Perseus’ Shield

No one quite does lateral and innovative thinking like the protagonists of Ancient Greek mythology…

In one instalment of Classical Greek mythology, the hero Perseus finds himself destined to battle the Gorgon Medusa. Her hair was composed of venomous snakes and looking directly upon her form would turn the viewer instantly to stone. The hero Perseus approached this problem with literal circumspection: pre-emptively polishing his shield to the point of it becoming a reflective mirror surface before the battle and then using this technological aid to indirectly view her, he proceeds to defeats her.

No one quite does lateral and innovative thinking like the protagonists of Ancient Greek mythology. Alexander the Great’s solution to the epic entanglement of the Gordian Knot is another such slice of brilliance.

Regardless that there is a wealth of material for psychoanalytic and semiotic analysis within these mythological narratives, the key takeaway here is that of the value of an indirect analysis and creative aptitude for lateral thought and problem solving. There exists a class of problems related to complex systems analysis that are (also) best approached indirectly or at the very least unconventionally; authentic innovation is rarely a matter of simple mechanical replication of existing methodologies.

Issues of optimising organisational performance at a global systems or holistic level are only partially addressable by a linear or reductive behavioural and mechanistic analysis. There exist features of complex organisational systems which possess non-locally distributed, non-linear and intricately sophisticated recursive logical dynamics. Such complexities are not always directly or exclusively accessible through purely linear methodological mechanisms of orthodox administrative or hierarchical thinking. It may even be that the forms of thought and analysis required to comprehend and positively shape the destinies of such complex organisational systems must always and to some extent lie just outside of the axiomatic assumptions and foundational frameworks through which those organisations are structured.

We see (and hear) everywhere the aphorisms and epithets of aspirational Organisational Philosophies but noticeably conspicuous by their absence are the effectively innovative and creative complex analyses of a Philosophy of Organisation.

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