The Enterprise Brain
This article is accompanied by a video that has more explanations. As such, I will be brief (for me - which is to say long-winded for anyone else).
Fundamentally, an enterprise combines the efforts of people leveraging systems to create value from some raw material for some customer base. But how does it do this? Lots of different things go into it, but at a very high level, running an enterprise, at all levels, involves the people finding a way to model the situation, anticipate the future, and constrain it by their actions in order to achieve their goals. Indeed this is what people do with their brains all the time. And perhaps because people do it this way, they architect their enterprises in the same way.
The implicit made explicit
The way we think is implicit to most of us most of the time. But the purpose of this article is to make this a bit more explicit. In particular, to notion though how we run our enterprises by thinking of them as cognitive systems designed and operated to anticipate and constrain the future to desired outcomes.
A limited drill down
We model the world situation at finite granularity in space and time. That is, we think at some level of abstraction about some set of things that change over time, but we don't model the things or time at the infinitesimal level of the granularity of the infinite dimensional Hilbert space that is the current model of the universe from physics.
The granularity of the model limits its fidelity with respect to reality, and the limits of our brain power limit the extent to which we can anticipate the future situation. We can use automation to enhance these things.
We act in the world, and our actions, through causality, constrain the future, in that they limit the possible totality of futures. However, everyone else and the rest of the things of the universe also act, whether through accident or intent, and thus also constrain the future.
The selection of our own actions is all we can directly do, but we also act to cause others to act, and this allows us to amplify our ability to constrain the future indirectly.
At the planning horizon(s) associated with our models, we then act at the available level of granularity to constrain the future to anticipated desired outcomes out of the totality of outcomes we can anticipate. Of course we are limited in our ability to anticipate and constrain, and we notion that God is the version of this without the limitations we ourselves have.
Human cognitive limits lead to decision-making
People are finite and bounded in time and space. This inherently limits our ability to make decisions. But in addition, the mechanisms of our decision-making have limits associated with the way we operate. The cognitive system we use involves a hierarchy of linkages between observations and actions, at the lowest levels involving our ability to perceive and reflexive and conditioned response. On top of this there are instinct, training, reasoning, expectations, and intent, each with its own particular mechanisms and limitations, including time frames for actions and complexity of action sequencing. We can instantly (most of us) back off of touching something really hot, but writing a paper, or running a business, takes a lot more time and consideration at multiple layers to get to the point where I am sitting in front of a computer display pushing my fingers on keys at a keyboard to convey concepts to you to help you grow your company.
In social context
Note that my writing of this article is in the context of a whole global society that has acted to create the systems I am using, the chair I am sitting in, the house I am working from, the roads, power, government, Internet, and so forth. All of these form an enormous social context in which we operate. It amplifies our influence, extending the situation we can anticipate and constrain, while making the minutia far harder to get to than it did in running a business making shoes in the 1800s. This also means that the sources of information feeding the model are dramatically different than they once were, and perhaps they will be changing very substantially in the future. This also drives time frames for decisions from the relatively rapid reflex to blink, to the 10-year horizon typically associated with starting, growing, and getting high value from a company. The overnight success after 10 years.
Organizational decision-making design
The available time for each decision combined with the consequences of mistakes drives large enterprise employees to take a very different perspective on this than the typical startup CEO, and that means that personalities and drivers associated with people make them more or less suitable for different tasks and organizational contexts. Many excellent startup CEOs are lousy at running a company as it scales, and vice versa.
The structure of decision-making in a company, including the time frames, roles and responsibilities, organizational structures, and operational modalities, combine with the cognitive abilities and perspectives of the people to form the enterprise brain, the designed overarching system that drives company success (or failure) and acts as a whole to anticipate and constrain the future of the enterprise over time.
A call to action
We help grow companies, which can be thought of as building the corporate brain (and strengthening its muscles and world interactions). Want a brain scan for your company?
Get a corporate brain scan, and see if you need an aspirin or surgery...
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