MIT’s Andrew McAfee, author of Enterprise 2.0, on how evolving technology and the data deluge can enable companies not only to be smarter, but to act smarter, too. Part of SMR’s new series on “The New Intelligent Enterprise.”
FROM THE EDITOR
You don’t know it, but you have more in common with Garry Kasparov than you think. And your organization — any organization — has more in common with the world of chess than you imagine.
In 1985 Kasparov, at 22, became the youngest World Chess Champion in history. Over most of the following two decades he was not only the top-ranked player in the world but the first champion to play repeated public matches against computers. In the beginning of that time span, he won. He always won. Then in 1997 he famously lost — to the International Business Machines Corp.’s supercomputer Deep Blue. And before the next 10 years had passed and Kasparov had retired, technology had changed so much that Kasparov not only couldn’t beat specialized computers like Deep Blue; he couldn’t beat good chess programs running on commercially available servers.
Andrew McAfee, the MIT Sloan research scientist and author of Enterprise 2.0, loves this story. But the part he loves best comes next.
“Where it really gets interesting, and where I get really optimistic,” McAfee says, “is that Kasparov says they ran a series of contests where they let any combination of people and computers play against each other. And the winning combination was not a team of the best chess players. It was not a collection of the fastest computers with the biggest horsepower. In fact, it was some good chess players working in combination with PCs. The winner was this wonderful blend of human intuition and pattern-matching backed up by a lot of computing horsepower. [That team’s] process for figuring out the next move was superior to both the extraordinarily good chess masters and the extraordinarily fast computers.”
There are two morals to this story. One: We are all Garry Kasparov. We’ve all seen what he’s seen as meteoric technological gains in computational power, data storage capacity and communications speed have transformed his world and ours, and have raised new questions about how leaders, managers and workers fit into it. Add the fourth key dimension of technology’s current evolution — the rise of sensors and instrumentation (the “smart” world) — and we have arrived along with Kasparov in the era of the data deluge, a fresh moment when both the amount of information we can know and the ability we have to analyze it is almost impossible to comprehend.