“Recognize that the talent is going to lead you into the future.”
The increasing ubiquity of artificial intelligence and decisioning systems means there will be fewer humans in the loop when it comes to decision-making. However, it is not replacing humans — they are still needed — it is freeing them from the hierarchical, command-and-control systems that have characterized typical organizations.
Michael J. Sikorsky, CEO and co-founder Robots and Pencils, sees a world where AI and technology are operating autonomously, with little need for continuous oversight. This is increasingly the case with human talent as well, he explained in a recent appearance on DisrupTV, hosted by R. “Ray” Wang and Vala Ashfar. “AIs don’t ask for permission,” Sikorsky says. “I also think that the next generation of talent aren’t ready to ask for permission either. We’re in the fourth industrial revolution. First you have the technology that comes to disrupt, but first you have to your business model. And underneath that you have to disrupt your organizational design.”
Such an organizational design can be the competitive advantage, and offers optimal speed. What will this new organizational design look like? Sikorsky, who practices what he preaches within his own company, envisions a “permissionless” organization that encourages constant innovation and experimentation, initiated and owned by employees, with minimal management overhead.
The idea of permissionless innovation was explored in detail several years ago by Adam Thierer, professor with George Mason University and author of Permissionless Innovation. “Permissionless innovation refers to the tinkering and continuous exploration that takes place at multiple levels — from professional designed to amateur coders, from large content companies to dorm-room bloggers, from nationwide communications and broadband infrastructure providers to small community network builders,” he writes. “Permissionless innovation is about the creativity of the human mind to run wild in its inherent curiosity and inventiveness.”
“Humans are poor substitutes for robots,” Sikorsky says. “As we shift from the third to the fourth industrial revolutions, “we want humans to be even more uniquely human, more than a job function role. Recognize that the talent is going to lead you into the future.”
Sikorsky states there are three basic key performance indicators that form the backbone of permissionless organizations:
Speed of decisions. This is enabled by trust, he emphasizes.
Judgement. “When people ask me what’s the secret KPI for the growth of Robots and Pencils, it’s the speed at which we grow our talents’ judgement.”
Measuring entrepreneurial thinking. This is enabled through “pushing as much of the decision rights as possible right to the edge of the organization, and how do you follow that talent with technology.”
How do you stay teachable? Sikorsky echoed the sentiment expressed by Tom Peters, who led off the DisrupTV, that no one really knows the answers. Every organization — and their leaders — is learning as they go along. As Afshar pointed out, “If the problem is unsolved, it means there are no experts.”
In addition, “you don’t need permission to start a company,” Sikorsky said. “No one will stop you.” But remember, he continues, “all the answers are in the talent. How you lay down the talent that will lead you into the future, so that you, the management, can get out of the way.”