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Algorithms, the holy grail of efficiency, work well in predictable situations, and many organizations rely on them. But in a world where unpredictability is the new normal, serial entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan explains that efficiency is no longer the most-desired quality for businesses. Using case studies from various sectors, she outlines why human relationships and robust, albeit inefficient, systems better equip companies to tackle a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous future. Human attributes, though imperfect, remain the secret to success.

Summary


The quest for efficiency is counterproductive in an unpredictable environment.

To improve efficiency, a US grocery chain stopped allocating tasks to teams and instead employed an algorithm to assign work to employees. Upon completion of one task, each worker would ask the algorithm for another. The new system worked efficiently until the unexpected occurred – for example, when a customer dropped some eggs or knocked over a display. In such cases, the pursuit of efficiency gains is counterproductive as it impairs responses to unforeseen events.

“Ineradicable uncertainty” is the new normal.

Most experts don’t even attempt to forecast beyond 400 days into the future because the science of prediction has become more difficult. In recent decades, the world has become less complicated and more complex; that is...

About the Speaker

Author and lecturer Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur and business expert.


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