Sunday, March 15, 2009


March Madness! We wait for it every year at our house. Even though we don't really pay attention to basketball, until about the first of March, my three children, my husband, and I look forward to picking names out of the hat to see who has what teams and how they will fare, playing through the brackets.

The NCAA Division 1 Men's Tournament is the best kind of bracketology - 65 select, highly capable teams competing via an exciting process of elimination. Winner takes all.

You might ask what kind of other bracketology is there? Bracketology is actually a synonym for reductionist thinking, and it was featured in a 2007 book, The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything. I thought this was an exciting concept and went to the bookstore intending to buy this book. Upon looking at it, even thought it was well done and fun, I did not purchase the book because narrowing anything down to a single best, only one winner is antithetical to what I believe in and how my mind works.

Reductionist thinking is logical, scientific reasoning. It is binary, built on either/or, better or worse. It is the process of winnowing. Too often we consider reductionism as the only true logic and the only sound way to make decisions.

Reductionism lacks imagination and intuition. Reductionism does not make room for ambiguity and paradox, both of which are more apt and reliable in explaining and understanding complexity. Therefore, reductionism, as I see it, provides not only a false sense of security, power, and progress, it develops a false picture of a situation because it over-simplifies.

I favor a more radiant, imaginative thinking process that embraces both/and, sometimes, in this case, and for right now as descriptors. Radiant thinking seeks to make connections and associations, to spread out ideas and assumptions in order to expose gaps and create space for invention and innovation between structures.

When does bracketology work? Only after a long season of practice and play, as each team that makes the tournament knows. Their season record and conference play earns them a Bracket invitation. In working with ideas and concepts, use bracketology only after a long season of play and practice in expanding and experimenting. Don't narrow or rush the important imaginative work of problem-seeing and solution creation.

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