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  • Pangaro Incorporated

    Cambridge Cybernetic Society
    5th Meeting

    "Why the CEO Chooses Not to Listen"

    Innovation and the Paradox of Adaptation in Corporate America

    Walter Lee

    Wednesday 21 February 96
    @Cybersmith in Harvard Square
    42 Church Street, Cambridge MA
    4 - 5 pm
    Information about Cybersmith: 617-492-5857

    Employees are often urged by bosses, who are in turn urged by their bosses, and by consultants, to be more flexible and innovative. The rationale usually given for these exhortations is that we live in a world of increasing change and uncertainty, and that increased flexibility and innovativeness are needed to cope with a more volatile, unpredictable environment. If we assume that this rationale is correct, we can only be puzzled at our inability to practice what is preached: after all, it is in our interest to be flexible and innovative, isn't it?

    Or is it? This talk will explore the conditions under which behavioral rigidity is a rational, indeed, the only rational response to uncertainty. Under these conditions (which turn out to be common throughout our experience), it is in fact rational to eschew "better" alternatives and to ignore pertinent information, even when such information is available at no cost. It will be demonstrated that we cannot really be more flexible and creative until we understand the logic of these conditions and the constraints which they impose. The talk will conclude by outlining some strategies to alleviate the constraints imposed by these conditions.

    Walter Lee has over fifteen years experience in the areas of corporate and business strategy, planning, and operations. He has been a venture capitalist and a startup entrepreneur. For clients such as Du Pont, he specializes in decision theory, cognitive modeling, and systems dynamics modeling of organizational processes. His reflections on the subject of choice under uncertainty are the product of academic research and "hard knocks" experience.

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