– by Jessica L. Ollenburg, CMC, CPCM
Beyond today’s obviously critical arguments, the longer-term business leadership opportunities lie within reshaping how we approach technology. A bit of a math and science geek myself, my entrepreneurial know-how most easily rests in realms of invention, technology, financial strategy, operations efficiency, and behavioral anthropology.
As we scrutinize today’s technology, this old-time programmer corroborates that not all self-proclaimed tech gurus truly grasp how the CPU “thinks.” Technology is “breaking” frequently, many are collecting data and misapplying, and much-needed human judgment is being extracted from critical problem solving.
Not only can we create a data-driven case to support any chosen narrative, but the same minds can as quickly and easily debunk that same “proof.” With every new tool comes the responsibility to learn safety protocol, and with data comes the responsibility to teach how data can be manipulated.
We can create better invention and problem-solving organization-wide through the teachings of capabilities, limitations, accuracy, standards, and ability to manipulate data. The goal for our organizational improvement is to control, guide and use information to our advantage. I pay infinite respect to the best of the best! Information lies in the hands of all, and all need to recognize their own roles and business-driven incentives within that framework.
Future technology should reinstate more active human judgment into the process, and improved problem solving in business and in life will be the result. Once we can agree upon the expectations and findings of data technology, we will be empowered in crisis management and facilitating change. Failure to agree upon facts stifles our ability to solve a problem or capture an opportunity, and while participative management remains the most commonly deployed leadership style, managed expectations are essential.
Today’s technology can build software for the purpose of building other software. This in fact allows many technology “thinkers” to skip the building blocks of binary thinking, which is arguably essential to logic as well as predicting flaw. At the tech development level, an opportunity exists to better prepare our developers to better understand user expectations and the need for human judgment to collaborate with data.
Analysis should be ideally collaborative between right and left brain thinking, as evidenced by the best problem-solving models. Expectations of what technology can and cannot do should be well-grasped and communicated throughout an organization.
Technology should not dull the mind but should allow it to further stretch and advance. Technology should not make us lazy. The use of graphics should not interfere with data and independent thought but should rather engage better use and visual memorization skills.
As we continue to rethink the terms “blue collar,” “gray collar” and “white collar,” we need to ensure equal respect for everyone’s genuinely best contribution, understanding outcomes measure the success. As today’s organizational roles should capture historic learning to keep the best, discard the worst and improve upon the partially successful practices; we need to constantly re-evaluate who should be designing our organizational technology.
End users, middle-management and highest-level executives must all weigh in and form consensus, as technology delivers both information and operations. Data collectors, analysts, end-users, and key executives should each weigh in for best results. No valid perspective should be irrelevant.
In the schemata of managing crisis or facilitating change, the fear of the unknown needs to be addressed. Whereas we cannot create panic which threatens, we cannot create an opaqueness which threatens either. As a crisis management “go-to” myself, I can verify that experience in what works and what does not is critical to the expedite.
During the expedite, we properly sequence and channel audience-appropriate information to minimize panic and minimize fear of unknown. We lawfully architect the plan for very real and very effective outcomes. We quickly diminish the threat and build assurance. In coordinating others as swiftly as needed, data and human judgment are critical to the success and to the risk-management defense.
In cases of COVID risk management and response, each of these protocols are essential. Where there is health risk, there is health risk of panic… a juggling act between threats. Where there is business risk, there may be opportunity for silver lining improvement… an exploratory exercise of possibilities.
As an inventor, most of my notable inventions have been related to information and technology, especially at the integration of the two. My earliest published project explored sine wave grading perception in humans, proving the uniqueness of “seeing” from one human to another. The next collaborative project built an interface between two leading tech platforms to avoid re-keying data, to speed operations and to avoid human error. This interface is universally used today, yet top executives initially argued “It cannot be done.” (It can be done, it was done, and it works great.)
Several next endeavors created software utility. Consecutive missions relabeled everyday business terminology, and the strategic relabels then successfully drove behavioral improvements by safeguarding goal alignment. Through each of these and many more inventions as an entrepreneur leading change, I can attest that still too many leaders underestimate the power of information, good and bad. Technology, communication and problem-solving are critical organizational powers, heavily intertwined. Our best future relies upon both the proper capturing and the harnessing of those powers.
As we move forward with emerging technologies and as we continue to endure current and forthcoming battles, business leaders are called upon to carefully evaluate how technology and communication are deployed, how expectations are managed, and to ensure there are no needless lapses in the development and engagement of our best strengths in human judgment. Artificial intelligence is a fabulous resource if well-programmed, well-understood, risk-managed and aligned with our true goals.
About the author
Jessica Ollenburg, CMC, CPCM is Managing Partner at Ollenburg LLC, an award-winning executive consulting firm specializing in leadership playbooks, employment law and entrepreneurial ventures.
For more information, please visit OllenburgLLC.com.