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What can we learn from self-driving cars?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

The fully self driving car is tantalisingly close. 80% of developing a safe self driving car is relatively simple, getting the car to follow the road, stay on the correct side and avoid crashes. The next 10% is more difficult like tackling roundabouts and negotiating complicated road junctions, but it is the final 10% that is proving most challenging.

This involves dealing with the unexpected like a cow in the middle of the road that refuses to move (treat it like a roundabout) or a ball bouncing across the street followed by a running child. Getting a self driving car to respond appropriately to the unexpected is the big challenge all the more so because the AI in the car is over confident.

As one developer said self driving cars are really bad at knowing when they don’t know. What the cars need to develop is what we refer to in humans as common sense.

These problems all be it in a different context seemed awfully familiar. I would estimate that 80% of the job of being a manager/ senior manager is relatively simple and straightforward the next 10% is more difficult but there are procedures (rules) for dealing with these situations and a manager can be prepared in advance. But about 10 % of what managers / senior managers do is really difficult.

Things happen outside your control that disrupt plans and carefully structured strategies.  As Harold McMillan replied when asked as PM what was the greatest challenge to his administration, “Events dear boy Events”. Whether a pandemic, or the sudden resignation of a key member of your team the unexpected is the biggest challenge.

Managers need to be able to respond appropriately to the unexpected. Those who fail to do so are often guilty of being overconfident, unwilling to acknowledge what they don’t know, and unable to generalise from one scenario to another.

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