the connection between technology and business culture


“Where a society is defined by its boundaries, a culture is defined by its horizon. A boundary is a phenomenon of opposition. A horizon is a phenomenon of vision. One cannot look at a horizon, it is simply the point beyond which we cannot see. One never reaches a horizon. It is not a line, it has no place, it encloses no field, its location is always relative to the view.”

James Carse


Let me begin by suggesting a company has one of 2 choices to meet its objectives:

enable innate desire for meaningfulness

exploit people as resources

Most companies build an environment somewhere in the wretched hollow inbetween with a practical emphasis on the latter and superficial emphasis on the former.

That said.

Technology plays a significant role. It plays a role because it amplifies. It is here that I will suggest that morality, ethics and empathy need technology. Yes. I just said that. The destiny of all those things are dependent upon technology. If that is so then I imagine I could say society’s fate resides in the hands of technology. That may seem backwards in that all of these things reside in humans, not technology. Well. They do but technology will either flatten, amplify or even extend the reach of all. I am certainly not suggesting that technology will guarantee morality or ethical behavior, but I would suggest improving technology increases the likelihood that morality and ethical behavior becomes more pervasive (expansive) all of which are integral to a healthy culture.

Technology, in and of itself, is nothing. Without people, without people generating content, it is a passive tool regenerating itself to its own purposes. Yet. Once humans become involved technology begins to amplify – amplify divides, fragments, groups and tribes. It is within the fragmentation aspect in which we begin to pause on the benefits of technology with regard to society. The fragmentation, the phrasing of ideas, ideologies, values, norms and actual ideological commitments just begin to blur the greater truths associated with each. Fragments get emphasized to strengthens pieces of views all the while blurring larger issues.

Today I propose a business model which proactively seeks anticipatory triggers to predict emergent activity and yet keeps people’s heads on a swivel for the unseen triggers which activate ‘surprises’ or opportunities.  And that is where technology can play a role – a significant role.

It is a business environment in which technology is a distributor of data, and knowledge (Intelligence Driven Software) and data drives strategic decision-making. This means Data drives potential, not just efficiency in decision-making & strategy, but effectiveness. The value of an AI infrastructure, leaning on algorithms, is that knowledge tends to pool rather than trickle throughout. AI (algorithms) become the irrigation system for institutional knowledge, data, individual knowledge and resources. In fact. Algorithms may actually be the order needed to provide the guardrails to an emergent organization.

Note: Some thoughts on the Intelligence Based Software (IBS) Concept

At its core this intelligence software is an iterative knowledge distribution system grounded in both predictive (recognized) patterns and emergent (unpredictable) patterns.

I envision a two stream of intelligence, one predictive and one emergent. The concern with having only a predictive stream, one based on boundaries, is even constantly evolving technology cannot outrun problems or be fluid enough to recognize emergent patterns (even technology doesn’t know what it doesn’t know). So, I envision a software intelligence/information distribution infrastructure which is rigid enough in one stream to consistently distribute useful intelligence, based on recognized symbols/words/topics, to have pattern recognition and, yet, have another stream which is fluid enough to reimagine patterns.

The intent is to find the optimal newness in intelligence, i.e., purposefully build in some intelligence dissonance with the information flow with the objective to both captures defined ontologies as well as escape from defined ontologies. Bottom line. Context matters. If we change the circumstances, we change the inspiration. The intent is to inspire from the known and the unknown.

This is an ambitious idea. it seeks to corral the ambiguity in the larger system of intelligence, as expressed by humans, and share it with people with enough clarity of the complexity challenge that someone, or someones, become curious enough to conceptualize ideas. This idea is an attempt to appeal to the rationality, and irrationality, of thinking minds. Explore the recognizable patterns, the easiest to replicate resources efficiently against, and explore the unrecognizable patterns which may represent the most effective velocity opportunities.

This is where I connect business culture to technology.

I would argue a business needs a culture to even envision the potential of an Intelligence based Software (IBS) structure. What I mean by that is:

(a) simply placing IBS into a business will not generate any meaningful behavior response (note: this is similar to most digital transformation plans),

(b) simply getting people to use an IBS system will not generate any meaningful results, and

(c) meaningful behavior and meaningful results are only achieved if the culture embraces the idea of people being augmented by IBS.

We should always remind ourselves of what James Carse said, “Since a culture is not anything persons do, but anything they do with each other we may say a culture comes into being whenever persons choose to be a people. It is as a people that they arrange their rules with each other, their moralities, their modes of communication.”  While I (slightly) hesitate to suggest people, technology (software) and information, each by themselves, are simply discernible bits of something that are actually nothings, I will suggest in a Conceptual Age frame of mind those things are nothing until they actually “do with each other” and collectively create progress. a culture forges them all together into something worthwhile.

From a larger perspective one could suggest the Cloud is the key to making it all work but the truth is, from a more granular pragmatic aspect, it will most likely be cognitive algorithms (intelligence-based software). Yes. Progress, and agility, isn’t tied to access of knowledge, but rather use of knowledge by individuals and individuals interacting with each other. Its within the collective interaction, culture engaging with a system, from which continuous improvement and progress is found. I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the truth is if you have to “reskill” your employees, it’s a reflection that you have not created an organization in which people are “continuously skilling”. Create a business that is continuously improving, even its employees, and you will never have to “reskill.” In fact. Just create a Conceptual Age organization and you are set (but I am biased).

One of the questions I asked myself is not only can an organization be 100% emergent, but if it actually were could it have a healthy culture (because culture does need some predictability)? Well. I believe yes and no. Yes because people behavior naturally arcs toward predictive, repetitive, behavior and rhythms. So, while the structure may encourage 100% emergent, people will inevitably seek some aspects of predictable. That also explains the no. No replication of systems & process ignores the fact replicable activity is where pockets of efficiency reside and without any replicable behavior optimal organizational efficacy can never be achieved. And maybe this is where I touch on Purpose a bit because I envision someone saying to themselves “well, if the organization has a Purpose, that would probably resolve his concerns.”

Individuals can have a Purpose and, in fact, if tap into Purpose are happier, healthier and more productive.

I do not believe Business has a Purpose in the sense Purpose is typically discussed. I don’t believe ‘shareholder value’ is a Purpose, it is simply an objective (which creates systems in the business to achieve). I believe business has intentions. These intentions can get masked by visions or missions, both of the which can play valuable roles, but I believe a business should lay out its intentions. An intent to contribute to the environment. An intent to act with integrity every day. An intent to engage with community. Within these intentions the people IN the organization then have a variety of paths they can choose to walk on – and clearly see where paths do not lie. I hesitate to call these principles because, well, they seem simply like intentions. With intentions understood a business can have a community of people interested in working coherently (some people may call this culture) and pursue quests to fulfill those intentions.

“Community is the fact that we work toward the same goal, that we accept our respective roles in order to reach it.  Values is the fact we trust each other. And, culture?   Culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit. That matters because most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”

Fredrick Backman

In having intentions and pursuing quests the business rely less on not having to tell people what they cannot get away with and encourage them more to go do what they can do. People gain knowledge, get better at whatever they do (and how they think), there is continuous improvement, progress is achieved (for the individual and the business), quests are pursued and everyone feels a sense of meaning in having contributed. That is possibly the best summary of what I envision a Conceptual Age Organization is.

With all of those positive organizational attributes there is a technology truth: “The computer is a moron.” (Peter F. Drucker) Ok, it’s not, but it has its limitations. On this topic I am reminded of Intelligence Analyst Walter Laqueur in 1988 “A World of Secrets” saying “the need for Human Intelligence has not decreased, but it has become fashionable to denigrate the importance of humans assets because technical means (technology) are politically and intellectually more comfortable.” This came at the height of the struggle going on in the world of intelligence between those who deny the usefulness of agent and those who defended the worth of Human Intelligence in the face of the technological revolution.  At the time the New York Times estimated, from intelligence officials, 85% of all information gathered came from all the hardware sources (ELINT/SIGINT/PHOTINT/RADINT) opposed to information gained by spies (HUMINT).

The ultimate conclusion the intelligence experts reached was “what’s the good of knowing the SIGINT without knowing what the motive is.” In other word, technology shows, humans understand. AI, technology, will never replace humans.

Which leads me to organizational culture, the difference between collaboration and the collective acting coherently and technology. Organizational collaboration, technically, doesn’t need to be led. I will also suggest that collaboration does not guarantee success. Collaboration, done poorly and in the wrong culture, can actually lead to mediocrity. What s much better for a business is a community of people, collectively behaving in a coherent way, pursuing a common quest. Technology can play an integral role.

Technology offers the public transportation of data, knowledge and words – to & from the cloud to the people. At the core of this business model I am suggesting (an emergent conceptual organization) is the relationship between people and accessible knowledge through technology.

The cloud elevates all businesses to the level of the best generic technology. Think of it as the common power grid from which a business opens up for business daily. But the power of the cloud is it elevates the greater potential of any business as it taps into shared information to supplement, & compliment, the institutional data – while maintaining privacy of the institution itself.

While the cloud represents an almost limitless pool of ever-growing knowledge and data, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the cloud, in and of itself, can be just as stupid, if not stupider, than any one individual. More knowledge, used poorly, simply makes one stupider rather than smarter. The collective knowledge is only as good as who uses it.

As a corollary, individuals, and small groups of people, within an institution (augmented by the cloud collective knowledge) get smarter iteratively (even if they misuse knowledge because they learn from mistakes). Conceptually they get smarter than the cloud due to understanding of context.

I say all of this because in a conceptual age, in which understanding concepts and implementing well against them being the objective of the institution, these separate ideas should remain separate & distinct from each other. This must remain so because conversely, the more similar the two concepts get the more stupid both ideas get (arcs toward mediocrity in terms of response to emergent concepts).

“In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress. There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all.”

Booker T. Washington

Once again. the collective mind, the cloud, can be just as stupid as any one single less informed individual. A large quantity of collected data/knowledge does not guarantee smart solutions in contextual conceptual environments. In general, people create smart solutions, therefore, an emergent organization must balance the collective and individual(s) collaboration to command the highest order of value against emergent opportunities. And, in general, technology creates organizational stupidity when the culture does not embrace it’s thinking potential and simply use it as tools to ‘do’. The smartest organizations will be the ones in which there is a strong culture attracted to the benefits of technology and, specifically, an Intelligence Based Software system constantly feeding them predictive and emergent knowledge to assist them thinking conceptually about the business at hand.

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Written by Bruce