What’s Better Than AI?

Artificial intelligence promises to be one of the most disruptive forces of the next ten years. It’s already a prominent talking point among 2020 presidential candidates.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said that AI is more important than fire or electricity, and AI is predicted by experts to affect millions of jobs in the next two decades. And from Siri to the high-speed machines trading stocks on Wall Street, AI is already changing how we live and work.

Smart leaders are asking themselves: How can I capitalize on this?

Start with Human Intelligence

It’s wise to strategize about how to mobilize AI in your business, but most leaders could see more immediate results from a simpler, more essential, and (right now) more practical question: Am I capitalizing on the human intelligence that is currently in my organization?

The fact is, most leaders suffer from a chronic lack of information about what’s happening within their own teams. Their employees have plenty of intelligence that’s ready to be tapped, but the communication lines are often sluggish or closed off altogether. Your employees have insights about customers, predictions about the future, and even ideas about potential growth opportunities—and many of those will never reach management. If you’re pumped about AI but leaving your human intelligence locked up, the cart is definitely in front of the horse.

This phenomenon of managerial obliviousness was studied deeply in manufacturing environments in the 1980s, leading to the concept of the Iceberg of Ignorance. As Yoshida’s study found, only about 9 percent of the problems known to frontline staff were known to top management. From my experience, the phenomenon is very much alive today, and is in fact made worse by the shift from relatively simple manufacturing work to nebulous knowledge work.

Before you jump into a complex AI project, it’s worth questioning whether you are currently leveraging the human intelligence on your team. That capability is required for success at anything your organization takes on, including AI projects.



How to Access the Human Intelligence in Your Organization

For leaders, especially those at the top of the organization, it’s not always easy to gather and apply human intelligence in a systematic way. Whether it’s employees not feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts or key information getting lost in layers of hierarchy, there are many reasons that great insights go to waste.

The best way I’ve found to gather human intelligence is to build a system around it. Mine ended up evolving into Khorus, which is now helping hundreds of leaders gather and apply the human intelligence on their teams.

Whether you use Khorus or not, it’s wise to build such a system. It does need to be a real system, though—something that incorporates predictable rhythms and frequent feedback. In other words, don’t expect to just put out a suggestion box and get what you need.

Here’s the core system of Khorus:

1. Set clear priorities

Once the leadership team has established its priorities for the quarter, everyone in the organization works with their manager to create their own set of priorities—the actions and targets they should focus on over the next 90 days. These conversations—where the employee gives input on what their goals should be—necessarily draw on the insight of the workforce. Contrast this to most organizations, where goals tend to be hazy, ad hoc, or handed down from on high.

2. Gather predictive insight

Next, Khorus asks employees to offer up two key insights on their goals every week: how likely their goals are to be completed on time, and how they rate the quality of the work done toward each goal so far. When this information aggregates up to show how the company-level priorities are progressing, the executive team has some of the most useful human intelligence a leader can ask for. At a glance, they can see predictive, human-informed judgements on whether the right things are going to get done—and whether any quality trade-offs are being made to meet established priorities.

See weekly employee insight on the Predictions Matrix in Khorus
3. Start the right conversations

Because the organization using Khorus has a common language—everyone is on the same page about priorities and knows the type of insights company leadership wants—it’s much easier to instigate productive, problem-solving conversations. The system encourages employees at every level to raise the red flag when they spot an issue and then work with managers to solve it. In fact, that’s one of the most common themes we hear from customers: “We’re having conversations we never had before.” It’s through that type of focused discussion that some of the most valuable human insight comes to bear.


With a couple of minutes of reflection, a competent employee can predict outcomes and more accurately and react to new situations more competently than any AI tool could. Unfortunately, most organizations lack a systematic method of accessing their human intelligence. Don’t fall into that trap: As you work to master and apply AI technology, put equal energy into your human intelligence systems as well.

Want to use Khorus to get the right stuff done in your organization? Set up your demo today.

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