The seventh and final blog. At least seven is a good number to end on.
Fittingly, I learned on Twitter long ago that Life Comes at You Fast. Watching Clay Shirky explain how “Group Action Just Got Easier” due to social media offered a hopeful start to this class. Indeed, Shirky effectively predicted the Arab Spring uprising and the positive political implications of technology were easy to imagine. Yet, as Professor Kane promised us, something big in social media happened during the semester, and we’ve since had to reckon with the political ramifications of the filter bubbles and fake news that influenced our presidential election. Group action is definitely easier now, but that also means it’s easier to let your friends know that the Pope endorsed a presidential candidate, even if that’s not true.
Here’s another big takeaway from this semester, along with some more things that I now know thanks to #IS6621.
Soft Skills are more Important Than Ever
Perhaps my favorite session was all the way back on September 8th, which featured Professor Kane and Natasha Buckley discussing their findings from the 2016 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project. In particular, this chart below fascinated me. In this supposedly scary new age, the best ways to stay ahead of the technological curve are mostly related to one’s disposition and open-mindedness. The willingness to change and think ahead, for both leaders and employees, far outpaced hard technological skills as the key ingredient to a digitally “mature” company. As we talked about in a later class, these soft skills manifest themselves in companies that, for instance, don’t have long email chains, because you don’t have to know five programming languages to know that long email chains are unproductive and that you should make a habit of just calling somebody at some point if you really want to talk to that person. Another smaller takeaway from that discussion was that employees of all ages will leave companies if they feel like their digital skills are not growing, and that the prospect of digital growth was perhaps more important to people than the digital skills that they may possess.
Professor Kane also spoke about a similar concept in that second class, which was a “minimum failure rate” that all companies must have to stay innovative. I, for one, could absolutely benefit from maintaining a slightly higher failure rate in an effort to keep growing as a person.
When Crowds Work
Our discussion on the Wisdom of Crowds was another one chock full of takeaways. Simply, crowdsourcing works when diversity of opinion, decentralization, independence and aggregation are present. The concepts of randomization and sample size are familiar to many of us as business school students, yes, but in the corporate world, these directives are often not heeded. Additionally, governmental bureaucracy is ripe with homophily and can produce disastrous results, with the best (or worst) example being the Bay of Pigs invasion. Crowdsourcing is a hot topic right now, and it can be effective. We must remember, though, as Professor Kane said, “crowds can do great stuff under certain circumstances.
I’ll leave you with some more interesting quotes from Professor Kane that I jotted down throughout the semester. These knowledge darts may not be exact quotes, because I have pretty bad handwriting. The wisdom endures, though.
“Be wary of analytics people. The impact of what they suggest is usually overstated, and just because you can implement it, it doesn’t mean they’ll do it right.”
“Facebook has your best interests at heart because it needs you to keep coming back. They need you to be addicted to it.”
“Open floor plans are overrated. They’rs always chaos. You need quiet spaces and some separation.”
“Alphabet is about turning Google into more of a VC company. They’re better investors than innovators.”
“The laws are always behind the technology.”
“Memes are like genes. They naturally wants to spread through the culture, and social media just allows for that to happen faster.”
“It’s all about finding that sweet spot between chaos and control.”