Beneficial Intelligence

Narrow Focus

August 20, 2021 Sten Vesterli Season 2 Episode 23
Beneficial Intelligence
Narrow Focus
Show Notes

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss the narrow focus of IT professionals. This is an unavoidable consequence of the complexity of the technology we use. We've had to learn to give our computers very exact instructions, and that informs our thinking. 

The app from my local supermarket is obviously built by people with a narrow focus. If I search for "sugar," the first hit is "pickled cucumber (sugar-free)." The Amazon app, on the other hand, is built by people with a wider focus. Whatever you search for, Amazon will always give you a suggestion. 

When IT organizations try to hire, they will come up with a long list of technologies and programming languages. Unfortunately, nobody matches the entire list, and no one is hired. Successful organizations instead ask for recommendations and interviews to find people with energy and willingness to learn. 

In the IT industry, we call something Artificial Intelligence if it can succeed at some very narrow task like recognizing cats in videos. Unfortunately, the word "intelligence" means something much wider to everyone else. When Tesla talks about "autopilot," they mean something that can stay on the road at a constant speed. In a narrow sense, a Tesla has an autopilot. In the wider sense, drivers expect that word to mean a car that drives itself. 

A narrow focus is a quality in an IT professional. There is no need to change them, and they do not get a wider focus by being sent on a User Experience (UX) boot camp or a three-day Product Owner course. Your teams need people with a wider focus. That's something that UX professionals and real product owners from the business can give you. That's why the best IT organizations employ anthropologists to study users. It is your job as an IT leader to ensure you have people with both narrow and broad focus. 

 

Beneficial Intelligence is a bi-weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders. To get in touch, please contact me at [email protected]