“The moment of truth, the sudden emergence of a new insight, is an act of intuition. Such intuitions give the appearance of miraculous flushes, or short-circuits of reasoning. In fact, they may be likened to an immersed chain, of which only the beginning and the end are visible above the surface of consciousness. The diver vanishes at one end of the chain and comes up at the other end, guided by invisible links.”

Arthur Koestler


“There are no separate systems. The world is a continuum.”

Donella Meadows


We love addition. It is simple, linear and understandable. One and one makes two provides some logic in a sometimes illogical world. It implies if we just study each of the ‘ones’ well enough we will be able to predict an outcome when we put them together. Understand one, and then understand another, and when you put that one and the ‘another’ together it will equal something.

Which leads me to “and.”

“Ands” are connections. Between people, between things, in general ‘ands’ are things within a system. This means in order to understand <as well as one can> a system one has to explore the mechanisms/things/connections that makes things happen – the “ands.” Simplistically the easiest way to do this is to step back and watch how the system behaves. And, yet, even this is tricky:

“You think that because you understand ‘one’ that you must therefore understand ‘two’ because one and one make two. But you forget you must also understand ‘and.’”

 (Meadows Thinking in Systems)

It is in interconnection <the ‘ands’> which may actually make one and one equal something other than two. That makes most people’s heads explode, yet, it shouldn’t because it explains velocity, scale and a variety of other exponential growth/progress ideas. Similarly, if you grasp the concept, now you must also accept that, in this case, one and one maybe actually equate to something less than two.

Which leads me to resilience.

Understanding “ands” is actually about understanding the resilience of your business. Yeah. Resilience rarely resides within a system, but rather the connections within a system. So, if you seek to understand a business’s resilience you have to understand the connections <complexity science suggests ‘fractals’>. I say that because resilience is a measure of a system’s ability to survive and persist within a dynamic environment. It has elasticity embedded within in, not constancy. Resilience is restorative from conditions encountered which means it offers non-static stability. All that said. The elasticity is found in the conversations, the connections, the “ands” and the ability to juggle, and find the appropriate equilibrium, of replicable and emergent.

Which leads me to “ands” and complexity.

While ‘ands’ are connections it is within connections where one can actually find insights into a system. While interconnected can look incomprehensible you can actually see some insights within the connectivity because connectivity, at its most basic level, are small linear fractals within a nonlinear complexity which represent. To be clear. I propose insights are not causally linear (they simply release a nonlinear aspect of probabilities) nor are they simple rather they are reflective of unleashing complexity’s non-linear potential. These insights may appear simple, because at their best they focus on some linear fractal, but they are complex in nature.

The truth is below the surface of any complex system outcomes lies a complex arrangement of fractal connections <”ands”>. By rummaging around the ‘ands’, you can discover some human insights (mindset/attitude/behavior) or some recurring patterns that ground connectivity AND observe some of the more nebulous inconsistent interactions/connections. Technically these are ‘fractal simplicities’ or what Alvin Toffler suggested in the 1980’s as halfisms versus wholisms.

Insights actually straddle halfisms and wholisms (albeit I could suggest insights are halfisms which lead to a wholism). Regardless. Insights reflect a connection TO the truthism while not offering the whole truth in and of itself.

Which leads me to the “art of ands.”

“And analysis” is an art. Here is what I mean. It was Arthur Koestler, in The Act of Creation 1964, who identified something called “bisociation of matrices” or how one creatively identifies patterns or connections.

** note: (Koestler) “The pattern underlying [the creative act] is the perceiving of a situation or idea, L, in two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference, M1 and M2. The event L, in which the two intersect, is made to vibrate simultaneously on two different wavelengths, as it were. While this unusual situation lasts, L is not merely linked to one associative context, but bisociated with two.

I have coined the term ‘bisociation’ in order to make a distinction between the routine skills of thinking on a single ‘plane,’ as it were, and the creative act, which … always operates on more than one plane. The former can be called single-minded, the latter double-minded, transitory state of unstable equilibrium where the balance of both emotion and thought is disturbed.”

‘Ands’ are grounded in a “bisociation of matrices” and, as Robert Kegan (Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life, 1994) stated, the idea of a “holding environment” which offers two key aspects within thinking — the Socialized Mind and the Self Authoring Mind:

Order 3: Socialized Mind. Cross-categorical thinking-the ability to relate one durable category to another-is evident in the third order of consciousness. As a result, thinking is more abstract, individuals are aware of their feelings and the internal processes associated with them, and they can make commitments to communities of people and ideas.

The ability to scan about for cross functional, cross categorical, cross institutional, thinking is at the core of sense making.

Order 4: Self-Authoring Mind. Cross-categorical constructing-the ability to generalize across abstractions, which could also be labeled systems thinking-is evident in the fourth order of consciousness. In this order, self-authorship is the focus. Individuals “have the capacity to take responsibility for and ownership of their internal authority” and establish their own sets of values and ideologies. Relationships become a part of one’s world rather than the reason for one’s existence.

‘Ands’ almost demand an understanding of the parts AND the whole, the intentions of the individual and community effort to be successful. In other words, ideas are self-authored AND socialized through connections so that the vision, idea and implementation are aligned to the benefit of the concept AND the business. in other words, ands is artistic thinking.

Which leads me to why understanding “ands” matters.

Even if you don’t completely buy into the mindset that all of business is complex, at minimum, most agree it is dynamic, constantly shifting and never/rarely static. That said.

        • I believe complexity just is. Period. It is the system in which all businesses work within. All dynamics are simply the dynamics of systems – institutions, people, process, automation, technology, society, culture (inside & out of a business), community (inside & out of a business), global, etc. – interacting with each other. In other words, a bunch of “ands”.
        • I believe complexity is expansive in nature, not reductive. Therefore, the objective of navigating complexity is always to unlock its potential, not ‘reduce complexity.’ In other words, maximize the “ands” and maximize complexity.
        • I believe there are linear aspects within complexity and there are causal relationships. In other words, “ands” are linear and their outcomes are causally nonlinear.

In the end. Thinking in ‘ands’ keeps us from simply dividing an issue into what we perceive as a solvable part versus unite the complexity into one seemingly unsolvable issue. Counterintuitively, the latter is actually the path to meaningful progress even though I suggest it is ‘unsolvable’. You do not ‘solve’ complexity, you use ‘ands’ to navigate and untap complexity’s potential.

I believe we would be better off thinking about this. I imagine my larger point is that systems and individuals are inextricably linked and if one desires to ‘work the system’ they will also need to ‘work the individual’ (I hate that phrase) and become experts in “and analysis.” Systems are people and people, inherently, are unique typically working in coherence to the benefit of a larger collective. In other words, systems are people, but systems effectiveness resides in the “ands.” Ponder.

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Written by Bruce