Monday, June 29, 2020

Bold, Restless Experimentation

In his latest speech, invoking the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Michael Gove calls for bold, restless experimentation.

Although one of Gove's best known pronouncements was his statement during the Brexit campaign that people in this country have had enough of experts ..., Fraser Nelson suggests he never intended this to refer to all experts: he was interrupted before he could specify which experts he meant.

Many of those who share Gove's enthusiasm for disruptive innovation also share his ambivalence about expertise. Joe McKendrick quotes Valar Afshar of DisrupTV: If the problem is unsolved, it means there are no experts.

Joe also quotes Michael Sikorsky of Robots and Pencils, who links talent, speed of decision and judgement, and talks about pushing as much of the decision rights as possible right to the edge of the organization. Meanwhile, Michael Gove also talks about diversifying the talent pool - not only a diversity of views but also a diversity of skills.

In some quarters, expertise means centralized intelligence - for example, clever people in Head Office. The problems with this model were identified by Harold Wilensky in his 1967 book on Organizational Intelligence, and explored more rigorously by David Alberts and his colleagues in CCRP, especially under the Power To The Edge banner.

Expertise also implies authority and permission; so rebellion against expertise can also take the form of permissionless innovation. Adam Thierer talks about the tinkering and continuous exploration that takes place at multiple levels, while Bernard Stiegler talks about disinhibition - a relaxation of constraints leading to systematic risk-taking.
Elevating individual talent over collective expertise is a risky enterprise. Malcolm Gladwell calls this the Talent Myth, while Stiegler calls it Madness. For further discussion and links, see my post Explaining Enron.

Michael Gove, The Privilege of Public Service (Ditchley Annual Lecture, 27 June 2020)

Henry Mance, Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove (Financial Times, 3 June 2016)

Fraser Nelson, Don't ask the experts (Spectator, 14 January 2017)

Bernard Stiegler, The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism (Polity Press, 2019). Review by John Reader (Postdigital Science and Education, 2019).

Adam Thierer, Permissionless Innovation (Mercatus Center, 2014/2016)

Related posts: Demise of the Superstar (August 2004), Power to the Edge (December 2005), Explaining Enron (January 2010), Enemies of Intelligence (May 2010), The Ethics of Disruption (August 2019)

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