Brought to you by @ScratchMM, the conference correspondent for Awareness, Inc. at E2

If there is a resounding message from E 2.0 that everyone needs to hear it’s this: we need to race with the machine, not against it. This was Andrew McAfee’s message as the first keynote speaker for the day – perhaps the most engaging, interesting and insightful speaker at the E2 conference this year. It would be easy to dedicate an entire book to Andrew’s teaching, but here, I’ll pull out a few highlights from his message:

The Big Data Conundrum

Everyone seems fascinated by the world of big data, as some would say, the world is one big data problem, with social software acting as a feeder for big data. As we witness a strange phenomenon – one where plots of sci-fi movies can become our true reality – we have to realize that we live in a new world that requires a different kind of thinking and an evolving set of skills:

  1. Computers are growing smarter than humans, with remarkable speed. You needn’t go any further than the IBM Watson’s display at the conference to see the power of today’s computing. Computers have the power to do a lot of things better than people – autonomous-driving cars, proclaimed to be science fiction just a few years ago, are now a reality – and don’t just take Andrew McAfee’s word for it (who, by the way, drove one last year, and remarkably, is still around to share his insights):Autonomous Driving at Enterprise 2.0
  2. Narrative Science, an innovative technology company that creates rich narrative content straight from data, has a guest column on Forbes that reports on companies’ earnings with remarkable precision without any human involved in the process. If you are beginning to wonder what would happen to the world of the journalist, then ask yourself this question – if computers are now as good as human scientists in predicting cancer triggers, what would the role of doctors and researchers be in the years to come? Computers are now better than humans at noticing different aspects of the cancer tissue predictive of cancer survival rates – and software today can find new triggers that scientists have never anticipated before. This machine-driven knowledge can help cure millions of people around the world, if only humans get on with it.

We have to admit it – we ain’t all that good after all. We are not good at algorithmic decisions, especially decisions that require input from an exponentially increasing number of sources. As humans, we are inherently limited by our own abilities and biases. Our belief that we are experts and that, with data, we can become better over time is being put to the test – consider the Second Half of the Chessboard. As Andrew explains, this is “where things become nutty, and exponential is so powerful that our brains lose the ability to deal with that reality.” This is where computers step in – they are better predictors of growth and pricing for everyday things like Bordeaux wine, better at predicting supreme court decision-making than 10 of the best experts in the world, better at predicting purchasing decisions, the list goes on. So what is a human to do in a world dominated by machine thinking? Race with the machine – let the machines answer the questions, and adapt by actively participating and evolving your skillset.

Collaborative IT

The other big theme of the day was Collaborative IT – as Nike’s Infrastructure Architect Art King put it, “empathy moves us forward.” IT has finally put itself in the shoes of their customers. IT thinking needs to change and the new imperative is adapting to the customer. The days of IT dictating and directing the customer are gone. Gone are the days of closed thinking, pushing software, controlling images, and dominating the conversations – 2012 and beyond is all about co-creating with the customer, where technology is intuitive and the training department is a thing of the past. Enterprise networking is adapting – CIOs and CTOs are now looking for legitimate ways to make iOS devices work behind the firewall, and make it work at work as smoothly as at home. It is about choice – so forward-looking companies are moving toward an app store mentality – where IT offers apps to their employees and customers and lets them choose the ones they want to use.

Management Hackathons

In the race to innovate, progressive companies are investing at all levels of their organizations to find new ideas, top management included. The Management 2.0 Hackathon, a joint collaborative project launched by the Management Innovation Exchange (MIX), Saba, and the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, launched in November of 2011, where management innovators from five continents came together to “participate in an intense, online, collaborative effort to explore how the principles and practical tools of the Web might make our organizations as adaptable, innovative, and inspiring as the Web itself.” 900 people came together, offering perspectives, generating ideas, leading teams, and contributing hacks. The guiding principles of the Management 2.0 Hackathon were those that foster all good business:

The guiding principles of the Management 2.0 Hackathon

Some fascinating hacks came out of the collaboration, including finding the ‘idea leaders’, the ‘natural leaders’ and the ‘hidden heroes’ within your organization with the help of social technology, hearing people’s voices via tweetstorms, and much more. To learn more about the hacks and this project, visit here. For more on the great line-up of speakers, visit E2 Boston.

Four Books Worth Reading:

Race Against the Machine by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson

The Collaborative Organization, by Jacob Morgan – it is a strategic guide to solving your internal business challenges using emerging social and collaboration tools

The Collaborative Imperative, by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese. For those in marketing, I also highly recommend Momentum: How Companies Become Unstoppable Market Forces – one of the best books ever written on marketing by John Volkmann and Ron Ricci, ex VP of Positioning at Cisco.

Thanks, Lora, for sharing your thoughts and takeaways on Day 3 of E2.

What do you think? Are you with or against the machine? How is your organization adapting to the new social collaboration realities? Share your thoughts with us on this blog or on Twitter at @AwarenessInc.