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Human beings are a strange kind of creatures. We think we make a decision based on logic, and we think we act based on logic. In reality, however, we do not like to change, if it does not feel good, and we are lazy in changing our habits.
Disclaimer: It is a generalization which is valid for 99 % of the population. So if you feel offended by the previous statement, be happy as you are one of the happy few.
Our inability to change can be seen in the economy (only the happy few share). We see it in relation to global climate change. We see it in territorial fights all around the world.
Owning instead of sharing. ?
The cartoon below gives an interesting insight how personal interests are perceived more important than general interest.
It is our brain !
More and more I realize that the success of PLM is also related to his human behavior; we like to own and find it difficult to share. PLM primarily is about sharing data through all stages of the lifecycle. A valid point why sharing is rare , is that current PLM systems and their infrastructures are still too complex to deliver shared information with ease. However, the potential benefits are clear when a company is able to transform its business into a sharing model and therefore react and anticipate much faster on the outside world.
But sharing is not in our genes, as:
- In current business knowledge is power. Companies fight for their IP; individuals fight for their job security by keeping some specific IP to themselves.
- As a biological organism, composed of a collection of cells, we are focused on survival of our genes. Own body/family first is our biological message.
Breaking these habits is difficult, and I will give some examples that I noticed the past few weeks. Of course, it is not completely a surprise for readers of my blog, as a large number of my recent posts are related to the complexity of change. Some are related to human behavior:
Ed Lopategui, an interesting PLM blogger, see http://eng-eng.com, wrote a long comment to my PLM and Blockers post. The (long) quote below is exactly describing what makes PLM difficult to implement within a company full of blockers :
“I also know that I was focused on doing the right thing – even if cost me my position; and there were many blockers who plotted exactly that. I wore that determination as a sort of self-imposed diplomatic immunity and would use it to protect my team and concentrate any wrath on just myself. My partner in that venture, the chief IT architect admitted on several occasions that we wouldn’t have been successful if I had actually cared what happened to my position – since I had to throw myself and the project in front of so many trains. I owe him for believing in me.
But there was a balance. I could not allow myself to reach a point of arrogance; I would reserve enough empathy for the blockers to listen at just the right moments, and win them over. I spent more time in the trenches than most would reasonably allow. It was a ridiculously hard thing and was not without an intellectual and emotional cost.
In that crucible, I realized that finding people with such perspective (putting the ideal above their own position) within each corporation is *exceptionally* rare. People naturally don’t like to jump in front of trains. It can be career-limiting. That’s kind of a problem, don’t you think? It’s a limiting factor without a doubt, and not one that can be fulfilled with consultants alone. You often need someone with internal street cred and long-earned reputation to push through the tough parts”
Ed concludes that it is exceptionally rare to find people putting the ideal above their own position. Again referring to the opening statement that only a (happy) few are advocates for change
Now let´s look at some facts why it is exceptionally rare, so we feel less guilty.
Although it was not the easiest book to read during a holiday, it was well written considering the complexity of the topic discussed. Jeff describes how the information architecture of the brain could work based on the neocortex layering.
In his model, he describes how the brain processes information from our senses, first in a specific manner but then more and more in an invariant approach. You have to read the book to get the full meaning of this model. The eye opener for me was that Jeff described the brain as a prediction engine. All the time the brain anticipates what is going to happen, based on years of learning. That’s why we need to learn and practice building and enrich this information model.
And the more and more specialized you are on a particular topic, it can be knowledge but it can also be motoric skill, the deeper in the neocortex this pattern is anchored. This makes is hard to change (bad) practices.
The book goes much further, and I was reading it more in the context of how artificial intelligence or brain-like intelligence could support the boring PLM activities. I got nice insights from it, However the main side observation was; it is hard to change our patterns. So if you are not aware of it, your subconscious will always find reasons to reject a change. Follow the predictions !
Thinking Fast and Slow
And this is exactly the connection with another book I have read before: Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman. Daniel explains that our brain is running its activities on two systems:
System 1: makes fast and automatic decisions based on stereotypes and emotions. System 1 is what we are using most of the time, running often in subconscious mode. It does not cost us much energy to run in this mode.
System 2: takes more energy and time; therefore, it is slow and pushes us to be conscious and alert. Still system 2 can be influenced by various external, subconscious factors.
Thinking Fast and Slow nicely complements On Intelligence, where system 1 described by Daniel Kahneman is similar to the system Jeff Hawkins describes as the prediction engine. It runs in an subconscious mode, with optimal energy consumption allowing us to survive most of the time.
Fast thinking leads to boiling frogs
And this links again to the boiling frog syndrome. If you are not familiar with the term follow the link. In general it means that people (and businesses) are not reacting on (life threating) outside change when it goes slowly, but would react immediately if they are confronted with the end result. (no more business / no more competitive situation)
Conclusion: our brain by default wants to keep business in predictive mode, so implementing a business change is challenging, as all changes are painful and against our subconscious system.
So PLM is doomed, unless we change our brain behavior ?
The fact that we are not living in caves anymore illustrates that there have been always those happy few that took a risk and a next step into the future by questioning and changing comfortable habits. Daniel Kahneman´s system 2 and also Jeff Hawkins talk about the energy it takes to change habits, to learn new predictive mechanisms. But it can be done.
I see two major trends that will force the classical PLM to change:
- The amount of connected data becomes so huge, it does not make sense anymore to store it and structure the information in a single system. The time required to structure data does not deliver enough ROI in a fast moving society. The old “single system that stores all”-concept is dying.
- The newer generations (generation Y and beyond) grew up with the notion that it is impossible to learn, capture and own specific information. They developed different skills to interpret data available from various sources, not necessary own and manage it all.
These two trends lead to the point where it becomes clear that the future in system thinking becomes obsolete. It will be about connectivity and interpretation of connected data, used by apps, running on a platform. The openness of the platform towards other platform is crucial and will be the weakest link.
The PLM vision is not doomed and with a new generations of knowledge workers the “brain change” has started. The challenge is to implement the vision across systems and silos in an organization. For that we need to be aware that it can be done and allocate the “happy few” in your company to enable it.
What do you think ???????????????????????????
The brain has become popular in the Netherlands in the past two years. Brain scientists have been publishing books sharing their interpretations on various topics of human behavior and the brain. Common theme of all: The brain is influencing your perceptions, thoughts and decisions without you even being aware of it.
Some even go that far by claiming certain patterns in the brain can be a proof if you have a certain disorder. It can be for better or for worse.
“It was not me that committed this crime; it was my brain and more…”
Anyway this post will be full of quotes as I am not the brain expert, still giving the brain an important role (even in PLM)
“My brain? That´s my second favorite organ” – Woody Allen
It is good to be aware of the influence of the brain. I wrote about this several times in the past, when discussing PLM vendor / implementer selection or when even deciding for PLM. Many of my posts are related to the human side of justifying and implementing PLM.
As implementing PLM for me primary is a business change instead of a combination of IT-tools to implement, it might be clear that understanding the inhibitors for PLM change are important to me.
In the PLM communities, we still have a hard job to agree between each other what is the meaning of PLM and where it differs from ERP. See for example this post and in particular the comments on LinkedIn (if you are a member of this group): PLM is a business process, not a (software) tool
And why it is difficult for companies to implement PLM beside ERP (and not as an extension of ERP) – search for PLM and ERP and you find zillions of thoughts and answers (mine too).
The brain plays a major role in the Why PLM we have ERP battle (blame the brain). A week ago I read an older publication from Charles Roxburgh (published in May 2003 for McKinsey) called: Hidden flaws in strategy subtitle: Can insights from behavioral economics explain why good executives back bad strategies. You can read, hear and download the full article here if you are a registered user.
The article has been written long before the financial and global crises were on the agenda and Mr. Roxburgh describes 8 hidden flaws that influence our strategic decision making (and PLM is a strategy). I recommend all of you to read the full article, so the quotes I will be making below will be framed in the bigger picture as described by Mr. Roxburgh. Note all quotes below are from his publication.
Flaw 1: Overconfidence
We often make decisions with too much confidence and optimism as the brain makes us feel overconfident and over optimistic about our own capabilities.
Flaw 2: Mental accounting
Avoiding mental accounting traps should be easier if you adhere to a basic rule: that every pound (or dollar or euro) is worth exactly that, whatever the category. In this way, you will make sure that all investments are judged on consistent criteria and be wary of spending that has been reclassified. Be particularly skeptical of any investment labeled “strategic.”
Here I would relate to the difference in IT-spending and budget when you compare ERP and PLM. ERP spending is normal (or strategic) where PLM spending is not understood.
Flaw 3: The status quo bias
People would rather leave things as they are. One explanation for the status quo bias is aversion to loss—people are more concerned about the risk of loss than they are excited by the prospect of gain.
Another reason why adapting and implementing PLM in an organization is more difficult than for example just automating what we already do.
Flaw 4: Anchoring
Anchoring can be dangerous—particularly when it is a question of becoming anchored to the past
PLM has been anchored with being complex and expensive. Autodesk is trying to change the anchoring. Other PLM-like companies stop talking about PLM due to the anchoring and name what they do different: 3DExperience, Business Process Automation, …..
Flaw 5: The sunk-cost effect
A familiar problem with investments is called the sunk-cost effect, otherwise known as “throwing good money after bad.” When large projects overrun their schedules and budgets, the original economic case no longer holds, but companies still keep investing to complete them.
I have described several cases in the past anonymously; where companies kept on investing and customizing their ERP environment in order to achieve PLM goals. Although it never reached the level of acceptance and quality a PLM system could offer, stopping these projects was impossible.
Flaw 6: The herding instinct
This desire to conform to the behavior and opinions of others is a fundamental human trait and an accepted principle of psychology.
Warren Buffett put his finger on this flaw when he wrote, “Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press.”
A quote in a quote but so true. Innovative thinking, introducing PLM in a company requires a change. Who needs to be convinced? If you do not have consensus (which usually happens as PLM is vague) you battle against the other lemmings.
Flaw 7: Misestimating future hedonic states
Social scientists have shown that when people undergo major changes in circumstances, their lives typically are neither as bad nor as good as they had expected—another case of how bad we are at estimating. People adjust surprisingly quickly, and their level of pleasure (hedonic state) ends up, broadly, where it was before
A typical situation every PLM implementation faces: users complaining they cannot work as efficient anymore due to the new system and their work will be a mess if we continue like this. Implementers start to customize quickly and we are trapped. Let these people ‘suffer’ with the right guidance and motivation for some months (but this is sometimes not the business model the PLM implementer pushes as they need services as income)
Flaw 8: False consensus
People tend to overestimate the extent to which others share their views, beliefs, and experiences—the false-consensus effect. Research shows many causes, including these:
- confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out opinions and facts that support our own beliefs and hypotheses
- selective recall, the habit of remembering only facts and experiences that reinforce our assumptions
- biased evaluation, the quick acceptance of evidence that supports our hypotheses, while contradictory evidence is subjected to rigorous evaluation and almost certain rejection; we often, for example, impute hostile motives to critics or question their competence
- groupthink, the pressure to agree with others in team-based cultures
Although positioned as number 8 by Mr. Roxburgh, I would almost put it as the top when referring to PLM and PLM selection processes. So often a PLM decision has not been made in an objective manner and PLM selection paths are driven to come to the conclusion we already knew. (Or is this my confirmation bias too )
As scientists describe, and as Mr. Roxburgh describes (read the full article !!!) our strategic thinking is influenced by the brain and you should be aware of that. PLM is a business strategy and when rethinking your PLM strategy tomorrow, be prepared to avoid these flaws mentioned in this post today.