Friday, January 9, 2015

A Synthetic Mind

A synthetic mind is future-oriented, holistic, focuses on long-term problem solving, without ignorance of emergent trends.

Digital world is complex and ambiguous, though analytics is always important to break down the big problems/projects into small blocks, and conquer them piece by piece; however, given the real-world complexity and abundance of information, you will never have time to digest every piece of information or analyze every detail; you don’t have time to learn everything as well. So what shall you learn first, and how can you integrate what you learn into a holistic and an objective picture, that depends on what you are trying to synthesize. The synthetic mind is rare but becomes more precious to overcome the silo thinking, biased decision making and solve the over-complex problems facing business and society today.    

The synthetic mind is more future-oriented, perceives “what could be.” while analytics describes “what is.” But Analysis is the breaking down of a complex system into pieces that are small enough to be understood, in such a way that you can reassemble them (as you broke them down) to gain a deeper understanding of "what is." Those individual pieces then give you a sense of "what can be." Synthesis is then the process of assembling those pieces in a different way in order to achieve "what could be" and based on that select "what should be".

The synthetic mind tends to look at the system as a whole and not being part of a whole. Synthesis is about combining things into a whole. The digital world is hyper-connected and interdependent, a synthetic mind has the advantage to see it as a “whole.” But before you can combine, you need to first do a logical, natural partitioning. The analysis is largely about partitioning. In other words, the Synthesis process should be pulling the Analysis process, just as the Analysis process is feeding the Synthesis process.

The synthetic mind is more on the lines of problem-solving by taking a longer-term approach. Where analysis is concise analytic work, takes a short term approach, more looking at the root cause, look at the context in which it has happened, and then expanding into being a larger picture to solve larger problems, making it part of a whole wider world. Synthesis: place together; the combination of components or elements to form a connected whole. It is a nature digital thinking for hyperconnectivity.

The synthetic mind can either understand emergent properties or create emergent properties. More often, analysis as a process ignores emergence. Hence, the emergent digital trends and accelerating changes make synthetic mind digital fit. It is very much the same way that divergent and convergent thinking are important for critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and intelligence, analysis and synthesis are important and complementary.

Analytics vs. Synthesis: Analysis and synthesis, as scientific methods, always go hand in hand; they complement one another. One could perhaps go so far as to suggest that there's often a strong correlation between the two sets. The analysis is understanding the thing by examining it as parts. Synthesis is understanding a thing by examining it as a whole. Analysis without synthesis is a reduction. Synthesis without analysis is intuition. They should complement each other, the question is how best to combine them. Every synthesis is built upon the results of a preceding analysis, and every analysis requires a subsequent synthesis in order to verify and correct its results. So in terms of difference... they are the two ends of the line between understanding the parts and understanding the whole - very different but also equally and inextricably linked to the process of understanding, and both required when looking at the potential for and impact of change. In this basis, one can never be 'better' than the other, as both are equally necessary. in any case, Analysis is necessary to have knowledge of an argument, a situation, a problem. Synthesis is necessary to summarize understanding of it and to transfer information about it to others. They are interdependent and complementary to each other. They are invaluable intellectual processes.

A synthetic mind is future-oriented, holistic, focuses on long-term problem solving, without ignorance of emergent trends. Analysis without Synthesis may be interesting or even educational but results in no improvement. A synthetic mind is a better fit for digital transformation.

“Analysis focuses on the structure; it reveals how things work. Synthesis focuses on function; it reveals why things operate as they do. Therefore, analysis yields knowledge; synthesis yields understanding. The former enables us to describe; the latter, to explain."   -Ackoff  


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