Continuum thinking

[A continuum is “a continuous extent, succession, or whole, no part of which can be distinguished from neighboring parts except by arbitrary division”.]

It is almost daily that I find someone trying to frame a discussion, decision, and/or argument in a binary manner.  By this I mean trying to make a “yes/no” equation.  While there are many issues that can be solved in this manner, the greater majority  of our challenges are not so clear cut and unambiguous.  In fact, we are faced daily with any number of issues that require some original thinking and significant mental effort to address.  The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we allow these opportunities to expand as they should or do we force them into a binary position (increasing out odds of being right to 50%) so that we can select an answer and move on?  Many times the answers are not “either/or” but could possibly be “and”.  Imagine the impact this could have on your life!  You are correct…it will make your life quite a bit more challenging because it will force us to consider all the possibilities instead of taking the reductionist approach and trying to narrow them down.  While this may be an efficient method for moving through a series of decisions, it is certainly not the most effective.

Over the last 2-3 weeks (as I have been thinking about this topic) I have seen/heard the following discussions take place:

  • What is the difference between managing & leading?
  • Can you define strategy vs. tactic?
  • What is the difference between sales & marketing?
  • How do you balance life & work?

I certainly do not have the answers to any of these questions but  I do have a suggestion on how to reframe the question.

If you find your are pondering a decision between to ideals, take a few minutes and consider that they are ends of a spectrum that connects them by degrees.  Maybe it is merely a decision on what you are doing today or at that minute.  It may also be that doing one does not mean you are not doing the other.  They may be interconnected so that you could be doing one of them will setting the groundwork for the other.

We have plenty of difficult decisions to make each day, let’s not create more that really do not exist.  I have included a continuum of change image below because change is the certainly not binary but something we imagine happens with a single decision.  It is obviously a process with many decision points along the way.


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Filed under Complexity, Decision Making, Thinking about thinking

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