Does your organization have the intelligence it needs to survive and thrive? This post examines the key requirements organizations need to address in order to establish the continuous intelligence that fuels rapid adaption and long-term success in our dynamic business environments.
How do you define intelligence?
“Intelligence” is one of the most commonly used words, but I’d argue it’s also one of the most commonly misunderstood. Whether in the dining room or the board room, conversations around intelligence often wander into subjective territory, with each participant having a very different definition in mind.
Even the way we seek to measure intelligence is the subject of debate. For decades, standardized IQ tests, which is what exams like the SAT and ACT inherently are, have been one of the primary determinants of college admission. But many have come to the conclusion that these standardized tests are ineffective measures of intelligence.
Many psychologists characterize intelligence as the ability to learn from experience, recognize problems, and solve problems. In defining intelligence, the influential psychologist Jean Piaget placed a strong emphasis on adaptation. He wrote “Intelligence is assimilation to the extent that it incorporates all the given data of experience within its framework... …There can be no doubt either, that mental life is also accommodation to the environment.”
From an evolutionary theory standpoint, an ability to adapt is what separates the species that thrive from those that don’t. Which brings me to the key point: For today’s enterprises, the only intelligence that really matters is the continuous intelligence that enables an organization to survive and thrive in an ever-changing environment. How do you promote this organizational intelligence? In the following sections, I’ll look at three key requirements.
Continuous Intelligence from Diverse Sources
When faced with a big decision, are these the kinds of considerations you tend to make?
- Today is the best day to become intelligent.
- Today is the day when I will consume all the relevant information about the topics I care about so I can make intelligent decisions.
- Today I will study all the relevant information patterns to analyze risks.
Although we may think of our decision making as a singular event, in reality it is a result of many sub processes that are being carried out constantly, even when we don’t need them or give them any thought.
Intelligent decision making isn’t a point-in-time phenomenon. Instead, you want to establish a system or process that enables you to keep gathering and analyzing relevant information from a diverse set of sources. You want a system that enables you to track important events and their results. In this way, you can better assess risks and rewards and arrive at the most intelligent decision when it matters most.
The constant flow of relevant information, the storage and categorization of this information into an event-outcome model is at the heart of intelligent decision making. These capabilities are now a must-have for organizations.
Business environments are changing faster than ever, which means having a 360-degree view of data generated by all sources is vital. A business leader will typically be well aware of the data that is generated by such touchpoints as e-commerce or mobile applications. However, there is another layer of intelligence that is usually ignored or hidden from those looking for insights.
One such layer is based on various network touch points. Often, these are considered to be technical touch points that aren’t relevant, let alone critical, to the business. However, this is an outdated perspective.
Intelligent Planning and Management
How many times have you faced a situation that you’d imagined may happen, but had completely failed to plan for?
Having information from all relevant sources is only one part of the puzzle. Using that information to plan future maneuvers, prepare for disasters, and so on is the next vital step for an intelligent organization. Contrary to popular belief, many disasters do provide advance warning. Too often, the problem is that we fail to read those warning signals and plan for possible scenarios so we can respond when needed.
In intelligent organizations, teams don’t just plan based on the information that is “visible,” but also on that which is hidden under some layers. Fundamentally, you need to have best-of-breed planning tools to make intelligent decisions with agility.
To do intelligent planning, you need to manage information, and you also need to understand the availability and capability of the resources at your disposal. With clear visibility of the right resources, you can better understand their relative strengths and weaknesses, and identify the situations and approaches for optimizing their use.
Another aspect of intelligent planning is the need to identify risk beforehand and have mitigation strategies in place. A risk can be prioritized based on its probability of occurrence and the potential damage it can inflict. If an organization is caught blindsided by a known risk, and lacks mitigation strategies, the damage to a brand’s reputation can be long lasting, if not permanent.
For us as individuals, it is difficult to prepare for all the potential planned and unplanned scenarios that may arise. However, when it comes to organizations, it is easier to identify some of the biggest and most challenging circumstances that may present themselves. Too often, leaders make the mistake of failing to plan and test for those scenarios, hoping that the worst won’t ever arise. However, it’s precisely these times that can separate the best from the rest.
For example, over the past year, you can find plenty of news about companies encountering system failures due to spikes in demand. This is especially true for organizations in such industries as telecom and finance. Many times, teams didn’t even dare to switch to their disaster recovery environment because they feared that those systems weren’t ready for the disaster. Without testing, all the value of continuous intelligence and sophisticated planning can be eliminated. Further, a lack of testing can leave your decision-making processes prone to error and biases, and leave the business exposed to irrevocable harm, whether to reputation, earnings, or both.
In an era of digital interactions and social media scrutiny, no organization can afford to look like a sitting duck. Success today is about much more than having a presence on mobile devices, wearables, and smart speakers. Teams need continuous intelligence that enables effective adaptation to a constantly changing landscape and an ability to solve problems before competitors exploit them. Thankfully, with the right approaches and technologies, organizations can gain this intelligence. By establishing continuous intelligence based on a diverse set of relevant information, leveraging this information to do intelligent decision making, and validating plans and assumptions, teams can position their organizations to adapt with the efficacy and agility that the future will require.