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Simulating How Incompetence Flows Through Hierarchical Organizations

The bulk of the world has long understood that large organizations = bureaucracy = inefficiency. Social historians Strauss and Howe have amassed evidence demonstrating how this occurs cyclically in national systems. But, still, it's been awfully difficult to quantify how and why this entropy consistently builds up over time... until now.

New research by Alessandro Pluchino and team at the University of Catania (talk about a flattening world), reported in Technology Review, confirms the conventional wisdom that incompetence can spread through a business as "individuals [are] promoted until they reach their level of maximum incompetence."

In other words, social climbers that can best navigate a system that fails to understand the diversity of human competency in different areas gradually, but steadily contribute to inefficiency in large organizations that can no longer rely on direct performance oversight.

Pluchino's research is based on a simulated agent-based model that models this spread of incompetency due to bad fit at certain roles.

So how then might we counter this steady entropy without having to rely on tried and true creative destruction / punctuated equilibrium?
Technology Review: [Pluchino's] model shows that two other strategies outperform the conventional method of promotion. The first is to alternately promote first the most competent and then the least competent individuals. And the second is to promote individuals at random. Both of these methods improve, or at least do not diminish, the efficiency of an organization.
Of course, it'll be much easier to counter agent-based entropy once we put in place simulations that everyone can agree upon. Once that happens, I suspect that even the well-entrenched executives will breathe a sigh of relief as they are brought into positions that better suit their personalities.

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