Best Practices
June 18, 2021

Situational Assessments from the Consilience Project

Part of an initial series focused on our toolkit, we explore some examples that caught our attention. Here, an intro to The Consilience Project's situational assessments.

If you don’t know Daniel Schmachtenberger, you might have some catching up to do, because he's quite possibly the smartest person you haven’t heard of — yet). A good intro to Daniel would be his conversation with Eric Weinstein on The Portal, with Eric’s brother Brett on the Dark Horse podcast or the series from Rebel Wisdom on the War on sensemaking. Hours of your life just vaporized; but they will be put to good use.

The reason I bring Daniel into our little AOV world is because of his latest venture: The Consilience Project.

The Consilience Project is developing a body of social theory and analysis that explains and seeks solutions to the unique challenges we face today. It focuses on the deeper generator functions beneath the world’s major problems, drawing on the best of social theory while showing where existing theories and institutions are no longer adequate to fix the current problem landscape.

The project is still pretty new (launched Q1 2021), but already they’ve defined three editorial formats:

  1. Foundation series (“address the relevant aspects of social theory and history required to understand and address the challenges of the 21st century.”)
  2. MetaNews (“analyzes thousands of stories in order to understand important moments in recent news cycles, producing a detailed analysis of representative stories from across the political spectrum”)
  3. Situational assessments (“Each Situational Assessment identifies all of the relevant facts and perspectives, places them within the appropriate contexts, and outlines the theoretical models that explain why and how certain things happen or do not happen.”)

Obviously, the third one is of particular interest here, since we’ve freely borrowed the language and intent of the situational assessment for our own purposes.

Why situational assessments matter — a recap

The need to understand your position only exist if you are lost or in a fog. If things are clear, you know where to go. Therefore the important question is knowing whether you have clarity or not.

Given that we’re in an age of misinformation, it's become wise to assume that things are muddy, that what is called news might actually be propaganda; and so you need to turn into an investigator for about just about everything.

Again, from the Consilience Project:

Changes in science, media, and the nature of our basic social structures (such as economics, politics, and warfare) have been building in complexity at an accelerating rate. Our ability to make sense of things can no longer keep pace. This is a situation in which effective innovations are needed that can upgrade our capacities for learning, fast. We have little choice but to learn new ways to make sense of the world together, in a new kind of public sphere. This new approach to sensemaking is needed to address an increasing number of consequential decisions facing our governments, communities, and families.

...and businesses.

Given this state of affairs, we think it is urgent that organizations start adopting new and better practices when thinking about strategy (in the broad sense), starting with developing or refining their sensemaking abilities.

Some actions you can take:
  1. Make curiosity part of your hiring process — Its very easy to spot someone who is curious in an interview, starting with asking basic questions about their media diet and other reading habits)
  2. Make diversity of opinion a guiding principle in your business — Encourage skillful disagreement and counter-opinions (red team inclination).
  3. Encourage long-form writing (exit Powerpoint, borrow from Amazon’s playbook and start using memos and force people to read them before diving into a topic)
  4. Make strategy a practice more than an event. Strategy, like good ideas, can happen at various moments in time not just when you are supposed to.
  5. Entrust young people with strategy assignments. They have trained to communicate and express ideas beyond the conventional straight-jacket of slide decks.
  6. Cultivate what Heather McGowan calls "Searchlight intelligence", exhibited by “those who can quickly assess changing conditions and employ heuristics to connect the dots and adapt ahead of inevitable change will be advantaged over colleagues and companies that cannot”
Further reading on situational assessments:

Other Perspectives...