HRIntelligencer v2.09

On March 6, 2018, in HR Intelligencer, HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser
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This week’s issue is heavy on big ideas and light on practicalities. In HR Technology, we often rush breathlessly from one crisis to the next, patching the very systems that prevent us from moving forward. With very short-term horizons, we attend to today’s transactions at the expense of our company’s future. This is a counter-balance.

The Big Ideas section is a little top-heavy. It includes a link to a pdf of John Gall’s Systemantics. If you are going to be dealing with AI (and you are), this is essential reading. It’s funny and explains why systems never seem to do what you want them to do. It is the easiest to read engineering book you’ll ever find. 

The rest of the section includes articles that expand and challenge your understanding of AI.

The article on Decision Fatigue may be the most important item on the list. AI increases the number of decisions that individual employees have to make each day. That’s sort of the point. The machine generates a series of predictions (recommendations) that employees have to sort through. Decision fatigue is what happens when you have too many decisions to make. My bet is that AI will tend to overload the organization’s ability to make rational, high-quality decisions.

John Sumser will be presenting on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at the O’Reilly AI Conference in New York City taking place between April 30 – May 2, 2018.

Big Picture
  • Top AI Trends to Watch in 2018. Most of what’s covered is better described as machine learning. Still, this is a synthetic review of the key trends across all of AI. One interesting note. Even with all of the HRTech activity, our sector is moving more slowly relative to other industries.
  • The idea that everything from spoons to stones is conscious is gaining academic credibility. A reminder that what we think we know may not accurately reflect the world. As we begin to implement an approach to decision making that is rooted only in what we believe is measurable, we may be in for some surprises.
  • Systemantics. Here’s a pdf of the timeless book on the behavior of complex dynamic systems. Written as a warning to a civilization headed into the belief that systems can be designed to achieve specific goals, the book is a rollicking and funny journey into the myriad ways in which systems effortlessly defeat the best of intentions. Get some chuckles on your next airplane ride.
  • Ursus Wehrli TED Talk. I hate TED talks. As with all ironclad rules, there are exceptions. This is one. Comedian Ursus Wehrli turns modern art into organized, countable piles of similar objects. It’s a funny commentary on the silliness of overdependence on measurement and quantification. One quickly sees that what you can measure may not be the entirety of the system.


HR’s View
  • If Those Performance Reviews All Sound Alike, It Could Be ‘Decision Fatigue’. I’ve been looking for a way to describe the stress created when machines remove drudgery and present us with more decisions to make and recommendations to digest. Decision fatigue results in a decay of your judgment quality. Great article that was the first place I’d seen the question raised in an HR context.
  • Thriving in the Gig Economy. As the mix of direct and contingent employees continues to change (including more direct employees who work like project memebers), HR will have to change its tune. The experience of gig workers is an essential part of any attempt to improve the quality of work for all team members. Here’s what it’s like.


  • Case study: How CHROs can leverage technology, AI and data analytics. “I have found visiting existing clients and seeing the system live and working is crucial for both you as well as the partner as it allows both parties to set clear expectations. If the expectations are not clear then during the implementation you will be faced with a gap that may become a major hindrance to the roll out.”


  • Exponential View. Subscribe to this newsletter for a whimsical view of the evolution of AI.


Quote of the Week

“Why should we think common sense is a good guide to what the universe is like?” says Philip Goff, a philosophy professor at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. “Einstein tells us weird things about the nature of time that counters common sense; quantum mechanics runs counter to common sense. Our intuitive reaction isn’t necessarily a good guide to the nature of reality.” – from The idea that everything from spoons to stones is conscious is gaining academic credibility.


Curate means a variety of things: from the work of vicar entrusted with the care of souls to that of an exhibit designer responsible for clarity and meaning. At the core, it means something about the importance of empathy in organization. HRIntelligencer is an update on the comings and goings in the Human Resource experiment with Artificial Intelligence, Digital Employees, Algorithms, Machine Learning, Big Data and all of that stuff. We present a few critical links with some explanation. The goal is to give you a way to surf the rapidly evolving field without drowning in information. We offer a timeless curation of the intersection of HR and the machines that serve it. We curate the emergence of Machine Led Decision Making in HR. 

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