2019-04-20 Digest

| Contributions: Jeff Bezos | Michael Useem and Harbir Singh | OpenAI 5 | Sharon George | Stuart Kauffman |

Beacon NY - 2019-04-20 — No consistent theme in this week's digest, although two of the most clicked links and the quote of the week are related to less management, and self-organizing groups. And the OpenAI Five — a team of five AIs — beat their human competitors by quickly developing shared strategies: self-organizing.


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Jeff Bezos' annual shareholder letter | Jeff Bezos is no stranger to scaling exponentially, and in his annual shareholder letter he points out that 'failure has to scale, too':

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. Of course, we won’t undertake such experiments cavalierly. We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out. This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society. The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.


The Best Management Is Less Management | Michael Useem and Harbir Singh reflect on the approach taken by Sebastián Piñera, Chile's newly sworn-in president in 2010, following the fifth-strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth:

Companies need to be able to exercise sound leadership when responding to a crisis. But what if you didn’t need to be desperate to implement this style of strategic leadership? What if it were considered the norm in your organization to enable and empower, to give people the freedom to own the company agenda and contribute to it in their own way, no matter how small? Then you wouldn’t have to wait for a crisis to learn to lead more effectively. Company leaders are in a constant search for the new best thing in management, but the answer just may be less management — and more trust.


Maybe it's not even noteworthy, but the five bot team OpenAI Five destroyed the Dota 2 world champion this weekend. Yes, you can make yourself feel better about possible killer bots by hypothesizing mixed human/bot teams, but all-bot sounds like Terminator.


I stumbled across a Gartner-created phrase in looking at this work on 'demand for talent': We Working [emphasis mine].

6 Ways the Workplace Will Change in the Next 10 Years | Sharon George

“We Working” will take out middle management

Currently, teams are formed of people pulled together by reporting structure or in an ad hoc fashion. Teamwork is therefore considered more of a behavioral necessity (for example, to foster team spirit and collaboration) than a legitimate organizational principle.

But in 2027, the complexity and scale of business objectives will demand the involvement of brain power and expertise across boundaries in more intricate ways.

As a result, companies will gravitate toward a new work philosophy called We Working. This philosophy involves designing small and flexible teams in response to fluctuating workloads, shrinking time frames, and intense flurries of information exchange and coordination. We Working will encourage businesses to create small, autonomous and high-performing teams that form, converge, act and dismantle as assignments change.

Quote of the Week

If biologists have ignored self-organization, it is not because self-ordering is not pervasive and profound. It is because we biologists have yet to understand how to think about systems governed simultaneously by two sources of order. Yet who seeing the snowflake, who seeing simple lipid molecules cast adrift in water forming themselves into cell-like hollow lipid vesicles, who seeing the potential for the crystallization of life in swarms of reacting molecules, who seeing the stunning order for free in networks linking tens upon tens of thousands of variables, can fail to entertain a central thought: if ever we are to attain a final theory in biology, we will surely, surely have to understand the commingling of self-organization and selection. We will have to see that we are the natural expressions of a deeper order. Ultimately, we will discover in our creation myth that we are expected after all.

| Stuart Kauffman, At Home In The Universe