Tale of Infinite Number of Monkeys

Tale of Infinite Number of Monkeys

Let’s assume that you have an infinite number of monkeys. OK, to be realistic, let’s just convert the mass of the Milky Way to monkeys and typewrites.  One trillion (10^12) times the mass of the sun (2*10^30 Kg) would equate to approximately 2*10^41 monkeys of 10Kg, typewriters included. Small monkeys…

The monkeys start typing feverishly 24X7, hitting a key every second trying to re-create Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet has approximately 200000 characters. 26 letters in the alphabet plus space and period means 28^200.000 versions, one of them is Hamlet. A few typos are OK, so let’s make it 27^200.000.

The question is: how long would it take for the monkeys to write Hamlet with a decent probability?  It is tough to find a powerful enough binomial calculator to enter such numbers, so let’s just say that in 27^200.000/10^36 seconds we may have Hamlet. Since 27^25 is about 10^36, it will take about 27^199.975 seconds.  Lets round it down to 4*10^100.000 seconds. It is still enormously larger than the age of the universe with its mere 4*10^17 seconds.

So, it will take a long time to reproduce Shakespeare’s masterpiece.  But also notice that the monkeys may very well produce several new masterpieces, some perhaps much better than Hamlet.

Let’s take a typical enterprise, set the goals (mission and vision) and allow all the employees to use information technologies which will optimize their individual productivity. Hit any key you want on the typewriter…  Then wait and see whether  the company starts to move to the correct direction to achieve the goals.

How about imposing some information technology standards to align the folks at the typewriters and speed things up? Let’s switch to an integrated enterprise typewriter system. Improve institutional productivity while limiting individual productivity. Everybody hits the right key at the same time. In that case we can create Hamlet in 1 second. But then we can only reproduce Hamlet, no new masterpiece will ever be produced, only Hamlet over and over again. We just killed creativity and innovation.

So the refined question is: what is the right balance between enabling individual productivity and driving institutional productivity? What is the right balance between facilitating innovation and driving efficiency?

I think the answer is: it depends. On the particular employee’s role and the information technologies involved.

For your cutting edge engineers working on the latest killer product, you want to provide the most freedom of tools, as long as it is not about their open enrollment or travel expenses. A chart like this can help:

It captures the value of your solutions in terms of individual and institutional productivity. The way your solutions are rolled out, configured and used will influence their position. Then decide, what needs to be changed.

  • Maybe you need to reduce the number of supported desktop OS resulting in an increased institutional productivity while slightly lowering individual productivity
  • Perhaps you decide to set up IM federation and pull up the individual IMs to increase their institutional value
  • Platforms like SharePoint, when properly rolled out and governed  are high on both dimensions, and can provide a well-supported enterprise platform for small group collaboration
  • Depending on your industry BYOD will probably fall into the managed diversity category
  • Etc.

On Monday, pay a surprise visit to your CTO and make sure that he or she has a chart indicating the various IT applications your organization manages and their value in terms of individual and institutional productivity. If something is not in the right quadrant and could be moved Northeast, create the corresponding road maps and place the associated projects on your portfolio.

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