Complexity riles and rattles us. There is a lot on, right now, were we to actually look. Bit much maybe. So we try and tame it by shoving it into big, chunky options. It makes us feel like we have a better handle on things. We like that control, it makes us safer and makes us look more “together”. Which one do you want? A? Or B?
This control is, of course, an illusion. It also has some serious downsides:
Binary thinking flattens and cheapens the discussion. We go with the asphalted straight road for convenience. We can move faster that way and the direction is clear. And we lose the undulating landscape that is actually there, and that carries all that context and information. The place where stuff grows and things emerge and dissolve and band and disband. Speed isn’t everything.
Binary thinking thrives on polarity. If you are not for something, you surely must be against it. There is nowhere else to put you in that mindset. If you spend any time on twitter, you see where that leads us, and how much fuel that adds to the fire. This invites zero-sum thinking and point-scoring. If I win, you lose where things are finite, or scarcity rules.
Binary options crowd out the space, smaller options don’t get a word in edgeways. The noise and posturing is deafening. We lose all of those voices and insights that way. I always preferred the pragmatic conversations of multi-party coalitions like in German politics over the posturing of two political parties that own the space wholesale.
Yes, decisions are important, particularly during emergencies. But where we can, let’s keep the space open for longer, and allow space. That space is where new things come from. We need those ideas and we need those voices in the room.
This is part of a series, and we will get more into what to do in future posts. For more ideas and a few personal stories in that space, check out my TEDx talk.