“The universe has no single secret. It does not even hold a single nest of secrets to which some one study holds the key.”

Mary Midgley


Many years ago, I wrote “The Secret ain’t really a Secret” after someone gave me a copy of The Secret suggesting I may like it. At the time I thought it was absurd that people would think there was “a” secret to life. I also thought “thank god the business world isn’t that stupid.” Well. The business world has become stupid. Or maybe the secret sellers have just become more clever. What I mean by that is while in the good ole days a trickster would candidly call something they were selling (the solution to whatever woes that kept you from the riches of business success), but now they don’t call them secrets. They call them ‘insights’ or ‘best practice’ or whatever snake oil solution they can make a buck from.

But the problem isn’t them, the problem is us. “I have met the enemy and it is I.”

Which leads me to people’s response to so much information.

Interestingly, the world wide web has made everything simultaneously less mysterious and more of a mystery at exactly the same time. We have more information available to us then we have ever had before. The mysteries of the past now have explanations. Yet. Each of those ‘explanations’ have chinks and often a little vagueness. And it is within that vagueness questions arise and the world wide web does a deep dive into often ludicrous depths in which the darkness smothers some relative ordinary truths. From that experience we, the enemy which is us, start feeling more and more uncertain and unstable on, well, what to do. So, we begin scavenging for secrets and there is no lack of trickster scavengers to peddle a secret for whatever uncertainty you have. I bring all of that up to suggest that our search for a single answer is a reflection of, or consequence of, the information overload we encounter.

Which leads me to the persistent allure of one dimensionality.

Linear is not only easier to visualize, but it is likeable because it communicates transparency (not uncertainty). Embracing dimensionality means you forfeit some, if not a lot, of transparency. This makes situations looks messy with not one defined solution that can be achieved. But in a business world increasingly complex AND increasingly less forgiving to mistakes or decisions that do not bear fruit immediately the desire for the correct solution, usually a short cut answer, almost encourages us to reduce things to, well, a search for a secret, i.e., a single answer. And, to be clear, business appears to have an insatiable appetite for ‘single answers to the universe.’ I remain baffled by this. I clearly understand how the desire occurs I just remain baffled by how easily business gets sucked into the newest ‘answer’ being peddled. If business seeks a single answer, I would suggest they rummage around within this framework:

  • Self interest/self impact
  • Collective interest/collective impact
  • Value offered/value recognized/value impact

The ‘answer’ of any successful business resides in the cat’s cradle of “what I do”, “what we do together” and “is what we are doing valued and does the market value it”. Business is, inevitably, about value and impact. Business is, inevitably, about an intricate connection of people and things working in progress toward value generation and impact. I imagine some trickster may suggest that is “the secret”, I will not. There is no single answer for any universe. Ponder.

Written by Bruce