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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Five Disconnects of Organizational Intelligence

There are several capabilities that add up to intelligence. Full intelligence cannot be achieved if any of these capabilities are lacking, or if they are out of balance, or if they are not connected and coordinated.

In this blogpost, I am going to identify five key disconnects of organizational intelligence - these are common patterns of impaired intelligence, which produce various forms of organizational stupidity.

1. From practice to fact

Practice and policy is based on belief rather than evidence. The organization faithfully follows standard textbook routines, optimistically believing these to be "best practices", but without collecting data to objectively verify and improve the effectiveness of these practices. Triumph of hope over experience.

2. From fact to interpretation

Relevant information is gathered and available, but is not properly analyzed and understood. Failure to "connect the dots" (as in President Obama's recent criticism of US security).

3. From interpretation to action

Detailed analysis is carried out, but the organization lacks the ability to convert understanding into action. This may be a sign of "analysis paralysis" or procrastination.

4. From action to learning

The organization repeats actions without improvement. There is a lack of self-awareness. No feedback loop, so improvements in performance are haphazard and unremarkable.

5. From learning to practice

Lessons are learned on paper, at an abstract intellectual level, but these are not translated into an authentic transformation of working practices. People are able to say what they have learned, and can articulate a plausible theory of what they should be doing or might be doing, but they seem unable to deploy their learning in real situations.

As you may have noticed, these five form a neat circle. But these are not the only disconnects we can identify, and there are many other symptoms of lacking organizational intelligence.

If and only if there is a collective willingness to address any or all of these disconnects, then and only then does it make sense to look at technologies (such as Business Intelligence tools multiplied by Enterprise 2.0) that might help people and organizations to improve their individual and collective intelligence.

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