Since the rig explosion that killed 11 workers and began the largest oil spill in U.S. history, thousands of ideas have been proposed to stop the leak. Today, a rather elegant possible solution came from M.I.T.
To me, whether this exact plan is the perfect solution or not is irrelevant. What matters is the source of the idea. The Obama administration has operated from a false assumption from day one: BP is most qualified to handle the fix. Untrue.
Consider an example. A fire starts in a large car repair garage. The fire department arrives and decides, since the owner of the garage knows the most about cars, the shop and the contents therein, he should be in charge of putting out the fire.
This makes no sense. The administration should have seized the asset immediately as a crime scene as they would in any other situation in which people died.
11 people did die. Remember?
Then experts from various disciplines should be assembled including representatives from BP’s engineering department to begin work. The government should have appointed a chair. No, not some senator who lost his seat, a qualified leader.
BP’s management, whose interest is PR, liability protection and stop loss should NOT have been making any decisions after the accident. I don’t care how nice a guy Tony Hayward is, his motivation is tainted. BP had NDAs prepared before they had any other plans in place. They covered their legal ass before the leak. They still don’t want the press snooping around.
Next, a clear path from idea -> to reject or refinement -> to implementation has to be established. This mitigates the “Drunkard’s Walk” of valuable ideas through the bumps of egos and conflicts of self-interest. (Brownian motion of thought)
I have been trying to explain my concept of Brownian thought and the Drunkard’s walk of an idea through an organization for a while. Let me clarify. The sun produces heat from nuclear fusion at its core. Two hydrogen atoms are smashed together forming a helium atom. The process creates a lot of heat. But because things are so dense at the center of the sun, it takes that heat an estimated 10 million years to reach the surface. It bumps and bumps and bumps into tightly packed stuff (plasma) trying to work its way out. Think of the path you take working your through a crowd to get back to your friend on the other side of the room. The path isn’t straight. You move around people, you get bumped. You get stopped by some. You move around groups. You back up for someone carrying drinks. That’s Brownian motion.
In a simple line: the thought process has been wrong from the moment the accident occurred. Thinking has been bumped by Brownian thought.
I hope we learn from that.
I hope your business is learning from this. I work with companies that have made bad decisions, costly decisions because their thought process is flawed by Brownian thought motion.
There are now thousands of ideas on the table to fix the BP spill. Many of those ideas have merit. Pieces of many of those ideas have merit. But still there is a hit and miss approach in place. We’re still hearing things like “this has a 70% chance of success”. We should not be doing anything with a “chance” of success.
Sure, there is always some risk. But we should be taking steps with a very small chance of failure, not a chance of success. The difference is stark.
We should be solving problems.
Have you set a path for thought to flow through your business without being bumped around by Brownian motion? Good ideas and good thinking should have a clear path to the decision maker. Good is the key word. There needs to be a filter in place. But see the difference between a filter and a maze. Okay?
Note: To see how an idea is battered by Brownian motion, see: