The Root Cause

Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems

The Humpty Dumpty Syndrome

Business education is still organized around Newton’s principle of Reductionism. As a result, the complex organic whole that we know as a business, is broken up into its component parts. Then, each individual piece is analyzed separately, and in isolation of all other parts.

The unavoidable consequence of disconnecting parts from each other is severing the very connections that bind those parts together into an organic whole. Therefore, unless you already understand how a business functions as a singular, unique, integrated, and open system—what role each part plays in realizing the system’s purpose—you cannot reassemble the system successfully.

I call this phenomenon the Humpty Dumpty Syndrome after an English nursery rhyme:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

After learning more-and-more about less-and-less until they know everything about nothing, students are certified as specialists, or material experts. Some students go even deeper in order to develop what is known as Deep Domain Expertise.


Searches for Chief Executives seem to value candidates with Deep Domain Expertise, which is a mystery to me. You know why? Because CEOs must assume ULTIMATE responsibility for success and failure of the entire business system. After all, they have the right to exercise ULTIMATE authority to change that business system’s design, structure or organization, operation or implementation, maintenance, and management.

This is the inevitable result of reaching the top of the hierarchical ladder where one’s scope of work widens and its level of detail reduces dramatically.

It was the late Col. John Boyd USAF who said:

One cannot determine the character and nature of a system within itself.
Moreover, attempts to do so lead to confusion and disorder.

In other words, the deeper one’s deep domain expertise in a single component part, the less likely one is to understand the business system for which one assumed ultimately responsibility.

Furthermore, IBM’s report Capitalizing on ComplexityInsights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study confirms that a majority of executives are in deed perplexed by complexity; the intricately interdependent nature of a business system’s component parts.

Back in 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote the following in his famous book Think and Grow Rich[1]:

KNOWLEDGE will not attract money, unless it is organized, and intelligently directed, through practical PLANS OF ACTION, to the DEFINITE END of accumulation of money. Lack of understanding of this fact has been the source of confusion to millions of people who falsely believe that “knowledge is power”. It is nothing of the sort!
Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end. This “missing link” in all systems of education known to civilization today, may be found in the failure of educational institutions to teach their students HOW TO ORGANIZE AND USE KNOWLEDGE AFTER THEY ACQUIRE IT.

I can assist you to achieve what neither the Kings horses nor his men could do; put the component parts back together again―i.e. organize knowledge (a.k.a. synthesis) and direct that organized knowledge towards the realization of your business’ purpose. I can explain it to you, but I cannot understand it for you. Nevertheless, I guarantee that once you understand, you will know how to solve stubborn systemic problems, change strategic direction, and become a creative force.

I’m here to help you. Read more in The Root Cause: Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems.

[1] Chapter V. Specialized Knowledge, page 105

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