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Connect the Dots

“And if there had been more of the world, They would have reached it” (Luis de Camoes)

It is an old saying that innovation happens at the edges of disciplines. Within any field of inquiry the rules of investigation and experimentation become tired and rigid as they focus more on efficiently self perpetuating a line of thought than exploring the dark places where the undiscovered hide. Crossing boundaries and building bridges is an essential aspect of making growth operational. It is in conjoining that which is most diverse that novel hybrids are born. We too must overcome the challenges of our compartmentalized portfolio lives: The Nurturing Mom, the Dutiful Wife, the Competent Boss and the Closet Poet. To maintain order, we keep our roles separate and miss out on the emergent opportunities and creative fecundity that these improvisations may bring us. Growth requires spontaneously synchronizing key forces both beyond and within us.

Aligning one system that exists at the same level and time as another system, such as simultaneously installing the electricity and plumbing in a new house, is fool’s holiday without the aid of a blueprint that represents how they interrelate. From the human genome to meridian maps, we seek our destinations from a higher point of view where we can make sense of where things intersect and take appropriate action. While we are accustomed to representing the relationships of processes via figures and lines, purposeful connections are only made by people. In every organization there are those individuals that serve as conduits that pulse and teleport ideas and initiatives across boundaries. While we know this to be true, we seldom take their amplifying or dampening affect into consideration. While transmission to reception relationships are seldom linear and progress seems to favor the circuitous route, those who enable and imbed it are nonetheless revealed by the degree of momentum they create or impede. Bet on people; not processes to connect the dots.

Boundaries are made as much from convention as they are from perception. We deify those that we identify with and demonize those that we do not. Nothing illustrates this point more than a “polite” discussion on politics, religion or football. Good and bad are often no more than a projection of type and associated affiliation: Republican or Democrat, Muslim or Christian, Buckeye or Wolverine. Ironically, dots are often connected unintentionally by seemingly oppositional forces. For example, Christianity was once the spiritual solace of the Roman slaves but followed the very empire that sought to put it out around the world. Tolerance of diversity is a required aspect of our development for we grow through the constructive conflict with those which we are unlike and by productively assimilating our own idiosyncrasies into our character.

What we believe and why we behave the way we do is a complex question with multiple perspectives on the issue emanating from various disciplines of inquiry. Well-established descriptions of type include everything from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality inventory based on the typological theories originated by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, to the Enneagram, a map of personality interrelationships organized around an ancient symbol of perpetual motion by Armenian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, to astrology, which exists in some form in almost all cultures. The point being that the classification of type is somehow fundamental to how we characterize the attributes and dynamics of our world. While there may indeed be simplicity on the other side of complexity where all is one, decisions are fundamentally based on our ability to make distinctions – Will you be having the chicken or fish?

As reasonably healthy and productive people, we typically experience ourselves as continuous and essentially integrated beings, with minor variations to suit the mood or occasion. However, we may appear to others to exhibit a distinct type, preferences and tendencies, in the course of a single encounter. Assuming that one doesn’t have a multiple personality disorder, we might think of our lives as an ensemble of characters with a variety of roles we may competently perform. These are not false fronts; rather, the variations of the Authentic Self in costume. We stand between that which is foreign and familiar and translate that which is strange into the ordinary. Boundaries are spanned; meaningful connections are forged; and dots are connected through our widening range of interpretations and ambidextrous actions.

  • Growth requires synchronizing the key forces within and beyond us

Jeff DeGraff

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