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Views from the Prairie

March 2024

The Illusion of Control

We all want control. We want control over our work environments, our home life, and even our emotions. The reality is that none of those can be controlled. We want the illusion of control even when we don't have it. Over and over again, people strive to project that they have everything under control when they really don't. Things go better when we give up the illusion of control and live in the scary dynamic world.

Henry Ford built a massive empire for making the Model T from growing rubber in Brazil to the factories in Michigan. He ran that empire with almost no middle management making most of the decisions himself. It worked for a time. After a while, it became obvious to the next generation that he was unable to manage it all himself.

"Strong Men" rulers can't admit to any weakness or failures. Their empire becomes more and more brittle as they strive to keep control.

Other leaders admit to failures, allow themselves to learn, and grow to be better leaders in the new situations. Some historians say that President Kennedy became a better president by learning from his early failures. His handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis used those lessons in humility he gained from the Bay of Pigs disaster.

Experiments have shown that when we think we have more control than we actually do, we take more risk, do less analysis of situations, and make less.

We do not have control much like a surfer does not have control over the wave. Instead, the surfer uses the control they have over their body to identify which wave to ride, ride the wave, and when to safely stop the ride. We have the same in business. In many cases, the best action to take is to wait. The surfer who waits for the right wave often will do a better ride. The business person who waits for the right opportunity often makes more in the long run.

Waiting for the right opportunity is not a passive waiting. Many times, a surfer will go out and practice with smaller waves. They work on their skills and get ready for the right wave.

The same is true in business. Apple under Steve Jobs waited for several years for the right opportunity which was found with the iPod. That waiting got the pieces ready for that opportunity.

Some actions that give the illusion of control are: doing the same thing over and over again not asking if they are truly beneficial, closely tracking data without asking if that data really reflects the most important metrics, making decisions just on data, or closely managing subordinates.

The illusion of control can keep us from properly acknowledging and learning from failures. Many ventures fail. Most businesses will fail at some time. Allowing ourselves to not be in control means recognizing that random events can cause business or venture or project failure. We can then learn from those random events.

Let's ride the "huge waves."

Professionals Still Needed

There are many new tools for developing words, images, and computer software. Many people have tried to use them to replace professional work. Lots of time, that is enough. But many times, professionals are still needed. Professionals can bring quality control and process control to create the desired results.

An event was held in Glascow, Scotland. Willy's Chocolate Experience was heavily written by AI. The website and promotional material included spelling errors that some suspected it to be total scam. Actors who were hired for the event said they were handed a script the day before. One actor called it "15 pages of AI-generated gibberish [.]." Sets were AI-generated images pinned to the walls. Not surprising, children were crying and many customers complained to the point that police were called to manage the crowd.

Many a business person has created a spreadsheet linking in data from multiple sources. Later, others have modified that spreadsheet inadvertently destroying the links. The result has been the wrong data in the calculations. But because the data looks to be almost correct, the calculations have passed on to the next level. Many, many spreadsheets have errors in them because of different people modifying them.

What professionals bring to the AI and technology fields are the abilities to evaluate the results and change them, the ability to manage how processes modify through the course of business life, and the discipline of how to deploy technology throughout an organization. AI and technology need to be managed so that they bring advantages to business, advantages beyond just speeding up one process.

Risky World

A recent report on potential shell companies noted "creative" ways that some companies are listed in a number of parts of the world. Many companies have directors who are over 123 years old and some with directors less than 5 years old. Another 22,000 companies have their registered address at the Egyptian pyramids.


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