Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Chess and undistributed wisdom as compared to distributed wisdom

Chess and undistributed wisdom as compared to distributed wisdom

Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Tipping Point he talks about how family siblings specialize in certain area's of responsibilities taking ownership of certain skills. This was certainly the case in my family where my two boys Mike and Marc took over our Windows for Workgroup (ver 3.11) computer network. Their complementary style has earned them two positions at the corporation BioRad where they continue to have a certain shorthand when working together having specialized in different areas of knowledge.

This week at my job in IT I realized how specialized people have become in computer technology. There was a time in the early 1980's when I mastered everything there was to know about the IBM System 3. My favorite personal title was "IT Utility Infielder". But today it takes a team of IT people to do most projects because things are now so complex and areas of expertise are so narrow. Wisdom is distributed among many people. And when someone leaves the organization you realize that there are gaps until the replacement or the team covers the missing gaps.

Standards, especially International Standards like ISO, along with technical certifications like Microsoft MCSC "tool" an individual's head to think within boundaries and "tune" communication in a way that is understood by colleagues. Professionally, we are all becoming a brick in the wall; this is contrary to the old days when job descriptions in many cases were self defining and not standard. Yet this made it difficult to replace people and difficult for people to move. Globalization would not be successful unless we world citizens could communicate in the same terms about design, manufacturing, testing, acceptance, service, and logistics. This has lead to the commodization of the most complex goods, services, and employees from blue collar to knowledge workers. Our dependence upon infrastructural and logistic systems for delivery of food, shelter, clothing, utilities runs unnoticed except in a disaster when you realize that most pipelines have a maximum of four days supply.

Chess is contrary to these phenomenon: regardless of your support system when you sit down at the board to play a game you have only yourself to depend on. In spite of the 1600 years of group wisdom mankind has provided, you are on you own when playing a game. Elimination of the adjournments has ended all outside help while a game is in progress. This self reliance is kind of cool in such an integrated existence and makes a chess game a very special experience. When compared to above, chess is very contrary to most things in life.

Can you think of other situations in the world where ultimately the individual is self reliant in their actions and must be in command of as much as possible wisdom as possible in order to be successful?

Please Comment.

Thank You.

Mike Griffin


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