Thinking Outside ‘Outside the Box’

-When a decentralized organization is attacked, it tends to become more decentralized

-When a centralized organization is attacked, it tends to become more centralized

The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom

The logic of an entrenched player is to streamline the existing process. If you’re the US Military, you design a billion dollar top-down digital communication system that allows every soldier to carry a camera so that the Generals know exactly what is going on. You see yourself falling behind and finally start to address the problems you’ve been ignoring for a long time.

But in the end it is all strategically irrelevant. You’re never going to be able to add enough horses to the wagon to beat a car. The paradigm is shattered. Utterly shattered. The answer to massive efficiency disparities is not to think outside the box–Boyd told us that the notion of the box itself is constraining. The answer is to stop trying to win that way because winning is impossible. Centralized will never beat decentralized. And from that assumption you can find success again. Like the Stoics said, remember all the people that dug their heels in and fought, did they ever manage to defy nature or were they buried like all the rest?

What an innovative thinker would do is find a way to centralize your enemy (as you slowly decentralize). That probably means giving them power and letting it corrupt. Decentralized movements are able to survive off illegal enterprise, instead of attacking it and pushing them further into it, give them legal enterprise to centralize around. etc.

But look, chances are none of us are ever going to be in the position where we have to deal with a massively decentralized enemy. In real life, we have other concerns that make pure, logical business decisions difficult. That’s not why this important. It matters because it is strategic thinking at its very essence. Instead of looking at the situation from the framed lens you were given, what if you torn it all down? What if you took nothing for granted, got creative and came up with something inspired? I want to beat my fucking head against the wall when I talk to people about this stuff. They just.don’t.get.it.

You get all sorts of cognitive dissonance, rationalization, and this myopic focus on incrementally improving what we already have. That’s because they’ve tied who they are to that system–even if they were never a part of it, there is just too much uncertainty in chaos and speed and decentralization. These always have and always will be the fodder people. In business and especially in war, the last thing you want to be is fodder–a body that gets thrown at a problem. You want to be the person that transcends it. Ultimately, this all ties in to the stuff I have been trying to make sense of recently: vision, curiosity, contrarianism, relentlessness, and efficiency.

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