The Abject Failure to Make Connections and Thereby to Think and Act Systematically

Ian Mitroff
3 min readApr 15, 2024

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

As an inveterate reader of The New York Times, I’m constantly amazed at the failure to see, let alone to make, connections between the various Op-Eds that it publishes. True, on their surface, they seem to discuss very different topics. But especially in today’s world, everything bears on one another. Making connections is not only necessary to see the Big Picture, but absolutely essential if we are to have any chance of survival.

A critical starting point is the Ukraine War. Thus, writing in The Times, Dan Coates, a former Senator from Indiana and Director of National Intelligence, makes the fundamental point that aiding Ukraine in its war against Russia is directly in our National Interest[i].

Thus, he writes:

“Anticipating the next possible phase of Mr. Putin’s campaign to reimpose the Russian hegemony of the Cold War era will force NATO to greatly increase its defense budget, plunging the world into an arms race like those leading up to the world wars. Those who do not see the link between European security and our own are not living in the real world.”

Against this, in the same issue of The Times, we have a giddy Op-Ed by David Brooks on Middle Managers in which he lists the admiral qualities that they need to have[ii]. While the attributes are indeed admirable such as “Preserving the moral lens,” he has no sense that one of the key attributes is the ability to make connections between seemingly disparate events and subjects.

As I’ve written extensively, the ability to Think Systemically is key to our survival. As such, it’s a key element of every job and position.


No less ominous, in another important Op-Ed, Frank Bruni decries the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr[iii]. In a word, he has absolutely no experience in elected office. His lame excuse is that he’s been around government and studying it “since he was a little boy”.

As Bruni correctly argues that while a steep learning curve may be all right for members of Congress, it’s totally unacceptable for those who would be President.

[i] Dan Coats, “Helping Ukraine Defend Itself Isn’t About Money,” The New York Times, Friday, April 12, 2024, P A25.

[ii] David Brooks, “In Praise of Middle Manager,” The New York Times, Friday, April 12, 2024, P A24.

[iii] Frank Bruni, “The High-I.Q. Nonsense of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.,” The New York Times, Saturday, April 8, 2024, P A21.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

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