably try and help or suggest someone else. You then frequently get the inevitable voicemail, cold shoulder, delays, out of office, on holiday, is not his/her job etc. Then when you do get to speak to them, they don’t know. A bit like a detective it can be like chasing dead-ends.
What happens when no-one in your company network knows the answer? If you are lucky you get an answer, which leads to more questions and back round the merry-go-round you go again. On a project and in a company this can happen many many times a day. Once you have an answer of sorts, in order to implement that you do what does anyone in a large organization does, to get consensus they take the decision to a meeting/committee/steering group etc.
“Never underestimate stupid people, especially in large numbers.” Homer Simpson
Meetings should be to debate issues and agree who is doing what to progress it, although rarely are. Scheduling them takes time, which adds to the delay. Only one person can speak at a time. Only those invited can contribute. Room size and attendees availability places constraints too. Not to mention in a meeting only the extroverts, blabbermouths and bosses are heard. One persons speaks whilst the rest listen. Geeks, introverts, social misfits, those who don’t want to play the game and those not even in the room get ignored. It is a one-to-many conversation but organisations are many-to-many entities.
Why should we wait till two weeks on Friday for ten people to sit in a room? It is not practical to ask everyone in the company, everyone in the department or even everyone on a project. Conversations, debates and meetings take so much longer when there are more than five people. Then there is the countless emails, setting up the meeting, reviewing the documentation, communicating changes, conversations and opinions made outside the meeting, not all information is available to everyone, the list goes on. A lot of businesses work this way, whether it be a change board, project investment board, business case the fundamental mechanics of the process don’t make sense today.
Ignorance has been the cause of many a disaster NASA Space shuttle Challenger, Chernobyl, Union Carbide to name a few classic examples. NASA engineers informed management that the Challenger O-Ring would become fragile and brittle in colder temperatures, but middle management dismissed their expertise to disastrous consequences.
Companies continue to make bad decisions and not learn from them. Nokia knew it was weak in its software in early 2000 but still could not act on it and since the Blackberry in 2003 and iPhone 2007 and other smartphones came along it has gone from as brand famous as Coke to an down and out nobody. In the nineties Nokia was one of the most powerful brands in the world. I’ve consulted at Nokia and they have incredibly smart people. How do you stop that happening to your company? Large companies already have the answer, within their walls and employees minds, they just have no easy way of finding it.
“If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three-times more productive” Lew Platt
So we all make mistakes and have moments of stupidity. We all want to be professional & have credibility at work, come up with great new innovations, ground-breaking ideas and make the right decisions, but how do you do all that? How do you forecast future outcomes? How do you put in place a protective safety net to stop disasters? How do you increase the likelihood of projects or strategies becoming a success?
Are you a wise leader?
Wise leaders seek broadest council, ways to get unbiased opinions. When you start only listening to you direct reports, you are missing the full picture. George Washington the American president used to present ideas as if they were suggested by others to get complete candour & an honest view. I know of many companies where news passed up to senior management was sanitized and not the full truth. We might now always agree with leaders and managers decisions but we would all respect them if more honesty and transparency were shown. We are all adults and can read between the lines, what is being said in a report and what is intentionally left out.
Am I the only one thinking there must be a better way?
A quicker way to make decisions. A much smarter way. A way that takes everyone’s opinion into account, can happen instantly. Anyone who is passionate enough can contribute, irrespective of job title. Quicker and smarter decision scoring made by collectively factoring in people’s areas of expertise. Ego, job title, office politics are taken out the equation. Everyone gets a chance to speak, everyone can speak at the same time and be heard, not just one at a time. Communication is clear, open, honest, transparent and available to everyone. We can protect the credibility and integrity of everyone whilst encouraging more transparency.
The in-box explosion and information overload is no more, we only show what matters to you. Whenever you have a question, you are automatically shown others who are working on the same problem and who the experts are on that subject.
We are very passionate about this and have the technology, know-how and experience to solve this. There has to be a better way and we think we have the answer.
For the new way of working.
Software the workplace has been screaming for.
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What does making just one decision lead to?
What to do today? What to focus on? What not to focus on? Life is full of decisions.
What if you did something different tomorrow? Take yourself outside you comfort zone. For some that might be buying Costa instead of Starbucks, Primark rather than Prada or but what about a bigger risk?
What about starting your own business? Ok that’s a bit scary. But lots of people have business ideas or come across poor service and companies and thought, I could do better. Well why not do it better?
How did I get on the roller coaster of start-up entrepreneur? I continually think of things that can be done better I’ve had a slow burning itch for as long as I can remember. I’ve got a nice house, go on fancy holidays, surrounded by great family and friends, had the flash cars but… it wasn’t enough, something was still itching, gnawing at me. Over the last seven years or so become more and more disillusioned with corporate life. You could say my light had went out, I had next to zero passion for my job and although I’ve worked with great people I was always learning, not things that were immediately to do with my job but always learning and gaining experience. I had been working on an idea in the back of my mind for a few months and needed to do something about it. So in October this year I made a conscious decision one day. I said enough of mulling over my idea, fed up with my job, fed up with mediocrity in software and having reached almost the top of corporate IT profession and not liked what was left. I did what anyone in IT would do. I went on the internet.
Anyone with an idea can search the web and research an idea to see if anyone else is doing it. That’s easy. Spend a night or two in the library researching the market? Come on, anyone can do that. There is always Sky+ for Eastenders repeats for those of that inclination. So I visited two websites. So 30 minutes later I had made the bold setup of signing up for a competition at the New Start Scotland event and a very interesting sounding project called Entrepreneurial Spark.
I prepared my presentation for the competition with the view of oh well, here is a free way to validate my idea against other new ideas and see if anyone will take it seriously. Worst thing that would happen is some people I don’t know will say you must be mental, I’ll have wasted a few hours and I’ll move on to something else.
I learned a few great lessons that weekend and I took a lot from it. My idea was not too farfetched but I got some good feedback but only that a good idea, not a business. Secondly it gave me the inner confidence deep down that my idea was (hey I’m biased) much better than anything I came across there. What I needed to do next was show validation and proof that people would buy it. Market tested, the difference between an idea and a business. This was a start, something to work on, a vision of how to get to the next stage. I’m up for that.
A great lesson was still to come. I met Jim Duffy and Brian McGuire at that conference. I sensed immediately they were on another level, had a different look in their eye from the let me fleece your start-up with costs, services and advice you don’t need. After a coffee, lots of probing questions on my idea, background & future plans, a shared passion for the future of Scotland and creating opportunities, we were on and I’d agreed to become part of Entrepreneurial Spark.
‘Intuition is experience whispering to you’
I love Jim and Brian’s attitude, from challenging the typical British reserved psyche to what Scotland is possible in business in Scotland and they are highly infectious individuals to be around; far from being alone in singing their praises and it was not one of the oft repeated “action trumps everything” “act, learn, repeat” “aim big fail cheap” “entrepreneurs are the future” “think big, think global” and it was one of Jim lesser repeated lessons rings true for me.
‘Not everything you learn or hear will be for you, but even if you don’t like it, learn from it.’
We have had advice from multi millionaires, business gurus, entrepreneurs, lawyers from all over from Glasgow to India to Arizona and California. But that phrase always comes to in handy.
When you have an itch, you scratch it. When something doesn’t sit right with you, do something about it, don’t moan or complain do something about it. Small decisions, a small change and a bit of action can lead to a big change.
A few examples is that I’ve continued to make more positive decisions and small changes
Ditch fiction for non-fiction and learn new stuff.
I’ve stopped listening to the radio in the car for my commute. I drive 10-15 hours a week so can educate myself on two audio books per week. With other reading blogs and articles and focus that is roughly equivalent to learning a new post graduate qualification every two years.
Decided not swap the sandwich for salad and I’ve lost a stone since January
Go out for a run two lunchtimes and one morning at weekend. Now doing to 25k per week.
Stopped watching TV, work on your idea/business/network.
Don’t try do everything, do what matters, prioritise, make the most of your time. Ask my mum, organised was never a word that she would use to describe me.
A lot of these skills it doesn’t matter if you can’t do them, you can learn them. Free. From books, from friends, from the internet, from others, teach yourself, try it see if you like it. If it helps try it again.
The results from these small changes are quite something when you look back. After 45 days in E-Spark these are what we achieved.
From an idea to a business you can define in 60s on video. I used to take 3-5 minutes and Jim was still confused. ‘Long is easy, short is hard’
Built a stage 1 prototype
Case study examples of how Alpine-iQ solves Biotech, Govt, Finance and Oil industries
Accepted onto Scottish Enterprise High Growth Pipeline
From 147 applications, accepted to second stage and interview for funding from Cultural Enterprise for Scotland
Persuaded PhD Physicist and IT Consultant Jonathan to give up his day 6 figure day job and work on Alpine-iQ
Researched marketing agencies and pivoted as business model was not right
Alpine-iQ website plus social media links
From zero to 250 twitter followers
Attended Workshops on Elevator Pitching and competitor webinars for free
A few minutes per day networking, I’ve extended my LinkedIn connection by over 100 in one month in totally new fields all related to my new venture, from India to Arizona.
The mentoring support for me has been mind-blowing. Our mentors are actively promoting my company and introducing us to top government officials, university professors, other entrepreneurs, influential venture capitalists and industry movers and shakers. Reviewing my idea and giving advice to help, for free!
Now that is just over one month we have started the ball rolling creating a business. One day at a time, small changes with focus. We still have day-jobs, families and problems just like everyone else. So think what you could do with yourself and how powerful your collective-iQ could become if you organised your company more efficiently with some innovation, ideas and drive. What will you achieve in the next few days? What small changes are you going to make? Do one thing at least, make a small decision to follow this blog and see where it leads you.