Tailored Content, Laziness and Self-directed Teams

I’ve been challenged in thinking about how human laziness influences self-directed teams.

This morning I stumbled on this talk by Eli Pariser about the affects of  “tailored content.” “Tailored content” means content on the web is algorithmically filtered and, so, “tailored” for you according to your behavior, according to what you click on. In practice, this can mean you don’t get to see links that might challenge you and might not be in accordance with your usual patterns.

Pariser talks about the fact that sometimes it is useful to see content that has challenging ideas, even if you don’t click on the links.  He mentions that he was personally not clicking on links of his conservative friends as much as his liberal friends, so Facebook stopped serving up those conservative friends’ feeds in his Facebook news feed.  Edited them out. (Pariser is the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org, an organization known to be a bit liberal.)

What was really an “aha” for me was an insight he had based on data from Netflix.  What he mentions in this talk, and what is detailed more thoroughly in this post on Motherboard, is the tension between our lazy selves and our aspirational selves.  We think we should be the type of person to watch Rashomon, but we’ve ordered a few lightweight romantic comedies so the Netflix recommendation engine starts serving up those films to us instead.  Because clearly that’s what we like.  Right?

Such tailored content might turn out to be a bit polarizing.  We start to think the world is like this because this is the information we’re exposed to. According to Pariser, much like journalists coming out of the age of Yellow Journalism at the end of the 19th Century began to see the importance of “balanced” reporting, so should we exercise such cautions in writing algorithms for search on the internet.

The “aha” for me was that also it could be that our lazy sides start to become… encouraged.  If we’re looking to be a society on the path of Continuous Improvement, which for me is at the root of self-directed teams, we need to be capable of Divergent Thinking.  If the inputs are limited, then this Divergent Thinking starts to be limited.  Might even start to be… directed by people who want to remain powerful and want you to agree with them.

In any case, his Ted talk is below.  Click here for a great summary of the talk by Bianca Bosker on the Huffington Post.

How can we stop “self-directed’ teams from becoming too inward-focused and thus “lazy?”  Ordering too many romantic comedies and stagnating?  How can we remain challenged and therefore come up with work that is challenging?  Something to consider as we attempt to retain “agility” in the face of “self-directed teams.”

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One Response to “Tailored Content, Laziness and Self-directed Teams”

  1. magwep Says:

    Holy smokes – on top of that? I’m finding Google knows here at work what I “already viewed” at home. I just repeated a search I did on Google at home here at work and… sites I have NOT viewed at work came up in the purple, “read,” state. Which in this case was indeed convenient? But I kind of want to get served up different stuff when I’m at work (focused, productive) than when I’m at home (relaxed, unfocused, exploratory).

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