September 05, 2005

I had written previously that specialisation is the antithesis of the strategist, outlined that idea in very brief. The question had originally been put to me in the context of a descriptive label: why am I a strategic thinker? What makes me a strategic thinker (rather than a tactician)?

An odd way, to my way of thinking, to have phrased it. I recognise that the question tries to identify and constrain that aspect of me which instinctively tries to identify and understand the greater structure. Yet for myself, I am not at all certain that I see any distinction between the strategic and the tactical; at least, outside the carrying-out sense. This aspect of me, it resides in the same thing that forces me to see as intensely personal the effects of Katrina, at the same time as I itch to examine and overhaul structures and plans (and especially disaster contingencies, since maybe above all things I hate preventable suffering) in everything I touch. Both are part of the same thing, to me. How can one understand, let alone build, a large thing without understanding each unique part of it?

I am reduced to a description of process: that for me, what others call strategic thinking maybe comes about because of my approach to all things. I try to understand why others do what they do, which sometimes breaks down into trying to find out what had been intended under the window-dressing of what had actually been done: and that turns into something approximating predictability of what; and the whole thing translates somehow into something that looks remarkably like what is commonly termed strategic thinking.

What it is not ever, for me, is me thinking about what I would do, were I in another person's position. Rather, when I try to figure out something in another person's context, I borrow parameters and perspective such that, for all intents and purposes, I am the other. Call it a form of temporary compartmentalisation of convenience: such that data comes complete with appropriate connotation and nuance at the point of acquiring it, and all subsequent action based on that data are also based -- sometimes unconsciously -- within the context in which I acquired it. In effect, I acquire what I understand of the world from so many different points of view that I can adopt the parameters and context of almost any given perspective at will: but then, since I am actually something other which partakes of this and that and more besides, it is an instinctive awareness to simultaneously be aware of a wider angle.

(A curious side-effect arises where I am dealing with polarised perspectives in a polarised social environment, where I usually manage to make both sides equally furious with me: partly because neither can figure out what it is that I do stand for; but perhaps mostly because it soon becomes obvious that even though I will argue for a person's side, I don't support it completely and unconditionally.)

On a chessboard or strategy game and increasingly in my grasp of what is going on in the world it is something more holistic: call it having a sense for the situation as a whole (with elements of what kinds of things can lead to what results) ... and I do not think I can even apply the word "understanding" with any accuracy here, that part is completely instinctive. I am rarely surprised anymore, I cannot even remember the last time I was. A wind comes, I sway, the roots remain grounded: and I often don't even realise that I have bent and stood firm at the same time. (I do realise, when it is a tornado; but so far the roots are still holding.)

Yet I think it might not always have been so, not to the same extent: and the ultra-tight focus on attempting to understand is only about six years old in me, rising out of a sudden epiphany that no one could control me but me, unless I allowed it. The corollary is that in any attempt to control others, I was actually setting myself up such that they controlled me.

Of course a prelude to all that, for me at least, was to understand that I was not the centre of the universe, that my perspective was not inherently more valuable just because it was mine. Generally most find this a point of view so very uncomfortable that they never realise just how much they isolate themselves from anything that could possibly challenge the inherent absolute rightness of their perspective. All people are at heart fundamentalists, each of the church of ME.

Maybe this is why the personal entertainment business is growing by leaps and bounds?

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