Cenk Uygur Has a Tree in His Head

Cenk Uygur has a tree in his head.

I am currently studying the world-shaking work on storytelling in organizations by Dr. David Boje, who teaches at the College of Business at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M.

In the draft manuscript for his new book, The Quantum Physics of Storytelling, Boje calls on the phrases "grass-in-the-head" and "tree-in-the-head" to describe two ways of seeing and experiencing the world. The phrases are drawn from work by other academics (Linstead & Pullen; Barad, et al.) along with Native American myths and his own family experiences growing up in rural Washington State.

A grass-in-the-head person, writes Boje, has "a desire to be an assemblage of animal herds, family clan, orchards, beehives, and crafts." A tree-in-the-head person, he says, "can only think from beginning stage to end stage, from root to branches in developing strategy, plans, designs..."

When seen through the marvel that is Boje's work, Cenk Uygur, whose opinions and political analysis I usually respect, is a big-time tree-in-the-head. So is John Boehner and all the weeping willows who have jumped on the "Obama -- I'm so disappointed" bandwagon like spoiled brats who are bored with their new toys before Christmas Day has even ended.

President Obama, by contrast, is a grass-in-the-head. This, believes David Boje (and so do I), is a much more effective way way to create productive stories in a complex, networked environment like our political system and the federal government. Rather than being rooted to one central myth, belief system, ideology or outcome, a grass-in-the-head thinker is on a continual quest for connection and co-creation.

A big reason that this particular rhizomatic model offers a more effective form of leadership and story creation than a tree-in-the-head like Uygur can see or admit is that it mirrors the digital ecosystem in which stories live. In other words, it is better suited to the environment than the hierarchical models and dominant narratives that Uygur and the weeping willows want to see (and aren't going to get) from an Obama administration.

Seen through the lens of Boje's work, Uygur's use of a boxing metaphor -- a linear, time-based narrative with binary win/lose outcomes -- looks ridiculous. Imagine someone being bitterly disappointed that a chess player isn't exchanging punches with his opponent, or a guy complaining about a clover plant because it doesn't look like a redwood tree, and you get an idea of the scope of Uygur's mischaracterization. He missed it by that much.

Mike Bonifer is the co-founder and CEO of GameChangers, LLC.