How do we blend rationalities?

Brad C. Anderson

The first step to blending rationalities is to recognize that rationality takes multiple forms. Further to that, realize that each type of rationality has the power to see certain aspects while being limited in other areas.

Blending rationalities also requires us to recognize our limits. For small problems, we may have the capacity to blend multiple rationalities on our own. As the complexity of the problem increases, however, it can quickly outstrip our capacity.

Furthermore, our job training tends to develop one form of rationality over others. Science training promotes technocratic rationality, business training fosters economic rationality, and so on. This focus leads to the creation of expertise but leaves us weak in other areas.

In these situations, collective reasoning is a helpful tool.[1] Find willing partners with different backgrounds, bring them together, present the problem, and allow them to deliberate on solutions.

We further need to recognize the knowledge we do have is often flawed or incomplete.[2] Combining the knowledge of many through collective reasoning may help us close the gaps in our understanding, but some holes will always remain.

Thus, an essential aspect of blending rationality is to apply solutions cautiously and with a spirit of experimentation. As the situation progresses, collect more information, use different rationalities to understand what is happening, and modify your approach appropriately.

Key Takeaways

  • To blend rationalities
    • Recognize rationality takes multiple forms
    • Each form has the power to understand certain aspects of the world and is blind to others.
    • Recognize our limits–no one is a master of every type of rationality.
    • Engage in collective reasoning
    • Move forward with a spirit of experimentation.

  1. Anderson, B. C. (2019). Values, Rationality, and Power: Developing Organizational Wisdom--A Case Study of a Canadian Healthcare Authority. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  2. Weick, K. E. (1998). The Attitude of Wisdom: Ambivalence as the Ultimate Compromise. In S. Srivastva & D. L. Cooperrider (Eds.), Organizational Wisdom and Executive Courage (pp. 40–64). San Francisco: The New Lexington Press.


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How do we blend rationalities? Copyright © 2020 by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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