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Laurent Haug quoted Ethan Zuckerman's point which is really worth repeating in forecasting and futurist circles. Since I am, at least partly, finding myself backing a bit to my original turf of technology forecasting this is a good reminder of a rule of thumb that I actually used as an argument for the future success of the Internet in the mid 1990:s.

"If you’re not getting porn in your system, it doesn’t work. Activism is a stronger test - if activists are using your tools, it’s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable."


[From Ethan Zuckerman's post …My heart’s in Accra » The Cute Cat Theory Talk at ETech]

One of the highlights of LIFT08 was the Asia track. First on stage was Marc Laperrouza who talked about the telecommunication situation in China. To summarize what I thought was most interesting (download PDF of presentation):

  • 59% of the world's 2,5 billion mobile phone users are in developing countries - it is the first time in history that a technology has more users in developing countries than in developed countries
  • 3 of the worlds 5 largest mobile phone operators are in China - the largest is China Mobile with 350 million users
  • Super Girl, the Chinese version of Pop Idol, received 800 million SMS votes - government reactions was to quickly apply severe restrictions to prevent something similar to happen again
  • mobile phones are e g used as tools for instant crowd shopping - a phenomenon which I in the late 1990:s thought was going to emerge faster in the West than it apparently did

Marc ended by quoting Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the world's largest mobile phone operator China Mobile in Davos in January:

“We know who you are and also where you are!”

A comment that made the relation between technology and politics in China very clear to everybody.

Another interesting speaker was the South Korean researcher and consultant Heewon Kim who talked about social software spread in her home country. (her slides can be downloaded at LIFT_HeewonKim.pdf)

Interesting facts from her presentation was

  • South Korea have 37.89 million subscribers to Mobile Internet services with a usage rate of 43%
  • 20 million people = half of the number of citizens is members of the hugely successful Cyworld, the most successful virtual community sites in South Korea
  • Of the younger population 98% of the young people at the age of 20-30 are members = everybody
  • $260 000 worth of virtual items are sold every day in Cyworld

Heewon focused on the word "almost synchronous communication" to describe the common communication pattern, which means that you have access to status updates and messages all the time and can response immediately, but is not required to do so by the communication situation. It is basically the same kind of pattern that fits very well with MSN and SMS which is hugely spread among young kids in Europe, but not with ordinary phone calls (which is completely synchronous) and not mail and blogs (which are basically asynchronous). The mobile phones was the natural and always present tools which was able to support this mode of communication and Cyworld was of course extended to mobile phones anymore. The point with the emergence of almost synchronous communication seems to be that supports the emergence of real-time intimacy. (See also my earlier post about Consumers in a connected world)

Last on the Asian track was Gen Kanai, head of Mozilla in Japan.

What I though was most interesting and thought provoking in Gen's speech was his description on how bad the Open Source model really worked in Asia. Of course Gen didn't describe it as bad, that is my interpretation. E g during the Linux development the Asian participation was very low in Asia. There seemed to be few theories of why but cultural, language and educational barriers were discussed.

He also talked about good examples and mentioned Bhutan which is a really small country who have chosen Linux (Dzongkha Debian Linux) as their major operating system. It was developed during just 13 months and to a cost of about US$80.000.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Volvo IT and how they blocked blogs and other sites mentioning social software. Particularly it was sites that happened to have "typepad" or "blogspot" in their address or any other trace of being what could be categorized as "social software". Examples of site that was blocked from Volvo employees was

Recent news tell us that e g US Air Force is also blocking blogs as reported by Wired recently:

The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word "blog" in its web address. It's the latest move in a larger struggle within the military over the value -- and hazards -- of the sites. At least one senior Air Force official calls the squeeze so "utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream."

[From Air Force Blocks Access to Many Blogs | Danger Room from Wired.com]

What might all this mean?

To me these events resonate with something much bigger. Is it a coincidence that these actions mirrors what leaders in China, Burma and other totalitarian regimes have been taken to protect their positions? I think this is a chain of events that are on it's way to spread on a global scale and is the result of a number of conflicting driving forces

  • The information and communication technology changes human organizations much deeper than we think - the whole traditional way of building static hierarchies are losing out
  • Leaders in one hierarchy after another are waking up to the fact that they are becoming increasingly powerless, and maybe even in the long term irrelevant and the main culprit seems to be be modern communication technology - by trying to restrict and control Internet they think they can decrease the chaos and again return to control
  • Because of the 9/11 and the growing threats of viruses, stealing sensitive information through the Internet and global terrorism
    (1) the security industry is booming and provide a vast range of better and better tools to restrict certain kind of use as well as gather and analyze enormous amount of information much easier than before and
    (2) citizens and employees are in a psychological state when safety and order is regarded as a goal of higher priority than many other things

This development wouldn't be something to worry about if this "shut-the-gates" behavior was just occurring in totalitarian states and old and rigid corporations. But I think we should be a bit worried when we see it being spread elsewhere. What maybe is starting out is a war against free horizontal communication and Internet is the target. 9/11 can be seen as the pivotal event because it started a chain of reactions that eventually turned what could have been a contained shift of organizational models into an open battle between the leaders and the rest.

Some effects of the changing human communication capabilities are inevitable since the old model must make place for new ones. But how this transformation will develop is dependent on many factors. Some uncertainties I see right now are

  • how far will the major influential global powers go when it comes to maintain/regain control?
  • will the fragile democratic processes actually work when it comes to redefine the power structures according to the new communication reality?
  • how much is people in general willing to sacrifice to achieve to some level of (superficial) order and safety?
  • which real world power will the horizontal networks gather before one of the major conflicts occur?
  • will there be a wide spread awareness of the nature of the conflict or will other issues (like e g the environment)?

Four possible outcomes for the next 20 years?

I think there are four possible scenarios for the future of the relation between the new communication paradigm and models of governance.

200802282254.jpg Scenario 1 - a smooth sail

It will turn out as the technology people are predicting. New communication possibilities will revolutionize the world and the existing governing structures will first be bypassed and then step by step become irrelevant and eventually disappear as a new organizational paradigm will rise from the rubble of the pieces of the old ones.

This will not happen without conflicts but the conflicts will be contained and of a small scale. In most case reason will win and new rules and regulations will emerge from bottom up.


200802282300.jpgScenario 2 - back in line

After seeing some of the consequences of a horizontal and anarchic world almost all top leaders agree on the dangers of entering the unknown and collectively decide that this can't be allowed. The strategy will be to fuel image of the external threats and convince people that we will not be able to solve all these global problems if we allow communication to be completely free.

Some major events will also help to make it very clear to most of us that the price to pay for that relatively small freedom of communication will not weigh up all the chaos that will follow in the trace of dismounting our governing structures and hope new ones will arise.

Scenario 3 - full scale war200802291149.jpg

It is perfectly clear that most of the leaders of influential hierarchical organizations and countries will not tolerate that new communication technology will change and maybe even destroy the current governing models as well as the nation state - the perceived foundation for stability of the world. In order to maintain order and recreate a well needed economical stability almost all possible means will be used to diminish any further effects of new communication technology. The strategies will differ. Most countries will start off with the nice path of surveillance and infuse a silent threat in order to keep some people afraid and silent. When this fails because of the emergence of DarkNets they will be forced to take the path of the more brutal governments and pull the plug to the public Internet completely. Instead new and restricted channels for financial and corporate use will be developed and financed by e g the dying but now revitalized phone companies.

Countries who still naïvely believes in democracy and liberalism and accept and tries to adopt to the new communication paradigm will not be able to stand outside of this but will be drawn in to the conflict by the large and more totalitarian countries like China, United States and Russia. The world will be divided between the countries who have invested too much in the hierarchical governance model and actually relies on it for it's existence and the rest of the world who will have a better chance if the game is redefined in a less hierarchic manner.

Scenario 4 - many small wars in different areas at different times

The perceived negative effects of changing communication models are not evenly spread. It is almost impossible to decide on one line of action and the war of organizational paradigms will pop up in different arenas and will be followed by actions in isolation to this area. Each conflict could be geographically contained (within China, Burma or United States), contained within an industry or area (traditional industry organizations or military organizations) of activity or even be contained in an aspect of other things (copyright, terrorism).

This scenario could be a prequel to both scenario 2 and scenario 3, and it could maybe even be perceived as a prequel to scenario 1, but it will be the most tedious and slow chain of events. It is unlikely that this scenario will work since the world is more connected than ever. A conflict of governing models within an area will most certainly spread to other areas very quickly.

This is just a short and shallow analysis that might be severely flawed so please comment on it if you have something to say...

Robin Hunicke at Lift08

One of the best presentations of Lift08 was by Robin Hunicke, a games designer at Electronic Arts. A wonderful speech with similarly wonderful hand drawn sketches on the slides. One of her main points was to explain an important point with game design - to set the player in focus and make him or her achieve things and feel important. She then expanded on this and explained why i e Facebook in this sense was a game that made you feel like you lived a fun life with a lot of friends who you recognize you. (See Bernhard Schindlholzer's blog post on the subject)

This is a terrific perspective and because she used this simple and generic model for design it changed my view on interaction design in particular, but also on design in general.

Why doesn't more designers have this perspective when designing complex things? I agree that it is maybe a bit harder to have the goal to make users of a glass or a knife to feel like he or she is in focus and have achieved something. Or is it...?

Today we are in the middle of the inflection point of an computer interface and sensor revolution. When computers become small and cheap enough and also get sensors that make them see and hear, more and more things will have computers, sensors and communication built in to them. The emergence of intelligence in everyday things will be an interesting design challenge. In short almost all things around us are going to be designed by what we today call interaction designers.

This made me see a future where many more things in our environment will be designed to make us feel important, achieving and joyful.

As a forecaster I can't help thinking about the uncertainties in this as well. Are we really going to feel important when all our things are trying to invade our personal sphere? Probably not, but some things may succeed. One potential is artifacts that are alone having a relation to a person, like personal computers or other personal information devices. Or cars or other forms of personal vehicles.

And maybe not a single fork or spoon can make us feel us in focus and reward us for making a wonderful dinner table, but all the dinner tools on concert maybe can?

I think one thing is clear. In the next decades we will see many attempts of intrusive design which will compete with what designers of games and social software are competing with today: making is feeling important, achieving and liked. And sensors and computers are going to play a part in it!

See Robin's presentation here

Today Jamais Cascio wrote a post about The Big Picture where he paints a picture of the 6 main drivers behind the major development of the next 20 years. I am really looking forward to following posts in the issue.

  • Climate Chaos
  • Resource Collapse
  • Catalytic Innovation
  • Ubiquitous Transparency
  • New Models of Development
  • The Rise of the Post-Hegemonic World

He starts his last paragraph in his post with

As always, this is meant not as a prediction but as a provocation.

OK, I am a bit provoked!! 😉
It is really an interesting list which cover a lot of the important drivers. My purpose with this post is possibly to touch on to what I think is either a meta subject or possibly an even larger driver. At least I think it is a major uncertainty underpinning how we react to the consequences of these drivers, but also how we are able to organize to meet the coming challenges.

The rise of the modern man

I am talking about the rise of the Western modern man, as sociologists call the phenomenon, and specifically how the modern man is silently and by just ignoring it challenging the existing hierarchical structures everywhere. For this purpose I would characterize the modern man as

  • more pragmatic and critical in larger scale than ever before - most notably to experts, media, authorities and institutions
  • is being able to create a (socially constructed) personal worldview - truthiness rules
  • is to an increasing extent driven by the need for self esteem and creating a personal identity
  • has more input then ever which gives a broader and at the same time more shallow perspective of the world
  • is increasingly connected
  • is increasingly empowered by different means of technology - more and more of a prosumer

Eroding organizations

But what maybe is more important now and a consequence of all this, the modern man is starting, beginning with the younger generations, to throw off the inherited mental limitations and cultural patterns of hierarchical subordination. This is already having consequences to many organizations. The ideas behind almost all of our current organizations, including nation states built on democracies, relies on a too simple principle of subordination and division of labor.

If I am right and the emergence of the modern man have already been eroding the steering mechanisms within our society and companies there are a number of consequences. The most subversive aspect here is that you don't notice it in everyday operation, but how the more long term steering works. This means that when you are going about and do the operational stuff it works pretty well, and the only thing that we notice is the increase in Dilbertian sarcasm. But when you are trying to redirect the ship you realize that wheel isn't connected to the rudder anymore.

What are the uncertainties?

One conclusion of this is can be that, OK some structures are rotten and will die or at least radically change when things are getting serious. So what?

I think it is more serious than that because these defunct organizations

  • harbor most of the available resources in the world
  • are still relied upon by the other organizations to do something about the situation
  • are symbols for a defunct model for organizing e g maintaining dangerous knowledge in the times to come

To me this might really qualify as a black swan. I am not worried at all that we as the human race will change our way of organizing ourselves according to the new situation over time, but in the coming 20-30 years when facing the big challenges it could be really dangerous to rely on a non-working organizing principle. It will have a big difference for how we succeed if we collectively noticed this change and actually started to identify and actively destroy the bad structures in favor of building new ones which actually worked.

Hmmm... A joke, a failure to spell it out right or just an urge to stay out of huge web traffic?!?

David Sibbet, founder of Grove Consultants, shares his own notes of and a link to a video of a Jamais Cascio's lectures on the Metaverse simultaneously at Stanford and Second Life November 27th. Since I know both have been collaborating with Institute For The Future I presume it is a joke...

As usual Sibbet's style of taking visual notes is brilliant (and he spelled Jamais name right in his notes). I met him at a conference arranged by IFTF some years ago when he was taking notes and it was really fascinating to behold.

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I have never been impressed by Gartner but I must admit they are changing. A couple of years ago I realized they started to use scenario planning as a tool for understanding and communicating the analysis. Then a couple of weeks ago I came across a decent discussion about Digital Natives. And now through Future Scanner I found a post on the blog singularityu.org reviewing Gartner Analyst Adam Sander when he talks on a Gartner Conference among other things about the metaverse in connection to Maslow's hierarchy of needs (which I played with and turned upside down some time ago in this blog).

The idea seems to be that virtual worlds is the way to achieve self-actualization which is so much harder in the real world. A really interesting thought!

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 10 Gartnermaslow

singularityu.org » How Gartner Learned to Love the Virtual World

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For the last year or so most of my involvements in foresight activities in organizations seems to have different results than before. More often than not they are putting the focus back to fundamental issues about internal organizational issues. In some sense the results tell me:

"Don't fiddle around asking questions about the future! Focus on fixing the basic organizational issues first, because otherwise the issues about the future are irrelevant."

These kinds of result wasn't unheard of some years ago, but is much more common now. Almost a standard result from both commercial and public sector scenario planning exercises.

Based on my view of the future it isn't strange and also seems to resonate pretty well with the conclusions in e g the book "Navigating the Badlands: Thriving in the Decade of Radical Transformation" (Mary OHaraDevereaux) (Amazon US) where the message is:

  • We are in a decades long transition period
  • Hunt down your obsolete (and sometimes even dangerous) ideas and methods
  • Start from scratch from where you are and innovate and build new structures from the new prerequisites that slowly and unpredictably emerge

If this is true, what does it say about the role of scenario planning and foresight? Does this render long range foresight useless?

One interpretation of this could be yes, looking into the future isn't helpful at all when it comes to survival. Being pragmatic, down to earth and focus on the result is. This is without question a valid interpretation but I believe it is flawed and too quick conclusion. Ignoring the big picture is always dangerous and even more so in volatile times. The reason is simply that everything that can help you interpret and make some order in all the small seemingly contradictory signs will in the long term help you take the right decision.

But what seems to have changed is that foresight is not directly helping companies to take any mid- to long term decisions any more - i e strategic decisions. At least if we by strategic decisions mean long term decisions about investments and choice of options which reaches 5-10 years into the future. The reason is that in turbulent times nothing can help us taking what we used to call long term decision.

200712061247
But that doesn't mean that we shall ignore the big picture. Understanding the big picture of current change is mandatory, but it is not anymore a tool for identifying the next big decisions. Long range foresight is rather a meta-strategic activity which creates a higher level of understanding of the situation which is invaluable for taking the small and important steps towards the future.

This means also that the role of strategic and top level management have changed. They cannot anymore think about the big picture and then take the big and important decisions at the same level. Their role is more and more to provide the big picture and then let the required decisions being taken at the right level. Or maybe more correctly their role is to provide the structures and resources so the organization can achieve really good big pictures to help them take all those small decisions that takes the organizations forward. This means that the major long term decisions top management must take is to open up the structures so that tomorrows new structures can emerge.

I heard Gary Hamel used a interesting phrase that connects to this: The CEO and the board should increasingly be editors of strategy, not creators of strategy.

So, yes! Focus on fixing the basic organizational issues because the way the world works is changing dramatically from the ground up. But remember that understanding the big picture is essential to take the right decisions even if you don't recognize it in the line of fire.

The other day a friend unexpectedly referred to Fermi problems (attributed to the famous physicist Enrico Fermi). I am the one who once (in ancient times) studied mathematics and physics and he is a marketing /advertising guy so I was a bit surprised. When realizing in what way he used the notion of Fermi problems I suddenly saw its pedagogical significance when describing the value of forecasting in general and more specifically the value of developing scenarios.

In Wikipedia we can read this about Fermi problems:

The classic Fermi problem, generally attributed to Fermi, is How many piano tuners are there in Chicago? A typical solution to this problem would involve multiplying together a series of estimates that would yield the correct answer if the estimates were correct. For example, we might make the following assumptions:

1. There are approximately 5,000,000 people living in Chicago.
2. On average, there are two persons in each household in Chicago.
3. Roughly one household in twenty has a piano that is tuned regularly.
4. Pianos that are tuned regularly are tuned on average about once per year.
5. It takes a piano tuner about two hours to tune a piano, including travel time.
5. Each piano tuner works eight hours in a day, five days in a week, and 50 weeks in a year.

From these assumptions we can compute that the number of piano tunings in a single year in Chicago is

(5,000,000 persons in Chicago) / (2 persons/household) × (1 piano/20 households) × (1 piano tuning per piano per year) = 125,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago.

And we can similarly calculate that the average piano tuner performs

(50 weeks/year)×(5 days/week)×(8 hours/day)×(1 piano tuning per 2 hours per piano tuner) = 1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner.

Dividing gives

(125,000 piano tuning per year in Chicago) / (1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner) = 125 piano tuners in Chicago.

It is really about having a reasonable correct estimate (at least the right magnitude) based on what you already know rather than having a correct answer. The point is that sometimes this is enough for your purpose. Especially when that information is all you have at the moment.

When working with the future you never have enough information and you have to use the information you have in an intelligent way in order to understand what this means for the future. The point then is not to predict the future in a deeper sense but using your brain and available data to produce at least some intelligent conclusions about the future which will help us take decisions today. I would argue that these conclusions are similar to the Fermi estimates you do when not having enough information.

Since I promised to explain why I thought that hierarchies were broken and in a longer perspective being recreated in a new form, I will start to do it here.

When I had a conversation about organizational consequences of new communications technology a friend of mine told a story about what happened in a large corporation when someone from the management team were visiting the department.

- "It was like an alien had beamed down. He showed us a number of PowerPoint slides and spoke energetically about something. After 30 minutes and a basically silent Q&A session he beamed up again, leaving us to ourselves. A silent confirmation that nobody else understood either were followed by the next point on our agenda."

This illustrates what I now call the strategic gap of the organization. I have been talking about it for a while in my speeches and nobody anywhere seems to refute its existence. Instead everybody nods and says things like, "yes that is exactly how it is", regardless of the audience belong to the top, middle or bottom of the organization.

On hierarchies of work

Hierarchies of work is defined by higher levels of responsibility and more overseeing work characteristics the higher you get. One way of explaining this is to recognize the time span of the tasks on the different levels. In general on a higher level we are forced to deal with a wider context and a longer time span, because our role is to manage issues individuals on the lower levels are not able to manage within their own context and time span. What is required is an overview and a capability of a different level of thinking. The increasing complexity that comes with a wider context and longer time span normally requires that we are working at a higher level of abstraction and being able to manage a higher level of uncertainty.

One researcher who have delved into the issues of different levels of time span for the different levels of work in a hierarchy is Elliott Jaques. He identified the fundamental levels in hierarchic organization of work like this.

  1. Focus on Quality - a time span of 1 day - 3 months
  2. Focus on Service - a time span of 3 months - 1 year
  3. Focus on Praxis - a time span of 1 - 2 years
  4. Focus on Strategy - a time span of 2 - 5 years
  5. Focus on Intent - a time span of 5 - 10 years

Being a trained psychologist he identified specific thought patterns matching each level of work. He recognized that a organization didn’t work very well that if some of the levels of work was not being performed, overlapping work were being done or a person with a certain capacity were placed at the wrong level.

N.b. Jaques didn’t write about hierarchies per se, but about how work is being hierarchically organized. This nuance is often missed and these theories are for that reason often neglected as something unsexy as just theories about hierarchic organizations. To read more about Jaques and his theories read Art Kleiners article in Strategy & Business.

Even David Allen is using these different time spans in his Getting Things Done approach when defining the different levels of high level perspectives you is required to take on yourself and your work to set your priorities right.

Work at the different levels
Talking about time span implies that feedback is somewhat interesting, so how does feedback work at the different levels? For work at level 1 it is easy because if you do something wrong it quickly becomes obvious. It is almost the same thing at level 2, even if the time span is a bit longer.

Level 3 is, according to Jaques, the systemic level. To manage the increased complexity in this task our thought patterns have to include systemic relations of subsystems at a more abstract level than at the lower levels. If we are managing a car factory we are most certainly working with the systemic structure of the plant e g how the paint shop is best fitted together with the other modules to assemble a complete car in the most efficient way and how we should organize the supply logistics to minimize time lags. Part from that we are probably initiating quality or culture programs to increase or maintain the overall efficiency and quality of the factory. The feedback is most likely occurring by looking at the productivity and quality measurements for each month, quarter or year as well as having the different subsystems report how they work.

At level 4 - strategy level - we are at an abstraction level above the contained system level. This means even longer time span (maybe 2 - 5 years), higher abstraction, higher complexity and greater uncertainty than what is required at the previous level. We probably have to deal with questions like: “Where are we going to build the next factory?” or “Are we going to invest R&D money into technology X or Y?”. Suddenly we realize that we can’t learn from earlier situations in the same way because there is no objective feedback on this level and above. The same thing could probably be said for small portions of work at the previous level as well, but on this level it has really tipped over.

Gap2

What has happened is that at this level of work we have almost completely left the realm of managing the current and entered into the realm of steering into the future – a place without either feedback, right or wrong. Instead this realm is full of theories, models and ideas.

Even if we try to be objective on this level we quickly realize the problem since our evaluation approaches are probably based on the same theories as the initial decision analysis. The truth seems to be that on this level and above we have to rely on beliefs. Maybe beliefs based on theoretically sound thinking, but still just beliefs because, about a more distant future we cannot tell if a statement is true in the same verifiable way.

The two worlds

To manage different levels of reality like the present and the future we are forced to have different kinds of thinking. It is exactly this difference in thinking that constitutes the strategic gap. It divides the organization into two separate worlds which rather communicate horizontally with the same level of people in other organizations than trying to cross this gap.

How can we recognize this in our own organization? One significant sign of this is the feeling of growing alienation from both sides of this gap. Another sign is that everybody is constantly engaged in fire fighting and blaming each other for not taking responsibility. The most alarming and obvious sign is the strategy/mission/vision document which uninterpreted is thrown across the gap and falls unread (or at least not understood) to the bottom of the organization like something the cat have dragged in.

Why now?
The reason that this gap emerges now is that it is currently reinforced by some of the changes that currently are taking place. Some examples of these are

  • The individual is provided with new organizational capabilities so reality is changing in a way that new value structures emerges right from level 1, often in direct competition with the official organization
  • An increasing number of employees are trained to take full responsibility for their work and solve many of the problems themselves – problems which no longer have to pass over the gap and act as a common denominator
  • Every statement from leaders will be compared to a huge amount of experiences and views on different levels on a global scale which gives employees many reasons to question the premises and gradually stop trying to understand their own top management
  • The current work situation is becoming more complex and requires increasingly focused efforts to just keep up; there isn’t time to try to engage in unintelligible and seemingly irrelevant mumblings from the top

The future

I fear that top management in all types of organizations is more disconnected from reality than ever. We can see that they are losing in trust all the time. The reason that they float away is not that they don’t get the information, because they gather information the best they can. It is because they live in another reality and filter what they see through their own perspectives and theories of the world, just confirming their own theories.

In the future I can see how many organizations are being “virtually decapitated” and reinvented starting from this gap. When top management “have left the building”, at least mentally, their role will be taken over by those who have relevant capabilities and perspective for the actual required work. I can imagine that in some organizations this has already happened, even if the top management still haven’t noticed it yet.