Productivity, humans and Thinkin
Thinkin = new.productivity2 ?
We think there is a need to discuss three interrelated phenomena, which together make up a substantial part of the key to future success at both organizational as well as societal levels:
1) the productivity/complexity-pair,
2) how we as humans deal with that,
3) how Thinkin is the way forward.
The OECD, the Worldbank and the WEF agree that productivity is the key to growth, but also have worries about productivity going up fast enough, particularly in the services sector.
Let’s investigate an often overlooked reason why productivity is a struggle.
The study of complexity is a field in its own right, and has helped us understand the world better. We now know that there is a chaos-complexity-predictability continuum driven by the number of nodes and the number of connections in a network respectively. (At Home in the Universe, Stuart Kauffmann, 95).
Getting the job done, achieving the results as set out may seem straightforward. In fully automated manufacturing the variation is in the quality control of the input. In the services industry however the producing of a non-standardized output format needs quality-control within the process, which largely consists of taking many small and some larger decisions. The input by no means “controls” the outcome.
Involving everyone who has something to contribute. Here too we see a massive bias (more about which below) where is comes to choosing whom to involve. And even when everyone is “at the table” the outcome may leave out inputs from members whose contributions are ignored. Often to the detriment of the quality as delivered.
Doing the things needed and no more, stop doing the things that do not add or even distract. Efficiency is not improved by having too many meetings, in which too much time is spend on information already known, having to listen to one person at the time, knowing that reading is done more quickly than listening and has “a fast-rewind option build in”. Apart from the fact that getting everyone around one table is often an agenda-struggle, and even then some people have to re-prioritize at the last moment.
Innovation is obviously well researched, so what can we bring to the table that is new? The experience of having innovated, created, etc, maybe and what you notice is that there is a key moment where the actual new “thing”, “idea”, “sketch” is shared in a group.
Innovation needs, even though it is about much more than just that, new inputs, new insights, “ weird” signals. Originals, as Adam Grant would say, are what is needed to get innovation right. And how do you know you have Originals in your organization, group of customers, party? Remember that many people doubted if their idea was a good one before they became household names. And also know that Originals very often aren’t the flashy stand-out people everybody knows as “originals”.
So how to create a platform on which Originals can test out their new stuff without the emotional tension of loosing face? We’ll come back to that.
These four attributes of the productivity issue all benefit from complexity-reduction. A complexity-reduction however that still does justice to the variety and diversity of all stakeholders involved. Squaring a circle?
Behavioral economics or How we humans deal with the world.
That people are in some way or another biased should not come as a surprise. The number of ways in which people can be biased might, and the effects of some biases might as well. All this affects the outcomes of decisions taken by individuals and those taken within groups, and largely negatively.
We have a tendency to, e.g., to simplify, which in itself seems a positive thing, weren’t it for the fact that we do not really which elements we leave out when we simplify. So you get an answer to a question not asked, but you don’t notice, not does the person answering.
Equally tricky is the phenomenon where even people who are genuinely “experts” in their field nonetheless when faced with a complex situation give a diametrically opposed answer to the same question if asked that question again after 5 minutes.
Are we irrational beings? Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has spend 60 years of research on the subject and is in many respects not all that positive. We have achieved a lot, as humans, obviously. Given the challenges we now face, and the complexity we have ourselves created, we need all the help we can get to make the right choices.
So if we can ring-fence these biases enough and reduce complexity in a fair way, we make a substantial step forward in terms of productivity.
Thinkin is a patented 5-step way of communicating within invited groups/communities in which every person’s contribution matters, is heard and is valued, resulting in a community-backed answer, that gets reported on deadline, listing the five best ranked answers.
The core idea is based on six decades of research by mainly Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. The issues we address are well documented in his “Thinking fast and slow”. Others, like Susan Cain (“Quite: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking”) or Brené Brown (“Daring Greatly”), have inspired us to incorporate the use of emotional security and positive feedback only.
The resulting Thinkin communication process consists of 5 steps, the middle three of which involve the community you invite, and the other two, 1 and 5 are for the person who has the issue that needs resolving. Raising an issue also means inviting people to help solve it and setting milestones (“timeboxes”) to get to the answer (step 1). At the deadline, as set in step 1, the system generates the report that contains the results (the number one and four runners up) the group has come up with (step 5).
Steps 2, 3, and 4, or collect, value and integrate are for the community and done in complete, two-sided anonymity. First collect all possible contributions to aspects of the issue raised (step 2). Then have the community value all these contributions along three pre-defined yardsticks (step 3). And then double-check and integrate the overall answer (step 4).
There is no outside authority/moderator/guide involved, just the issue, the issue-owner, the selected community and the Thinkin process. The selected community is shielded from outside interference, bullying, settling old-scores, peer-pressure, etc..
Which is why Thinkin actually is a very good way to have your second opinion first.
This patented process on which Thinkin is based was designed with aim of providing that help. The 5 steps as such are a tool in that respect, and each step itself reduces the negative effects of certain biases.
Thinkin = new.productivity2 ?
Using Thinkin you will see the following in your organization.
√ Effectiveness: up
Thinkin provides the feedback mechanisms that are also applied in such methods as the Delphi approach as well as in peer-reviews for the major science periodicals. And Thinkin has been labeled by a Delphi expert as the “improved” version of that approach. Experts, we have seen, are roughly as “human” as the rest of us. And Thinkin helps mitigate some of the most unproductive biases.
√ Inclusiveness: up
One of the most important features of using Thinkin is that you choose whom you involve in a conversation. So you can choose whoever you want, no matter how radical the choice may seem. And the reason is that you will not be judged on your choice upfront but will be able to answer any distracters, if there are any left by that time, after you have delivered a result.
One of the most important consequences of using Thinkin is that you are able to come up with answers that are both supported as well as a reflection of the whole organization.
√ Efficiency: up
Thinkin delivers better answers roughly between 2,5 and more than 10 times more efficiently because:
Reading and writing goes 2,5 times faster than listening
Everyone works at the same time, rather than sitting idle, waiting
An outcome is build into the process, delivered on deadline
Fewer errors means less fixing-time afterwards
No need to spend too much time on what we know already
No need to schedule another meeting since no outcome was produced, a meeting in which other people will be present and previous half-results are negated
No loss of time due to people showing up late
No loss of time due to having to politicking, kowtowing, etc
Over a number of conversations: a clear idea of who provides the chosen answers and who does not need to contribute any longer
√ Innovation: up
Thinkin supports Originals in that it gives them an opportunity to share their, initially, contrarian ideas without having to up-front own up to them. After all, as Mark Twain said, “a person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds”. So, therefore in Thinkin’s step 2, 3, and 4 nobody knows who contributed what. Which makes it possible to share the new idea without being called a crank. In much the same way is it possible to support a new idea without peer-pressure to ridicule it, as no one will ever know that you were the one to support that “crank”.
We think the combination of effectiveness, inclusiveness, efficiency and innovation is necessary to lift us to the next level of growth, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or any other apt name. The combination of effectiveness, inclusiveness, efficiency and innovation is the equivalent of “new.productivity2 “ in honor of a famous equation ending with a square.
And Thinkin is the way to achieve it.