Predictability, risk, control freaks and corporate culture

Chicken suit

Predictability is the crack cocaine of most corporates.

So said JP Rangaswami last night over an impromptu Super Bowl Sunday dinner with another old friend of mine, Dan Barker. Both are visiting NYC (separately) from London, and we got to talking about everything from Jim Croce, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to publishing models, open source, and government identity schemes.

I really think he is onto something here. People who appear to be control freaks in corporate environments may not actually be control freaks. But the emphasis on accurate forecasting and predictability can make them act in such a way that they may resemble control freaks. It’s quite easy to see how a risk-averse, command and control culture would quickly emerge from any organization where predictability trumps all.

JP’s friend Tom Malone at MIT wrote an excellent book way back in 2004, The Future of Work, that I think of at least once per week and invoke in many conversations (yes, I’m a bore). Speaking of predictability, it is one of the most prescient books I have ever encountered, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(Why this picture? Because I can think of few things less predictable than encountering a guy in a chicken suit in the middle of a normal day.)