>Dreaming and Enterprise Architecture

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Planning for the target architecture of an enterprise is a difficult task; some would compare it to looking into a crystal ball and trying to divine the future of an organization and the marketplace. The funny thing is that some of the best planning and thinking that people do may actually not be when they’re awake and cognizant, but rather when they’re sleeping!

“Dreams are the images, thoughts and feelings experienced while asleep, particularly strongly associated with rapid eye movement sleep. The contents and purpose of dreams are poorly understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history.” (Wikipedia)

The Wall Street Journal, 15 January 2008, reports that dreaming can be useful to making connections in your mind that you might otherwise never make.

“There is a growing body of research that indicates that sleep is a time when we can figure out patterns beyond our grasp during the day…during sleep, the brain engages in processing that explores connections and ideas in trial-and-error fashion.”

Not only are new connections made in the subconscious while sleeping, but dreams may actually be a wake-up call to the person. “Your dreams may be useful to you simply as reminders that you need to address certain issues sooner than their placement at the bottom of your to-do-list would suggest… ‘my subconscious is kicking me in the rear end,’ as one marketer puts it.”

Another researcher states that “dreams are like Rorschach tests…they ‘are basically always a report of memory that is reconstructed while the person is awake.’”

Unfortunately, not all dreams help us reconstruct events, make new connections and insights. “Roughly half of all dreams are related to anxiety and fear.”

According Freud, “dreams, which he called the ‘royal road to the unconscious,’The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) in which he proposed the argument that the unconscious exists and described a method for gaining access to it…for Freud, the ideals of the Enlightenment, positivism and rationalism, could be achieved through understanding, transforming, and mastering the unconscious, rather than through denying or repressing it.” (Wikipedia) provided the best access to our unconscious life and the best illustration of its ‘logic,’ which was different from the logic of conscious thought. Freud developed his first topology of the psyche in

While I would be cautious in interpreting dreams, when it comes to enterprise architecture and the skillful forecasting and planning that it entails, dreams can be beneficial in a number of ways. Firstly, dreams can provide insights and connections that one wouldn’t normally have in a fully conscious state. Further, not only does sleep provides the ability to see things differently in dreams, but also when you wake up and are refreshed, you “see things in a new light.” That’s why you may have heard the saying “to sleep on it” before making an important decision. Sleeping refreshes the body and the soul; with adequate sleep, the mind is sharper and the thinking more analytical and precise. I would rather get my architecture from someone who is well rested and clear-headed, than a sleep deprived architecture jockey.

>Sigmund Freud and Enterprise Architecture

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“Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind.”

Freud is probably one of the best known and most influential psychiatrists of all time.

What are some of Freud’s major contributions to understanding human behavior?

  1. Unconscious mind—Perhaps the most significant contribution Freud made to Western thought was his argument for the existence of an unconscious mindhe proposed that awareness existed in layers and that some thoughts occurred “below the surface.
  2. Id, Ego, and Superego—Sigmund Freud’s “structural theory” introduced new terms to describe the division between the conscious and unconscious: ‘id,’ ‘ego,’ and ‘super-ego.’ The “id” (fully unconscious) contains the drives and those things repressed by consciousness—it is dominated by the pleasure principle; the “ego” (mostly conscious) deals with external reality—its task is to find a balance between primitive drives, morals, and reality; and the “super ego” (partly conscious) is the conscience or the internal moral judge.
  3. Psychoanalysis—Freud is the father of psychoanalysis (free association), is which the analyst upon hearing the thoughts of the patient, formulates and then explains the unconscious bases for the patient’s symptoms and character problems. Through the analysis of resistance (unconscious barriers to treatment often referred to as defense mechanisms) and transference unto the analyst, expectations, wishes and emotions, from prior unresolved conflicts is often unearthed, and can be quite helpful to the patient. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

How can Freud’s contributions help us be better enterprise architects?

  • Developing a deeper understanding of stakeholders—Understanding that leaders, subject matter experts, end-users, and other stakeholders don’t always communicate what’s on their mind or even know fully what’s on their mind (because some of it is in the unconscious), can help us as architects to dig longer and deeper to work with, question, and seek to understand our stakeholders and their requirements. Very often open-ended questions (or free association) works best to let user get to what they truly want to communicate, while at other times closed-ended type questions may get more quickly to the facts that are needed.
  • Not everything the users want is for the ultimate good of the organization—While most users have the very best intentions at heart, there is a component in all of us called the id, that are unconscious desires driven by the pleasure principle. “The id is the primal, or beast-like, part of the brain…the prime motive of the id is self-survival, pursuing whatever necessary to accomplish that goal.” The id can drive some users to pursue “requirements” that are good for their own selves, careers, ego, or training goals, but may not be ‘right’ for the enterprise. For example, some users may want to purchase a technology that “they know” (or are familiar with) or that will make their functions or departments more important or powerful in the organization, or to show “what they can do”. While this is not the rule, I think we can all probably relate experiences at work to this. (Thank G-d for Investment Review Board and EA Boards to catch some of these and put them back in their boxes.)
  • People are resistant to change and have all sorts of defense mechansims that can impede progress—“When anxiety [between the selfish id and moral superego] becomes too overwhelming it is then the place of the ego to employ defense mechanisms to protect the individual” However, while mechanisms such as denial, repression, rationalization, and so on can help protect the person, they often hinder progress at the organizational-level. Just because a person can’t get what they want (technology toys, resources, turf, prestige…), they “act out” to protect their own self interest and thereby also impede the organization. As architects, we are not psychoanalysts nor psychiatrists, so we can not resolve people’s underlying internal battles or unfilled desires. But what we can do is recognize and call attention to these mechanisms and their impact, and work to focus the architecture on the good of the organization versus the good of any particular stakeholder.