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Entertaining Maths ~ | ttmricht

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via @StartupDigest (Why large organizations have to be dumb.)

In this post we hear Michael T. Richter explain "why large companies always come across as clowns who do the dumbest thing possible."

His 1200 word argument basically comes down to signal loss.

His analysis is very "engineery" in that it likens humans to electronic equipment, which was the ultimate source of many of the article's weaknesses. He also just seems plain unaware that some of the assumptions he's making are not reasonable.

Implicit assumptions made. It's unclear to me whether Richter understood that he was making these (questionable) assumptions, but these are what jumped out at me as I read the post.

  1. That miscommunication between humans can be modeled as signal loss. That is, human speech is fundamentally the same as a transmitter and a receiver communicating through a stream of bits, and that miscommunication between people can be interpreted as a corruption or loss of bits in the stream.
  2. That successive discussions as information propagates up (or down) a chain will each have an identical, independent probability of losing "signal."
  3. That the probability of making the "right" decision is a function of signal fidelity.

It's funny to me how so many engineers think they can simply make a few ad-hoc computations and quantify complex phenomena like speech by analogizing humans to computers. It doesn't seem to occur to Richter that he may be using far too crude a model to reason quantitatively about human behavior.

I wanted to laugh at this but unfortunately his rant makes me sad for him.

Plus, not all large organizations are incompetent.

Look at Apple, Walmart, and Exxon-Mobil as three large organizations that are managed incredibly well.

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