In the 1990s, anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that the maximum number of people an individual can personally know and remember is 150 — Dunbar’s number. The specific figure is debated, but it is common sense that the human cognitive capacity to understand relationships at scale has a limit. The larger a company, the more moving parts, the more projects — the more people.
Roger Gorman is an entrepreneur guided by a desire to end the isolation and fragmentation that occurs within large organizational structures. He is the Founder and CEO of ProFinda, a SaaS company that enables connectivity through the use of machine learning. Insightive.tv’s Robin Block sat down with Roger to understand how ProFinda is changing corporate culture and how it operates internally.
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Robin: Why is machine learning important to the future of corporate culture?
Roger: The benefit of large organizations is that they generate a competitive advantage through increasing the number of people working on projects. The problem is that once an organization reaches a certain size, the people within it lose touch with each other and it becomes difficult to source the best talent for any given project. There is no hub that understands the skills of everyone in the company or even the extent and detail of all the projects taking place. It creates a black hole within the organization that is at odds with the fundamental purpose of driving growth.
Machine learning provides the capability to build a people and knowledge platform that intelligently connects everyone and everything — helping people find the right insight or expert at the right time. Our platform is built on Ruby and employs algorithms similar to those used by Google and dating websites. It leverages a Knowledge graph that is cross-referenced with a Network graph and Attitude graph to offer an incredible view of the entire organization. It then hooks into a matrix focused on reward, recognition and motivation – because we are dealing with people.
What really makes our system usable, however, is that it links to a network of tens-of-thousands of terms to accurately pick apart syntax and context within questioning to allow for effective communication using natural speech patterns.
I have had basically five jobs in my life, and I have been fired from four of them — probably why I had to set up my own business! When I reflect on each of those experiences, they are all horrible examples of outdated and large corporate structures in which I was running around trying to be useful, but ultimately coming at odds with expectations. Our product is designed to ‘shape the future of work’ through improving that environment across the board.
How have you attracted staff when there is a talent shortage in technology and data science?
There is clearly a gap between supply and demand for good technologists. Since talent supply is so low, workers are empowered to choose how they want to live their lives. This is a problem that the Googles of the world have historically thrown money at. However, there is a point at which more money becomes less important than having a job that is actually enjoyable.
We offer competitive salaries, but we also offer people the ability to work on groundbreaking and interesting projects in an environment that lets them work how they want and feel appreciated for their contributions. My main barometer is that everyone at ProFinda is actually excited to come in on Monday morning.
What are your end goals for the use of machine learning and the future of ProFinda?
We are building a business that will have a new and genuine impact on society. Beyond the corporate story, we have a social plan for our platform to bring people together across charities, social causes and interest groups. For example, we’re leveraging our platform to reinvent global collaboration on climate change. Presently this is siloed across different functions — the UN, The World Economic Forum, C40 and so many other disparate groups. We aim to integrate all these “tribes” and their efforts into one single intelligent ProFinda-powered platform.
In the long-term, our goal is to change how organizations and society function and communicate. However, just as a wish list, I would be happy going to my grave knowing that this company has had a positive impact on the lives of those who work here. There is a family/team culture at ProFinda of which I am deeply proud. Perhaps I can fire myself in a decade or so once we’re really humming, to complete the story!
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