IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

Personality profiling, Part 3 - Ideas versus reality (Plato’s Return and Design Thinking)

Part of the TMS profile (see previous post) was the question to which you related better: “idea” or “reality”. It was an all or nothing question.

For me this is a bit sort of an chicken and egg question. Of course I like to stay with my feet on the ground, specifically in work situations and don’t want to walk around the whole day with my head in the clouds. But that’s not what this is about. The idea always comes before reality and specifically for us in IT, where we can mould our IT reality as much as we like, we should know this.

Before we build a system we should have an idea about how it will work, what it should do and how we will put it together. Before we have an idea about the system, we should have an idea about the benefits and why we want it. What is the business outcome?

But if we have an idea or a series of ideas, we should bring it into reality. And from that moment on we must be very practical in identifying all steps and resources to get the required outcome. And then we need to look at the reality of the business benefit and the business outcome.

So we start with our heads in the clouds and need to be creative and identify options but at some stage we need to focus on reality.

Idea and reality are two different aspects of one and the same thing. Reality does not exist without an idea and ideas are just dreams if we don’t turn them into reality.

I’d like to refer back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where he postulates that we don’t really know reality but just have an idea about what it could be. The idea is the shadow we see on the wall, a reflection in our mind. Quantum mechanics and string theory confirm the fact that there is no clearly defined reality. [see also my first post]

Ask 10 different people what your business reality is about a specific subject or business process and you will get 10 different answers. So reality is not something black and white; it has lots of shades of grey. And you can’t run your business without ideas. Ideas are the driver that makes the business move forward and grow. The trick is to turn the ideas into reality.

Roger Martin combines in Design thinking: achieving insights via the “knowledge funnel” in the magazine Strategy & Leadership both concepts in what he calls Design Thinking. He describes a knowledge funnel – a process starting with a Mystery (triggered by intuition ; idea) via the development of Heuristics to a structured Algorithm (reality). The process is the analytical process but you need regularly go back to your guts feeling and try things out and see if you can develop your heuristics and algorithms to see if your guts feeling was right. This is how he sees modern organizations should operate to develop their products and processes. Organisations that are driven by creative thinking alone or by analytical processes alone will be less successful.

Coming back to my previous post about interpretation of questions and the consequence of the resulting profile: once you have thought a bit longer on the subject, I bet that there will be people who at first might have answered one thing but after a bit of thought such as considering the subject from a different perspective as what I have attempted to here, might opt for the other answer.