Blog: On Synchronicity and Decision Making
- Posted by Hassine Saidane on February 14, 2015 at 5:00am
In a previous article I argued that in order to ensure the highest performance, decision makers need to balance the data driven actionable insights with intuition driven insights. In this article a new insight is added to the decision tool box. This insight is represented by an acausal rare, coincidental event that can have a huge impact on the decision maker’s enterprise, although absolutely free. Such an event is called a synchronicity, first introduced, defined and modeled by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Most of the ideas presented in this article are summaries and adaptation of excerpts from “Synchronicity”, a book by Jessica Satori , and “ Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an interconnected universe “ by David H. Rosen. Besides integrating the concepts presented in these books into a decision making aid, the additional contribution here is the derivation of metrics to measure and evaluate whether an event is a synchronicity. Such an evaluation boosts the awareness of these life and business changing events thereby potentially increasing the frequency of their use in decision making and resulting beneficial impact.
1. Five shades of gray in rare events
An important characteristics of an event is the presence or absence of a cause. An event is the result of either a causal or acausal relationship. Causal relationships are based on action and reaction. The event is acausal (without a cause) when it is surprisingly unexpected, and almost surreal that it cannot be the result of any imaginable cause. Such an event is called a synchronicity . Swiss psychologist Carl Jung defined synchronicity as a purely acausal, rare and irreproducible event that’s meaningful (to the participant) , and seemingly numinous (supernatural origin), where the inner state of the observer and the external event play a role such that nature and psyche are together connecting in a meaningful event. While intuition and parapsychological events preserve a causal explanation based on unknown forces or paranormal causality, synchronicity remains strictly acausal.
The semantic relatives in the family of rare events are: Synchronicity, Chance, Coincidence, Serendipity, and Grace. These rare events are defined below and compared to synchronicity.
- Synchronicity, as defined above is a meaningful and acausal connecting principle, where nature and psyche are connecting together at a unique point in time and space in a seemingly surreal way. As such, it is sometime viewed as having a spiritual dimension; “Miracle, divine intervention “ are ways of describing the experience as it defies all logic and probability, and produce something surprising or against all common acceptance.
- Chance is another event with an apparent absence of cause or design. However, it takes into account the probability of the event (the ratio of it happening to its not happening). Chance is different from synchronicity because it focuses mainly on mathematical probability rather than the inner state or the external event, and it does not emphasize meaningful experiences.
- Coincidence is an “accidental” or remarkable occurrence of events. It is more concerned with events that happen at the same time that point to a causal relationship.
- Serendipity is an aptitude for making fortunate discoveries accidently and is discovered more than manifested. Serendipity seems to have meaningfulness, yet lacks the inner psychic state that synchronicity demands.
- Grace can be defined as unearned blessing, something that is given freely. Chance encounters may be counted as grace, but the keyword here is unearned. Many people blur the boundaries of what’s synchronistic and what’s grace, which like miracles and divine interventions, have a religious or spiritual context.
Every businessman and entrepreneur believes that “timing is everything” and that time and place are crucial ingredients in the success of a business endeavor. How can we then explain that synchronicity as is beneficial for business, and is there a way we can make it occur more often? To answer these questions, a look at the concept of time is needed and helpful given the role time and space play in synchronicity.
Two types of time concepts are at play: Chronos, the linear time we measure and that define the chronology of events, and Kairos, the time we sense when we are not driven by a clock that is we are not measuring it. The latter is an instance of “flow” when time seems to go incredibly quickly . While Chronos is measurable and denotes chronology (sequence, age), Kairos is not measurable, but ontological that is dealing with the nature of being. It’s a feeling of letting go of the control of Chronos, of what has to happen in a certain length of time. This is the kind of time that refills and inspires. In a world where the most coveted value is in the effective use of time, most people leave on Chronos alone. However, both Chronos and Kairos are important for balance in daily life.
3. The Process of Synchronicity
Synchronicity can occur at the intersections of Kairos and Chronos time. People are in their busy Chronos lives, going about their day, and suddenly something “hits “ them. It may be after a comment, an article, a letter, or an unexpected connection that suddenly they can find themselves transformed by an outwordly event that “beams us up” into the uncontrolled Kairos time. With synchronicity, they find themselves in the right place at the right time to create life changing personal growth or business opportunities.
As some entrepreneurs put it, “several events seemingly totally unrelated, and yet when they happen together, conspire to bring us the result we are looking for. Thus a whole series of things seem to coalesce into a happy coincidence, to bring what we are looking for” .
As per psychologist Jung’s definition of synchronicity as “an acausal, numinous (supernatural) and “meaningful coincidence”, it is conditioned by in the inner state of the participant. The series of events preceding the coincidence may seem normal and unrelated. Yet the outcome may seem surreal, which makes synchronicity hard to believe in. Synchronicity is elusive and cannot be controlled as we want to. People involved in synchronicity must have the inner psychic states enabling it to happen.
Thus Jung views synchronicity as the meaningful (to the person who is concerned by the event) coincidence between an inner psyche sate and an outer physical manifestation or event that’s acausal and numinous (magical)
4. Synchronicity and Decision Making
Something meaningful is personal in nature, synchronicity denotes that something happening outside resonates with something already inside, that seems beyond or in defiance of probabilities, that’s amazing and makes our heads spin in wonder. Time and space are fundamental to our reaching and understanding of the synchronistic phenomenon. You arrive at a moment in time when an entrepreneur, a technology and the needs of society coincide. Few businessmen attest to the great value of synchronicity where success is not defined by the equation:
success = luck + opportunity
There is meshing of the inner psychological state (feelings) of the participant and outer states (external happenings. The two work in a meaningful concordance of sorts , the conjunction and coalescence of which cannot be explained by anything then acausal synchronicity.
The relationship and interplay between internal thoughts and feelings with outer events is important. The inner thought is meaningful to the outer event and vice versa. The “meaningful coincidence” can be seen in the inner state of the participant and the impact of the event.
Being aware of the onset of a synchronicity will offer the biggest and absolutely free insight ever, where the personal as well as corporate benefits can be of surreal magnitude. If an data driven insight or an tuition driven insight are a blessing in disguise, a synchronicity is a huge blessing in plain clothes.
The multi-billion dollar questions are then how can we detect the onset of a synchronicity and how to know when an event or a coincidental event represent a synchronicity.
To decipher whether an coincidental event is a synchronicity situation, and therefore take advantage of occurring synchronicities around us as if to making them ‘happen’ , that is use them more often , there must be a willingness and desire of the participant to accept it and act on it. As Jessica Satori  put it: “ Synchronicity is not always what we think of as magical nor will everything will be exactly the way we want it, and fall into place for us. We must have the desire, the openness, the receptivity to work with these situations that bring us forward. Synchronicity will give us a hands up the ladder once we are willing to accept it. But we have to start and keep climbing to reach our goal”.
Moreover, as synchronicity can occur at the intersections of Kairos and Chronos time, decision makers, entrepreneurs as well as ordinary mortals must find the right but important balance of Chronos and Kairos in their daily lives. Kairos moments are therefore key to allowing psyche to connect in a meaningful synchronicity. Contrary to data driven insights which are derived from the past and projected in the future, living synchronistic insights are derived from living in the present.
The second important question concerns the “detection” or recognition of the onsite of a synchronicity. This can be done by analogy to a consumer’s market (shopping) basket and the items it includes. Here synchronicity is the analog of the market basket, while the attributes and the events preceding it are the analog of the items in the basket. Let’s list the attributes of the synchronicity before defining a metric indicator of the onset of a synchronicity.
5. Characteristics of Synchronicity
The following elements (attributes and conditions) are what make synchronicity different than a routine events and coincidences .
- The event is a coincidence
- The event is a rare (irreproducible) and acausal coincidence. A synchronistic event surpasses the probability of chance.
- The participant must have the inner psychic states enabling that enable the event
- The event is significant (of great importance) to the participant(s).
- The event is numinous (seemingly surreal)
- There is meshing of the inner psychological state (feelings) of the participant and outer states , external happenings.
- The coming together of time and space: The intersection of time and space plays a factor: the right time and the right place
- Willingness and desire of the participant to accept and act on the synchronicity.
- The participant is often spending some time to live in the present.
- The happening of unrelated events preceding and facilitating the synchronicity .
6. Synchronicity metrics
The metric to measure the level or intensity of the synchronicity character of an event are defined here by the analogy to the market basket where the notion of support and confidence are used to measure the quality of an association rule such as: If the set Y of items are in the basket, then the set of items X is also in the basket. The most popular metrics are support , confidence and conviction.
The proposed metrics for the synchronicity character of an event are as defined below:
Letting X be the number of elements present in the event under consideration and Y those that are not. Note that X + Y = 10
Support is the ration of the number of contributors to the number of non-contributors to the event being a synchronicity. If support is low, the likelihood that the event is a synchronicity is low. The higher the support is, the higher the odds are for the event being a synchronicity
Support = X/Y = X/(10 — X)
Confidence is an estimate of the likelihood that the event is a synchronicity.
Confidence = X/Y = X/10
Conviction is the product of support by confidence thus providing a measure that takes into account the impact of support and confidence thus reinforcing the conclusion as to the nature of the coincidental event under consideration.
In this article, an addition to the decision maker’s toolbox is explored. In addition to data driven and intuition driven insight tools, synchronicity provides a powerful for highly profitable decision insight that’s available absolutely free of charge. All that’s required from the decision makers is to be alert and open to receiving and following up on the synchronistic events that present themselves as rare and acausal situations or seemingly surreal opportunities for unfathomable success in personal or corporate affairs. Living in the present and making a balance of Chronos time and Kairos times in daily life will help increase or detect more of these situations. The benefits can be huge and the ROI is infinite as these insights are a free gift from nature to those who can spot them and act on them. Three simple metrics that can boost awareness of these synchronicities are defined based on the characteristics of such situations.
Originally published at https://www.datasciencecentral.com on February 14, 2015.