Another Cypher for “WTH Is Going On Here?”

Yes, we live in interesting times. That’s for sure. Not sure anybody would have guessed that 2020 would be so interesting, but here we are.

It’s not easy to make sense of everything going on. And I have a bunch of mental concepts and philosophical perspectives that help. Of all of tools in my proverbial toolbox of “WTH is going on here?” the concept of Cyclopraxis is probably the most useful.

That’s because it abstracts the dynamics from the personal to the impersonal. From an individual stance to an individual expression of dynamics that transcend pique and mood. The longer I’m in the working world, the more Cyclopraxis explains things to me. And while some might say it’s reductionist and is more similar to Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram, when it comes to understanding human nature, if you look long and hard at it, and you really give it a chance, it’s even more useful in a business context (in my opinion) than those other personality systems.

People are happiest working in circumstances that match their preferred praxis. And businesses, either due to their maturity or the type of business they’re in, have cycles. People whose praxes don’t fit the type of business they’re in, well, that’s where we have issues. And in fact, you could even say that not only companies, but also cultures and nations have qualities that coincide with business cycles.

Indeed, pretty much any institution is going to have a character which suits it best to:

  • Innovating or
  • Building or
  • Capitalizing or
  • Extending (which I’m now considering calling “Curating”)

The way they make their money and keep their business running may align with one or more of these foci. In his 30 years of work in the semiconductor industry, Doug Johnson observed that companies which robustly incorporate all four cycles tend to be the healthiest over time. That gives them the chance to not only innovate but also shepherd their innovations through the full cycle of taking a concept to market, making money from it, and keeping the customers they have (after all, it’s less expensive to sell to an existing customer than go out and acquire more).

Of course, there are plenty of instances where a company will concentrate on a primary cycle and then either be acquired or morph or simply go under, when it comes time to shift to the next. Many, many startups have tanked over the years, in no small part because they entered as Innovators, and they may have figured out how to build what it was they invented from scratch, but they never quite figured out how to capitalize on it… perhaps because they never brought on Capitalizers to fill that role… perhaps because the Innovator founders never realized how critical it was that they made that shift and brought on those types of people.

I don’t just see those disconnects in terms of the workaday world, however.  For just as Cyclopraxis explains why startups may begin strong and have every indication of succeeding, but then… can’t, it also explains the types of conflicts we see happening all around us, every single day.

People who want to make as much money as possible from intellectual property launch armies of lawyers against open source “pirates” who believe first and foremost in innovation and moving their field forward. Witness: Sci-Hub versus journal publishers like Elsevier.

Cities populated by established residents may try to morph, to attract the newest generation of high tech Builders. But the Extender / Curator types who have been living there for generations object to the new construction that re-routes familiar streets and remakes the landscape that’s evolved in direct relation to the people who called that place home, all those years. Witness: Pittsburgh’s urban evolution, as described in The Rise of the Creative Class.

It’s a little uncanny, actually, seeing how well Cyclopraxis explains so many of the interpersonal conflicts I come across, almost on a daily basis. People have a way they like to work, a way that they feel most productive and capable. Other people have other ways and perspectives. And when you toss them together without understanding the praxis basis for the conflicts, the whole thing can be a hot mess.

But when you look through the Cyclopraxis filter, a lot more starts to make sense.