Where reason went

Ed. 16

What we’re thinking

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Most likely you only need to look at various points in your own life when you progressed on a pathway despite the warnings maybe from friends your parents(!) or even yourself to agree with this.

Marc Andreessen, cofounder and general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz this week explores this very topic in the context of the health crisis we all find outselves in.

Granted the blog post is written looking through the lens of the US economy and how it is addressing (or you could say failing to successfully address) the current health crisis.

As Andreessen says “every Western institution was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic” despite numerous warnings an event like this was going to happen - one day.

The WHO as you probably read in the papers this week, agree.

Programmed to ignore warnings?

Part of the problem of why we as human’s are pretty crappy at listening to warnings as Andreessen sees it is a “lack of imagination” or a “failure to build”.

We have top-end universities, yes, but with the capacity to teach only a microscopic percentage of the 4 million new 18 year olds in the U.S. each year, or the 120 million new 18 year olds in the world each year. Why not educate every 18 year old? Isn’t that the most important thing we can possibly do? 

But it got us asking why do people and the social bodies we gather under - political parties, organisations etc - ignore warnings?

Are we actually programmed as humans to ignore warnings? To ignore the facts?

Apparently - according to some cognitive behaviour and psychology studies - we are.

Cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber in their book “The Enigma of Reason,”  argued that our reasoning is really good at justifying beliefs we already believe in and making arguments to convince others. We become pretty bad at truth-seeking or if we do go looking for the truth we do it with a bias looking for truth that confirms what we already believe.

Ouch.

What’s this got to do with digital transformation?

Take digital transformation in organisations.

Despite years of numerous reports, webinars, conferences and calls for organisations across all industries to digitally transform or risk being “left behind”, the urgency and pace needed often does not seems to be there.

Many business leaders have stuggled with how to identify and iterate innovative technologies within siloed businesses units and then take the bold action needed to scale these initatives.

As this 2018 report by SAP highlighted the poor state of digital transformation efforts around the world has continued:

84% of companies regard digital transformation as crucial, yet just 3% have actually finished any company-wide effort.

The warnings about needing to digitally transform have been there for many sectors it’s just that these warnings didn’t appear to have an urgency to them or indeed were heeded.

Until now.

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Urgency compels action

COVID-19 has up-ended all our lives and work in some way and even has changed the way many of us work.

We all know it’s causing a massive need to shift business models, organizational workflows and service models for so many businesses.

And then over night it seems articles like this, this and this pop up all articulating that the pace of digtial transformation has cranked up. Apparently it’s become a ‘need to’, not a ‘nice to’.

"If the pace of the pre-coronavirus world was already fast, the luxury of time now seems to have disappeared completely…businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one- to three-year phases must now scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks."  - ZDNet.

Marc Andreessen ends with a call to action to all businesses regardless of what we do.

Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.

It is a time to build. But this time maybe we can all build better.

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What we’re reading & listening to

Below are just some of the articles and podcasts that have caught our attention over the last week.

How Tech Can Build

[Podcast] The World Ahead: Viral acceleration | Economist Radio

Google’s Thomas Kurian on COVID-19, customers in crisis and the big cloud fight

Why Are People Ignoring Expert Warnings?—Psychological Reactance

Digital strategy in a time of crisis

[Podcast] Philip E. Tetlock on Forecasting and Foraging as a Fox (Ep. 93)

SenseGlove is working on a “low-cost” force-feedback glove for VR

The GitLab Remote Playbook

Zapiers guide to remote working

How 5G and edge computing can enhance virtual reality

[Podcast] The Sunday Read : Closing the restaurant that was my life for 20yrs

Thanks for reading.

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