Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 3 seconds

lost driving"OK, I know that everyone is saying that our usual route is totally clogged but I've checked the map and done the math."
"Why would we even think of taking a route that we don't know?"
"Logic suggests that you should stick with what you know well because familiarity gives you strategic advantage"
Sometime later as we sit in the traffic jam from hell and the light is fading almost as fast as the fuel the silence says it all, we are out of time and out of luck, so much for logic huh?

If this sounds familiar it's because this is the journey into the future that a lot of businesses continue to plan and attempt to make. They call it innovation strategy but cynics might be forgiven for labelling it 'Lemming Logic.'

It's easy to smirk at the casualties of organisational logic with the benefit of hindsight yet we continue to cling to the comfort zone of instrumental rationality even though we know that unpredictability rules. Apart from a relatively small percentage of the population who recognise chaos as an opportunity the majority of us are victims of an obsession with controlling unpredictability rather than harnessing it.  We are all victims of a system  that defines ability by measuring an individual's capability of utilising logical deduction to deny rather than celebrate serendipity.

When we first enter the world of work it appears to run like a well ordered machine that is maintained by protocols that were constructed to ensure that rationality is the default solution for every aspect of business, including future planning. 

Ever since the Ancient Greeks began to promote the idea that applied logic will enable you comprehend and control nature it has become institutionalised as the dominant measure of intelligence. 'Scientific Method' provides us with the seductive palliative of visible calculations and other graphic representations that offer 'proven' and 'reliable' means for calculating and communicating 'foolproof' predictions of the consequences of our decision making.

The stranglehold of instrumental rationality has increasingly dictates the ideological imperatives of the tools that we have come to rely on in our endless search for efficiency. Terms like 'logic board' reassure us that our smart device is behaving according to the protocols that humans have evolved.

History tells us that the application of logical deduction has served us well but it important to remember that history is never more than a subjective and often ideological interpretation of a very complex set of events that have been woven into a narratiive that reinforces a particular world view.

Each marvellous milestone of the triumph of logic narrative, from Steam Engines, through Fordist production to the Computer reassures us that applied rationality equates to enhanced opportunity but behind this dominant mythology we can find compelling evidence of failure. From the collapse of economic theory to the scary legacy of Fordist practice on agriculture we should be running scared about any strategy that claims that there is one best way.

The lead time from success to failure appears to be getting shorter, which could be a good thing if there was convincing evidence that we are learning from failure but unfortunately business continues to make the kind of serial mistakes that you would expect from any preprogrammed 'logic board.'

The obvious question to ask is WHY?

There are a number if ways of answering this question but the DREAM CAFE'S response is to point to the potential that has been systematically promoted by that loose collective of creatively inclined individuals who periodically assemble in neutral venues to pool their capacity for imagination.

These gatherings of what we have come to call the AVANT-GARDE are always at their most effective when they enable conversations between people who do not share the same expertise but have a common passion for questioning the status quo. Then they roll their sleeves up and create things that make the rules that get in the way of progress redundant.

The Avant-Garde's ability to normalise interdisciplinary and multicultural discourse for example highlights how counter intuitive practises could help businesses that are struggling to find a point of purchase that will enable them to succeed in a world where logic is failing.

Anyone wanting more would be well advised to consult 'The Dream Cafe: Lessons in The Art of Radical Innovation', Duncan Bruce and Dr Geoff Crook, John Wiley, 2015 but in the meantime a brief recipe:

•    Look for metaphoric opportunity
•    Plan to fail
•    Take nothing for granted
•    Create better questions
•    Include everyone
•    Unpack everything you thought you knew

Dr Geoff Crook, Artist, Author and Innovation Consultant. He is the author of 'The Dream Cafe: The Art of Radical Innovation' by Duncan Bruce and Dr Geoff Crook (John Wiley & Sons, 2015)


Last modified on Wednesday, 08 April 2015
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