A Digital Dichotomy and Strategic Thinking

by - Friday, July 19, 2013

Considering contrasting thought processes that are both equally valuable when forming a digital strategy.

I've heard it said that it is simple to make things complex but it is complex to make things simple (Meyer's law anyone?).

I recently asked a digital strategist friend of mine what characteristics he felt he had that made him a "good strategic thinker". He summized that the ability to "synthesize" the problems and concerns of others was paramount in providing a clear direction for himself and his team.

Immanuel _Kant _(painted _portrait)

Now I have always considered myself more analytical by nature so this prompted me to read up a little on a classic philosophical distinction between synthesis and analysis. I didn't have to go too much further than a few Wikepedia entries to realise that I could quickly get out of my depth.

However it did strike me that the "dichotomy" is in itself a simplification of a complex metaphysical problem. You identify two complimentary but opposed and distinct elements, in my case synthesis and analysis, and apply them to the problem at hand.

For those, like me, who may need help here:

Synthesis is the process of combining a number of elements into a single entity.
Analysis is the process of seperating a single entity into its constituant parts.

Immanuel Kant applied this dichotomy to his particular field of study and considered synthetic propositions and analytic propositions - which I just about follow. He then introduced a second dichotomy - a priori and a posteriori - where it becomes much more complex - and spawned many years of philosophical enquiry and debate.

But back to the point, where does this leave us in relation to synthesis and analysis in the process of forming a digital strategy?

Moog Synthesizer

Some great work is being done to rationalise and document the process of forming a digital strategy but my current concern is who you should get "in the room" to collaborate. I believe that there is a need to apply both methods of thinking, or rather it is important to have individuals who have not just different knowledge and experience but also different ways of thinking about a problem. The synthesizer (really?) will take the opinions and concerns of others and form big pictures. The analysts will take those pictures and see the scope and structure of them, perhaps identifying constraints that will feed back into the process (this is a creative process by the way and constraints can really help a creative process).

Given enough time and a proper process, this will result in a digital strategy that is clear and ultimately deliverable.

Some other dichotomies to consider:

  • deductive/inductive
  • necessary/contingent
  • orange/purple (I don't know - it could go somewhere)
  • the digital dichotomy itself - 1/0

And of course the old favourite creative/technical.

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