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Best Practices Growth Management Skills Technology

Turn Cognitive Challenges into Opportunities With Technology Built the Way You Think

By Daniel Burrus and Neil Smith

(In this blog series on how elevating cognitive performance is a game changer for organizations, I’ve invited Neil Smith, CTO at Think Outcomes, to join me in writing on this important topic due to his expertise and the cognitive performance software his firm has created.)

Technology can function as a key enabler for higher cognitive performance. Technology is as important for cognitive roles as it is for transactional ones, since cognitive work in organizations drives transactional tasks. With performance gains realized through transaction management software, the next game changer is to evolve the cognitive infrastructure in the operating model.

While machines learn, disrupt and occupy the defined and known cognitive tasks of humans across industries, technologies to advance cognitive performance in the mind and with teams have remained relatively stagnant to move uncertainties into higher certainty frameworks.

Professionals utilize many technologies in their cognitive work everyday, but were not built to advance their cognitive performance. These every day technologies include:

  • spreadsheets
  • presentation software
  • documents

The Tools Leaders use for Critical Thinking in your Organization Today

All too often, critical thinking runs through spreadsheets. You may be surprised to discover the collage of spreadsheets your enterprise utilizes in its operating model — hundreds and thousands of spreadsheets (depending on the size of your business).

With spreadsheets, it’s challenging to arrive at informed decisions with 85%+ effectiveness. It’s also challenging to manage future uncertainties with 50%+ effectiveness.

How Leaders Communicate with Stakeholders in your Organization Today

Beyond their voices, leaders and managers communicate with stakeholders primarily through multipurpose presentation software. A tremendous amount of time, money and effort is expended to build presentations as snapshots in time for stakeholders. Presentations to equity investors, lenders, internal management, operations teams and supply chain partners, among many others, do not provide a framework for dynamic communications that shape the thinking in the minds of your stakeholders. Their questions are all too often unresolved during meetings, which delay decisions. When additional meetings are scheduled, you resolve the initial questions from stakeholders without a clear understanding of the impact on outcomes.

Presentation software makes it challenging to communicate perspective and address stakeholder concerns in real time with 90% effectiveness.

How Stakeholder Expectations are Conveyed in your Organization Today

Professionals primarily express their expectations verbally. They also write them in reference documents that are accessed infrequently, such as job descriptions, performance reviews, supplier agreements and annual reports, to name a few.

As documents are not actionable frameworks, it’s challenging to achieve expectations in dependent thinking with 85%+ effectiveness.

Imagine if the Stock Market Operated the Way Business Operates Today

The stock graph transforms how you synthesize information in your mind to arrive at informed decisions. Let’s go back to the time when you couldn’t visualize stock graphs for your decisions. Before stock graphs existed, imagine you met with your wealth advisor who expected you to make decisions to invest your monies and said:

I’m glad you are interested in investing in the market. We have over 10,000 companies in our exchange. To help you make an informed decision, I’ll introduce you to the analysts; there are hundreds of them. Each of them will show you their spreadsheets. Then each will walk you through your options via presentations, while attempting to answer all your questions. I thought you’d want to know this will take time because the analysts structure their spreadsheets their own way; there isn’t any consistency between them. Nor is there consistency among their presentations. After you synthesize all this information in your mind, you should be in a position to arrive at an informed decision about how to best invest your monies.

If decision processes for investors worked that way, individuals could not make high-fidelity decisions effectively. They’d be attending a lot of meetings to gain insight. As a result, many stocks wouldn’t have performed as well and many portfolios wouldn’t have grown. Nor would have the market evolved as it has.

Yet this is Exactly How Decision Processes in Business Work Today

As executives continue to invest in their transactional operations over decades, it’s time they prioritize and invest in their cognitive operations. The technology in the transactional operations is far ahead of the technology in the cognitive operations. Yet the cognitive operations drive activity in the transactional operations.

Is ‘Being Human’ Enough Today in the Cognitive Era?

Historic methods to advance critical thinking and stakeholder communications using human mental models, past experiences, personal networks and fundamental analytics are no longer enough in today’s business world. As machines increasingly coexist with humans, anticipatory tools and advanced performance analytics are needed to survive, differentiate and grow businesses and their professionals.

Learn how to elevate your planning, accelerate innovation and transform results with The Anticipatory Leader System and how to maximize the cognitive performance of your team with Cognitive Performance Software.

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Best Practices Growth Industries Management Skills Technology

Eliminate Cognitive Friction to Maximize Human Performance

By Daniel Burrus and Neil Smith

(In this blog series on how elevating cognitive performance is a game changer for organizations, I’ve invited Neil Smith, CTO at Think Outcomes, to join me in writing on this important topic due to his expertise and the cognitive performance software his firm has created.)

Improving cognitive performance is a strategic imperative for anticipatory leaders. Yet, cognitive performance slows down due to cognitive friction. Cognitive friction occurs when professionals can’t think through uncertainties clearly in their minds. These uncertainties include:

  1. Risks
  2. Opportunities
  3. Outcomes
  4. Consequences
  5. Implications
  6. Impact
  7. Causations
  8. Causes and effects

In an organization, cognitive friction occurs frequently across many professional roles, minds and perspectives. For the 15 areas in a cognitive operation below, cognitive friction not only spans many responsibilities, it also impacts relationships and shapes cultures.

15 Areas of a Cognitive Operation

Cognitive Friction Across Perspectives

Cognitive friction occurs when two or more professionals are challenged to get on the same page. They must resolve their perspectives — which can be very challenging. In business, professionals:

  • Perform critical thinking
  • Make decisions
  • Communicate with stakeholders
  • Collaborate with other professionals
  • React to uncertainties
  • Work with peers and stakeholders to address situational challenges
  • Advise other professionals about their cognitive work
  • Evaluate the thoroughness to think through situations in the minds of their thinkers
  • Review the risk-reward trade-offs among their team members

Cognitive Friction Within the Mind of a Professional

Cognitive friction exists within the minds of professionals and creates undue stress. The six reasons friction occurs is due to:

  1. The processing limitations in the mind
  2. Ineffective communications
  3. Unproductive collaborations
  4. Uncertainties in their minds
  5. Lack of cognitive insights and foresights
  6. Bias that leads to cognitive divisiveness


Processing Limitations in the Mind

When processing multiple data points in the mind, cognitive work can become a highly stressful activity. It’s amazing how many leaders are not equipped with cognitive tools to manage uncertainty across situations, close their knowledge gaps and achieve expected results. When a situation includes more than seven variables, it’s well-known that the human mind is not able to process this level of complexity. Think how we receive, process and remember phone numbers. Our minds are not wired to synthesize 10 or more digits at a time. In the U.S., people think about the 10 digits in a pattern of a 3-digit area code, a 3-digit prefix and 4-digits for the line number; our minds consume, process and recall smaller chunks of information.

Try this exercise in your mind to see how complexity increases quickly: spin all the digits of five phone numbers in your mind as if the numbers were on a slot machine. Can you keep track of the numbers? Most of us cannot; our minds get overwhelmed right away.

When multiple changing variables exist, that’s the type of stress professionals experience every day in their minds as they perform their risk-reward trade-offs. Without additional cognitive capabilities, leaders turn to their gut as a place to find answers; often, though, the gut isn’t a very good logic engine. Operating risk is introduced when critical thinkers and decision makers do not have access to complementary, cognitive tools to perform their cognitive activities at their best.

Effective Communications Accelerate Buy-in and Decisions

The challenges increase further for critical thinkers and decision makers when they communicate with their stakeholders, peers and dependents to gain agreement about multiple, interdependent variables. These heterogeneous thinkers add new perspectives to the decision process, which increases the complexity.

That’s when members of decision teams communicate from their emotional viewpoints. Decisions stall, lasting impressions impact culture and relationships, and people experience an impasse.

Productive Collaborations are Needed to Achieve Better Outcomes

Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom represent a step forward in collaboration and reduce travel costs. Yet, as professionals move between face-to-face and online meetings, they still struggle to innovate with breakthrough thinking.

Often, we hear professionals say, “if I could see what’s in the minds of the people I’m working with, that would help me address the challenges I’m aware of, too.” Yet, given human limitations, most professionals can’t bridge that gap effectively. If meetings involved the ability to demonstrate thinking patterns, that would help professionals overcome this human hurdle.

As professionals join meetings, they commonly bring their mental models and biases from years of experience. Their mental models create barriers to synthesizing other people’s perspectives as well as new ways of thinking into their own thinking. Where they use their voices and presentation software to convey their thinking, most attendees try to follow the logic rather than elevate their own thinking. If they had a way to unify their thinking through the visualization of evidence that focused on addressing questions of uncertainty and their critical thoughts, they’d optimize their time, learn to pre-solve issues and focus on better outcomes together. That would advance productivity in thinking in a visual way.

When professionals conclude their meetings with follow-on questions, leaders wonder which questions weren’t brought up? Are their teams going down the wrong paths? How do these questions connect to the stakeholders’ objectives? Are they considering the Hard Trends based on future facts that are shaping the future? Professionals expend valuable time to get to clarity as they reflect on their learnings when they need insights and foresights more quickly. Anticipatory leaders seek to institute advanced collaboration processes that yield greater productivity among their teams. They see everyday innovation and breakthrough thinking as a competitive advantage today as well as tomorrow.

Uncertainties, Cognitive Insights and Foresights

As connected teams in today’s data-driven world, data scientists and stakeholders strive for better outcomes together. Where data scientists focus on big data and use machine learning to ask questions about data, stakeholders focus on decision information and ask questions to solve situational challenges. The minds of stakeholders are as effective as the:

  1. Quality of their questions to resolve their problems and uncertainties
  2. Cognitive insights and foresights that arise from their mental models

Bias and Cognitive Divisiveness

In the minds of professionals, cognitive friction results from their cognitive biases and the synthesis of disparate data. Cognitive divisiveness exists among professionals as data synthesis and bias differ across perspectives. Cognitive friction and divisiveness affect velocity and outcomes.

In their roles, professionals:

  • Are often unable to access data structured the way they think about risk-reward trade-offs
  • Don’t know what they don’t know during decision making
  • Are challenged many times to demonstrate their points of view
  • Are frequently challenged to see alternative points of view during communications
  • Struggle to shape the thinking of team members due to predefined mental models
  • Are challenged to arrive at strategic foresights and engineer outcomes

A Critical Thinking Advantage

To gain an advantage in today’s world, cognitive teams must pre-solve issues through a continuous flow of cognitive insights and foresights. To achieve their objectives, they must find new wisdom within the cognitive gaps in their minds — i.e., to get from “here” to “there.” “Here” is where they are today in context to their cognitive responsibilities. “There” is where they need to go. This cognitive gap represents their current state and target state of their subject profiles. Their stakeholders depend on actionable knowledge and wisdom from their team of thinkers to improve business results. This starts with the capabilities of their cognitive resources and tools.

Learn how to elevate your planning, accelerate innovation and transform results with The Anticipatory Learning System and how to maximize the cognitive performance of your team with Cognitive Performance Software.

Categories
Best Practices Growth Personal Development Technology

A Strategic Imperative for Anticipatory Leaders Is Cognitive Performance

By Daniel Burrus and Neil Smith

(In this blog series on how elevating cognitive performance is a game changer for organizations, I’ve invited Neil Smith, CTO at Think Outcomes, to join me in writing on this important topic due to his expertise and the cognitive performance software his firm has created.)

AI and cognitive computing have grabbed headlines. Yet, anticipatory leaders know that the elevation of cognitive performance among teams is key to maximize results. Leaders need to help their teams of professionals improve how they envision opportunities, manage downside risks and achieve greater results. Cognitive computing has to do more than deliver data-driven insights to their minds. It must help teams shape outcomes, act on implications and professionalize role-based, cerebral processes in the form of software processes. That’s where cognitive performance is front and center.

Cognitive performance involves how well professionals perform their cognitive work. Specifically, how they:

  • Establish vision
  • Identify problems
  • Ask questions of uncertainty
  • Arrive at critical thoughts
  • Analyze situations
  • Synthesize information
  • Reason
  • Judge
  • Solve problems
  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Define follow-on actions

They perform these cerebral activities with their thoughts and their communications. These mini processes in their minds are nondeterministic and lead to decisions within organizations. As machine learning and deep learning move into organizations, professionals who want to increase their cognitive performance must step up their game at the same time. They must center their attention on addressing uncertainties and advance their abilities to identify and create greater certainty. In doing so, they must raise their levels of quality in decision-making processes and stakeholder communication processes that take place in their minds. Their stakeholders, customers, suppliers, employees and their industries depend on it. The status quo of gut-based decision making and misunderstandings among viewpoints leads to operational inefficiencies and monetary waste in downstream activities.

Change is accelerating in business, which creates more uncertainties that find their way into enterprises across all functional responsibilities — in strategies, integration, operations, supply chains, human resources, research, engineering, finance, process management, product management and consulting, to name a few. Today, cognitive performance is based on role-based experience, learning, frequency, recency and luck — all of which vary from role to role and person to person.

The cognitive activities in the minds of professionals are ripe for optimization. Optimization is possible by learning anticipatory skills and applying cognitive performance technologies.

The human mind is limited when it is engaged to:

  • Structure decision data
  • Process situational information
  • Store organized knowledge
  • Recall situations with specificity
  • Understand alternative viewpoints
  • Engineer outcomes with greater clarity

Although these are human limitations, the mind is extendable through the use of computing, which does a very good job of augmenting the mind for these activities. In today’s era of cognitive computing, the human mind can benefit from a digital extension to achieve the cognitive capabilities it cannot — and does not — realize on its own.

At work, professionals who think for a living formulate how to execute their work in their minds. They’ve built their cognitive expertise over time through on-the-job experiences and homegrown cerebral processes.

Business operations are both transactional and cognitive

Before transactional software systems codified the operating processes of transactional work into the business infrastructure – i.e., ERP, SCM and CRM processes – organizations created homegrown processes and systems to manage their transactional operations. ERP, SCM and CRM systems optimized task-oriented processes before, during and after a customer transaction within organizations, in supply chains and in demand chains. As a result, the transactional side of the operating model has become relatively frictionless.

Today’s friction exists within the minds of professionals on the cognitive side of the operating model. A key to future success is to eliminate this friction. That’s where anticipatory skills, combined with cognitive performance software, comes into play.

Learn how to elevate your planning, accelerate innovation and transform results with The Anticipatory Learning System and how to maximize the cognitive performance of your team with Cognitive Performance Software.

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