The Value of the Synthesist (as opposed to the Analyst)

We had some very rewarding conversations recently with business partners and peers regarding the Value of Synthesis versus Analysis.

Synthesis we believe to be a ‘higher level’ skill and experience set than traditional analysis.  Synthesis requires a natural ‘incubation period’.  Very few people are natural ‘synthesists’.  You grow and mature into a ‘natural Synthisist’.

Analysts can be taught.  In fact a very lucrative business education industrial complex has been built on the back of ‘creating a production line of analysts’.  We call them Business Schools churning out master’s level analysts with the three-letter MBA title behind their names.

Don’t get us wrong on this one.  We are not criticising MBAs or the Business Schools that produce them.  Far from it; because we believe that part of the ‘evolutionary process’ of ‘incubating a mature synthesist’ is having a deep and fundamental understanding of analysis and the factors that contribute to making a good analyst.

Two of the key words we used in the above paragraphs were:

  1. Incubate
  2. Mature

We pause to reflect on these two words, because they are part of a natural evolutionary cycle.

Synthesis is a development process.  It doesn’t just occur overnight.  The process takes many years, many forms, much frustration, heart-ache, high failure rates, desperation, etc.  We hope you understand the philosophical underpinnings of the argument.

The drivers that help define and shape good synthesists are many fold, however, two of the more basic building blocks include:

  1. The Tyranny of the Status Quo
  2. The Language of the Artist

What do we mean by these two concepts?

The Tyranny of the Status Quo

Mediocrity, lack of risk taking and proper risk management, a ‘level playing field’, universal access, no economic ladder to climb and a social ideology that creates an amorphous mass of despair is what drives the tyranny of the status quo.  It is the antithesis of Innovation and Creative Thought.  It is the Socialist ideology that drags us all down to the lowest common denominator.

The Language of the Artists

We believe it was Peter Block who claimed in that business life has become ‘infected’ with the language of the Engineer and Scientist.  We ‘Business Process Reengineer’ this and that; we ‘Reverse Engineer’ this or that process. We contain, seal and measures finite risks and processes, much like a scientist would work in a ‘Controlled Laboratory Environment’.

But what we really need is the language of the artist and philosopher.  We require poetry, motion, flow and creativity in order to establish the correct environment for innovation to ‘spring forth’ naturally and spontaneously.

Even though you would think this to be a natural phenomenon, it is very difficult to achieve in the ‘controlled environment’ of Shareholder Value Creation, due to the narrow focus on hard facts and cool numbers, underpinned by the ‘negative risk management cycle’.

In an article we recently published in a boutique Risk Management Training and Consultancy’s Quarterly Risk Update, we referred to both the positive and negative risk management perspectives.

Negative risk management is “[the] approach in an organisation that is designed to prevent the downside consequences of a transaction, such as (1) mitigating a potential loss or (2) the cost of not complying with regulatory requirements”, whereas in positive risk management “the upside is managed in conjunction with a risk based approach to general management. This is the starting point of Enterprise Risk Management”.

Financial Controllers and CFOs have to ensure that shareholder value is continuously created and then as measured and reported  within the framework of Internationally Accepted Financial Reporting Standards and the generally ‘rules based approach’ to compiling those Financial Reports.

This is not a simple task and should we ‘interfere’ here with the language of the artist and philosopher in this process, we are certainly dead set on the course that will lead to ‘confusion, value destruction and financial ruin’.  But aren’t we there already?

Has the most recent ‘crisis of confidence’ in the financial system as practiced by the ‘Financial Engineers’ and ‘Quant-type’ mathematicians and scientists not just proved that the old paradigm does not create value, but is still subject to ‘deep-rooted and fundamental’ long-term business cycles?

And yet what do we do?  We blame the ‘selfish and selfless’ market capitalists for the problem, rather than address the basic condition that drive the imbalance, namely the ‘imperfect market’ that we create with over burdensome regulation, control and ‘dare we mention the term again ‘financial  and business process (re-)engineering’.

We continuously oscillate on the pendulum between the free and ‘planned or controlled’ market forces.

Until we recognise the fact that our policy interventions, ill conceived regulatory frameworks and processes and the financial reporting and ‘engineering’ standards help drive the market mechanism to points of ‘disequilibrium’ where the natural ‘clearing mechanism’ of matched supply and demand cannot function normally; then we will just have to accept the consequences of the natural ‘boom and bust’ economic cycles.

To have ever utter the immortal, nay, ‘notorious’ phrase “we have abolished boom and bust” was not just arrogant but utterly naive and demonstrated a lack of a basic understanding of market forces in the ‘planned and controlled’ market economy camp.

Therefore, to conclude this brief post on the Value of Synthesis, we challenge mature ‘incubated’ professionals to step up to the challenge of redefining the new economic landscape by utilising the language of the artist and philosopher and to practice just a little bit of ‘Loony Intelligence’ in the process.

For further information and more in-depth discussion on this subject, please contact us by clicking this link:

theMarketSoul ©1999 – 2011


4 thoughts on “The Value of the Synthesist (as opposed to the Analyst)

  1. Synthesis is the ability to assemble tangible (things) and intangible (concepts) elements that are experienced by individuals over their productive lives to solve problems. Problem solving requires putting things and ideas together (synthesis) not taking them apart (analysis). Synthesis involves finding patterns that worked before. So problem solving is more closely aligned to synthesis than analysis. If we run in to difficulties in solving a problem because of poor synthesis, we fall in to analysis mode to find the root cause. The primary objective of that analysis is to synthesize a different solution to the problem. So, if you are in problem solving business, synthesis is your first tool of choice. A poor synthesist becomes often becomes a frustrating analyst. However, if one is not interested in problem solving, the need for being a synthesist is less apparent. Here is Bhash’s mathematical formula for efficiency of problem solving …

    Efficiency of problem solving = ratio of resources spent synthesizing to sum of resources spent synthesizing and analyzing a successful solution. So less time we spend analyzing, more efficient is problem solving technique. This does not mean analysis is bad, but it is a required non-value added activity for ensuring success in solving a problem. As you mature and learn more, your ability to solve problems should improve as you get to right answer quicker. You become more of a synthesist than an analyst.

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