Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the category “Knowledge Management”

Collective Intelligence as a ‘Killer App.’: Goldman Sachs

A few years back I read an unauthorised article on Goldman Sachs that highlighted one of their core strengths as their management information systems. I’ve been a little obsessed by them ever since, and was delighted to read the Sunday Times magazine 8/11/9 feature article ‘Inside the goldmine’. Of particular interest was the journalist, John Arlidge’s, observations on how the people inside Goldmans work together.

The importance of all specialist and management information systems to the firm is undoubted from a review of the Technology section of their corporate site.  ‘We think we make better decisions’, Liz Beshel Goldman’s Global Treasurer is quoted as saying ….. with $1 trillion a day flowing across the balance sheet. The “mark to market” pricing of the bank’s assets on a daily basis highlighted a trend that led to the decision by the bank to reduce its exposure to the housing and mortgage markets in advance of most other players. Its losses from the mortgage sector following the credit crunch were $1.7bn – lower than any other investment bank.

Arlidge notes however that Goldman is not about individual benefit: “it’s a team effort”. ‘When Goldman gets behind something, everyone in the giant hive wants a piece of the action’.

This reference to giant hive led me to Dušan Teodorović and Mauro Dell’ Orco’s paper on ‘Bee colony optimization – a cooperative learning approach…’ where they note that ‘various natural systems teach us that very simple individual organisms can create systems able to perform highly complex tasks by dynamically interacting with each other’, contrary to ‘a great number of traditional engineering models and algorithms used to solve complex problems [that] are based on control and centralisation.’

Obviously not composed of simple individual organisms, the conclusion that ‘these communication systems between individual insects contribute to the formation of the “collective intelligence” of the social insect colonies’, seemed to tie in to Arlidge’s observations. Read more…

Why Talking to Yourself Might be The Highest Form of Intelligence

Network Neurons 1 - Gerard79

Network Neurons 1 - Gerard79

Have you ever found yourself asking someone a question you’ve been puzzling over for a long time, only to come up with the answer half way through asking the question?

At Madgex, the developers refer back to an old beer advert for John Smiths when trying to solve problems. They find that when they need help, just calling someone over and explaining the problem to them often gives them the answer half way through. The cardboard cut-out of the man in the advert to stand behind them is thought to be all that is required when a coding or logic issue arises rather than a real person.

So, what’s happening and how can this observation shed light on why vision and goal setting works?

At its core, when you ask someone something you consciously articulate it. You explain it and frame the issue for the person. Most importantly however, you explain it and (re)frame it for yourself. You give direction to your other-than-conscious very clearly. Now you may question why actually articulating something gives any different result to just sitting there unspeakingly struggling with the question.

Two things. First, in giving words to (or writing onto paper) an issue and adding the clarity and clarifications required to make something understandable to someone else has the same impact on your other-than-conscious. You may think that you’re being clear about an issue in your head, but you rarely are. You’re more likely to be half articulating the issue and then immediately looping into the  same consciously derived result you keep on getting which is failing to remove the problem or blocker.

And this is the second point. By talking to yourself (again, words or paper is good – words may be better because of how unusual you may experience the sensation), your conscious brain gives a clear set of instructions to your other-than-conscious brain. You ask yourself the question and often answer it very quickly yourself because the totality of your resources (conscious and unconscious) are now engaged to a common endeavour (and in most cases, you knew the answer to the problem: it just needed unlocking by you being clear with yourself)

Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor takes the essence of this a big step further in her book, My Stroke of Insight, when she says ‘From my perspective, the focused human mind is the most powerful instrument in the universe, and through the use of language, our left brain is capable of directing (or impeding) our physical healing and recovery

On a connected use of articulation (left brain/ right brain), related to my previous post on  rules for personal productivity, some great advice from Harvard Business on How to Write To-Do Lists that Work – the second section is all about providing sufficient detail in a ‘to-do’ on a to do list as you would if you were instructing a personal assistant.

Other linked posts:

Questioning Yourself as a Higher Form of Talking to Yourself? – does the apparent weakness of self-questioning hide a better problem solving technique?

Talking to Myself Again – communicating to yourself as stress relief

Creativity and the Business Brain (and why most of us should be sacked) – talking to yourself is good for framing the blockers, with diffuse day-dreaming as the really creative stuff?

The Relationship between Conscious and Unconscious and the Next Stage of My Journey

Finally, I’m finishing Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind. I feel like i’ve been on an epic journey.

I’m changed materially by what I have read. This blog probably evidences this in as good a way as any. As such, completing the book marks a shift in my needs and wants for this blog (and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever particularly pandered to anything other than this in JST)

‘….an image of the mind as ‘the theatre of consciousness’, a brightly illuminated stage on which the action of mental life takes place; or perhaps as a well-lit office in which sits an intelligent manager, coolly weighing evidence, making decisions, solving problems and issuing orders. In this executive den, human intelligence, consciousness and identity come together: they are, in effect, one and the same thing. ‘I’ am the manager. ‘I’ work in the light. I have access to all the files that comprise my ‘intelligence’.

What I cannot see, or see into, either does not exist, or is mere ‘matter’, the dumb substance of the body that can do nothing of any interest on its own. It may manage certain menial operations like digestion, respiration and circulation without supervision; but to do anything clever it has to wait for instructions from head office.

This image continues to animate and channel our sense of our own psychology, of our potentials and resources…..

……and it is wrong in every respect’

– Guy Claxton, Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind (emphasis added)

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