Complexity is making many experts redundant

David Davis is the UK government Brexit Secretary. David doesn’t believe much in planning or predicting. In his opinion, they should just Brexit and then see what happens because it’s all too complicated to predict anything these days.

Back in 2016, David promised impact analyses on 57 sectors of the UK economy that would go into “excruciating detail”. At some point, David decided to avoid all that excruciating detail and just fly by the seat of his pants. “I’m not a fan of economic models because they have all proven wrong,” he said.

Good old David basically admitted that while they have been making huge decisions about the European customs union and the single market they have literally no idea what the impact might be. Except that it will be big.

Should we be surprised? Not at all. Wars have been fought because one king was jealous of the size of another king’s poodle. Some of the biggest company mergers have been decided as two CEOs looked into each other’s eyes over a candlelit dinner. Monumental decisions causing death, despair and ruin for millions have throughout history been made by the whims of vain, ambitious men.

I was involved in the whole Dotcom bubble in the Nineties. I was CEO of a company that was valued by one of the world’s leading investment banks at $200 million. Eighteen months later it went bust. To see these investment bankers in action was amazing. I’m sure they didn’t read any of the plans we gave them because they never asked us a single question. It was they who had approached us telling us how much money they could raise. They were riding the bubble. Everything was cool. Until it wasn’t.

Over the years, I have watched some very important decisions being made at a senior management level on pure gut instinct, opinion and mood. Wow, I thought, is this management? Is this what they get their mega bonuses for?

David Davis is right. The models are broken. The more complexity increases the more the old models break down. But, David, it’s not just the economic models that are broken. It’s the political models that turn out bumbling, arrogant buffoons like you with production line efficiency. It’s the management models that reward mediocre talent, who don’t really have a clue what is happening, with excruciating bonuses. The longest lasting and most bloated bubble of all is the explosion of senior management pay.

The poor politicians and senior managers don’t and can’t know what is really happening because it’s all become too complex. Instead of helping develop new organizational and political models based on collaboration, agility and evidence-based decision making, our politicians and managers have become the problem. Because they have the most to lose when it’s discovered that most of them have no clue what they’re talking about.

Trust is collapsing around the world because people realize that the system and the institutions are no longer fit for purpose. We need new organizational models that are much less hierarchical and predictive and much more collaborative and adaptive.

2 thoughts on “Complexity is making many experts redundant

  1. Dave Thackeray

    Great insight, Gerry.

    Were the system and these institutions ever fit for purpose, though? Or was it simply a case that we didn’t have access to information that disproved their theories, and we simply assumed that what we got was the best we could expect?

    Has us being empowered and informed actually made things worse, because now we often have the facts, we become less satisfied and more inclined to rail. Yet there are exactly the same number of armchair pundits because doing something valuable in the change environment seems magnified in difficulty because, well, everyone now understands the flaws, the artifice and chicanery, and if the rest of the world can’t make a difference – what chances do I have?

    Reply
    1. Gerry McGovern Post author

      An excellent question, Dave. I think we now have much better ways to discover the BS. I think we’re in a transitionary period. I think it’s all in play. I’m quite hopeful, actually, that we can build a better world in a much more collaborative way, but it won’t be easy and will require all of us to make a real effort.

      Reply

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