Monthly Archives: June 2015

Magic and the Challenge of Action

Accurate and coherent action hierarchies seem obviously necessary for productive action. How can haphazard everyday decisions lead to desirable long term consequences? How can incoherent models lead to effective strategies? How can uncoordinated action avoid mistakes? How can resistance to feedback lead to strong models and capabilities? If we don’t know where we are going, how can we expect to get there?

It is therefore immensely frustrating to see incoherent action all around us. From the smallest individual projects to the largest organizations and global concerns most action seems shortsighted and detrimental to its own goals. Furthermore, opportunities for disproportionate increases in effectiveness seem simple and obvious.

The cornucopia of potential improvements is at first baffling and then empowering. Who would have thought that basic insight could be so rare and valuable, that inexperience could be a source of vision? Unencumbered by limitations of obsolete technology, social norms, and past obligations visionaries can better see the flaws of existing structures and are well positioned to direct their improvement.

But even the simplest, most beneficial, and least contentious changes are resisted with greater fervor than visionaries thought possible. Some blame this unexpected resistance on lack of logic, but individual actions do tend to follow from their goals, models, and skills. Others blame individual action hierarchies: if they can generate such irrational behavior, then they ought to be replaced. But this obvious solution faces the same fate as the one that led to it: people vigorously resist overt attempts to influence their action hierarchies.

It is to the questions of why people do this and how it affects action and progress that we turn to next. Continue reading Magic and the Challenge of Action