My Pi-Spective on Business Theory

Theory

(A pi-spective is where you write about something using only 314 words)

The modern business professional is paid to think. What used to work doesn't seem to work as well. Or maybe we couldn't ignore the evidence that it never worked. Whatever the case, the value-add for the modern business professional is to think things through and then take action.

This means having a theory about the why of how and what we do. The challenge here is that theorizing isn't part of the playbook we were given. The way we form theory is also part of the problem. The way we think about business needs a fair amount of untangling.

We get too hung up on validation. Our brains are confirmation bias machines. We can basically validate anything we want. Mitigating this bias calls for seeking to prove ourselves wrong. It's about searching for those situations where events don't go the way we expect. Because that's where we learn.

Dave Gray (@davegray) is working through this idea of liminal thinking. Liminality is a stage of ambiguity and disorientation that precedes a new way of thinking. Liminal thinking is the art of creating change by understanding, shaping, and reframing beliefs. It's about deprogramming ourselves so we can see things more as they are. It's about helping business professionals form better business theory.

Doing what others in your industry are doing or reading the same articles doesn't help that much if they're heading in the wrong direction. We won't be able to identify what that direction is without forming our own theory of what's going on and why. We won't be able to establish an effective culture of experimentation without a guiding theory.

The modern business professional finds themselves in a liminal state and needs to rediscover the art of theory. Karl Weick calls this 'disciplined imagination'. It means cultivating a non-linear approach to making sense of what's going on around us and feeling our way forward.

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