“Most business leaders are averse to chaos, are overly linear, and are disconnected from global ripples not directly related to the world of business.”
~ Idris Mootee, Design Thinking for Strategic Innovations
The preference for linearity means people naturally shun anything that seems like chaos or anything that they can’t make sense of, and prefer situations they feel they are in control of, even though it may be a temporal and illusory comfort. Yet more than ever, business leaders need a new and dynamic way of thinking if their business is to survive.
This linearity in thought has a historical link. The Western world is essentially Hellenic in its thought structure, a legacy of Greek logic.
Design thinking, however, is about the ability to see and make meaningful connections of all the different dots in a very complex and fast moving world. This ability to make meaningful connections between different things is a powerful part of innovativeness. Some call this combinatorial creativity.
Linearity or Block Logic?
Design thinking may have been around longer than we realise. In fact, it may be something that the Jews have intellectually practiced for centuries.
Studies have shown that embedded in Jewish culture is a deep reverence for learning and encouragement of explorative thinking. This ability to connect different things together, which to others may have seemed random, has been called block logic by Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith.
“Hebrews often made use of block logic. That is, concepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern…This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antinomy, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension — often illogical relation — to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic.” (Wilson, pp.150–153)
Compare this to Greek logic.
“The Greeks often used a tightly contained step logic whereby one would argue from premises to a conclusion, each step linked tightly to the next in coherent, rational, logical fashion. The conclusion, however, was usually limited to one point of view — the human being’s perception of reality.” (Wilson, p. 150).
Block logic allowed the Hebrews to possess the unusual equanimity to accept paradoxes and seeming chaos—a powerful component in creative thinking.
In the Hebraic way of thinking, a concept belongs to a complex of interactive ideas with a focus on the sum of the whole, content to leave questions unanswered and inconsistencies unresolved. This explains in part the disproportionate number of notable Jewish thinkers, creators and innovators compared to other groups of people. They have been pioneers in every field of endeavor, from science, technology to Hollywood.
This ability to embrace seeming chaos is because at the root of the Hebrew mind is one filled with wonder at the mystery of God. This wrought an intellectual humility in the Hebrew mind as “inconsistencies and contradictions are related to human, finite understanding of the infinite God.”
We Need a New Way
Intellectual humility recognises God’s purpose and intent, and how He has designed things to be. The biblical authors never argue the existence of God; they only assume it. God is not understood philosophically, but functionally. He acts. The word of God was not only nor even primarily an expression of thought; it was a mighty and dynamic force (Boman, p. 58).
Ancient Israel was birthed, as a nation, to bear a heavenly mandate that drew from the covenant that God made with their Father Abraham (Genesis 18:19). Embedded deep in the cultural psyche of the nation is a mission to “bless all the families of the earth,” to be a driver of transformation. The Torah was not only the basis for their constitution, the nation’s DNA, but it was also the day-to-day operational system that shaped their economics, politics and culture.
“We need a new way, one that’s smart, human, cultural, social, and agile and that puts innovation at the core of every move it makes. That way could be design thinking.” ~Idris Mootee
It is in this sense that the Jews have shown us what innovation is, operated at a nation level. In their passion to investigate all areas of life, guided by the command to do justice and righteousness, to connect the dots even between the divine and human, they have shown us a way of thinking that puts innovation at the core of everything they do. It’s fascinating therefore to realise that design thinking may have been around a lot longer than we thought.
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Thorlief Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, London, SCM Press Ltd., 1960 Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, Eerdmans; 1990 N’Tan Lawrence, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (Western)Thought (Article)
Genesis 12:2,3, 18:19, Exodus 4:20, Acts 3:26, Luke 1:17, Leviticus 19:33–37