Necessary, but not sufficient

When asked “who created Apple?”, it’s tempting to say Steve Jobs did it.  The truth is that, although he may have been necessarily, he was not sufficient.

Similarly Bill Gates, who (as Malcolm Gladwell tells us in Outliers) experienced a unique confluence of circumstances that led to the founding of Microsoft.  Gates deserves tremendous credit, but alone he was not sufficient.

The brain likes to simplify, and history sometimes prefers to leave out the details for the benefit of a better story.

But no one thing alone is enough: not a movement like Decision Intelligence or a fantastic initiative like the Silicon Valley Sim Center Instead, we catalyze existing movements, nudge and sway, and put in the hard long hours of pitch after pitch.  I like to think of Jodie Foster’s character in this scene from Contact, going to one funding agent after another with her crazy idea (“a nice presentation, doctor”).  But even she was only necessary, not sufficient.

In a systems model, you can draw it like a fork: many causes pushing hard to a single result. And the forces need to be aligned just right – more often a chance circumstance of the right emerging movement, the right desperate need (Denning’s “dead cows”), the right visionary first customer, and the right persistent entrepreneur pounding the pavement for years, all creating the bump that gets us to the new place in state space.

From vicious to virtuous cycles.

To new ecosystems.

So the challenge we face as good modelers is to understand enough of the system to align the forces so they hit at the right time.  So that the combination of improved policing and improved rule of law leads the people to stop shooting each other, clean up the city, encourage businesses to return.  Good intuitive systems thinkers are said to have an instinct for this.

But this is getting too hard to do it alone.  The world changes so fast that a leader who tries to adapt is called a “flip flopper“, indecisive.  But they must change, again and again.

So in the coming months, I’ll be telling you about a number of initiatives around how Collaborative Intelligence – CI – interacts with Decision Intelligence (AI/BI/CI/DI : stay tuned!) in what for now we’re calling the Reality Stack.  How humans, sweat, and long hours work together with each other – and yes together with the data as well.  And how this is the only way we can bump into new loops, new global optima in the bumpy space of wicked problems, and explain our changes in a way that they’ll be accepted and that galvanizes change.

Because I may or may not be necessary.  But I am certainly not sufficient.  Let’s do this.

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