Dancing through the Complexities of Thinking Systematically about Systems Thinking

The first three segments of the STIA certification course dealt with basic concepts and a hands on tool, Insight Maker.

Now we are going to move close to getting metaphysical but it will be quick and we will come back. The problem is that there is a difference between, in writing or talking about, what something is or what something does, say dance as opposed to writing or talking about doing something, even more so with actually doing it, dancing. There is the moon, there is the finger pointing at the moon and then there is a picture of the moon and a finger.

In understanding both what dance does and in knowing the doing of dance we can move to a higher level of development and begin to symbolically represent dance, to compose dance, to understand what is and do choreography. If we are thinking systematically about a dancer’s injury then we are not merely thinking of only the injury on the body or of a particular body system but also of the larger issues related to the body or particular body system. We could be thinking about diet or exercise or medications, even the dance floor.

If we do not then we not only fail to understand the problem deeply enough, we also take the means of addressing the problem for granted. Often, although more true in the past, with no harm to ourselves or anyone else. Sometimes though we need to go deeper to avoid distant, unforeseen and unintended consequences and circumstances. These type of circumstances are becoming more frequent, especially in wicked problem situations that impact us all through our communities.

When looking at the system and extending our boundaries of what we consider the system to be, in addition to thinking about the particular specific issues, we are also begin thinking about meta-issues, the meta is the thing to focus on, higher level of abstractness or about (its own category). There could be a better general category term for what is being referred to here but its absence makes its need evident.

The points along the Kumu path of this segment deal with management or meta-management issues that can arise when addressing systems. These occur across systems involving people, materials, production and end products, time management, avoidance of mistakes, limitations, system fixes, acquiring new learning, organizational culture and behavior, financial relationships, sustainability, and whether the potential exists to become victims of the system or systems of the victim.

The assignment for this segment consists of, “using one of the diagram forms presented to date develop models for two situations which are near and dear to you”. The first result is New Organizational Learning Inhibited through Bureaucratic Over Complicatedness & Corruption (IM-16192). The model is in storytelling format so one uses the “Step Forward” button at the bottom right corner to move through it. The model is intended to integrate some of the concepts of theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning raised by Chris Argyrisin, “Teaching Smart People How To Learn” and a number of concepts considered by New Community Paradigms.

The model starts with a balancing loop diagram Problems/Solution Generation (B1) of the commonly found command oriented top down approach to management based on so-called Newtonian principles (the Newtonian principles are not so-called, the basis for the management is). It needs to be recognized though that this has been, and can still be under the right circumstances, a very successful approach. Management finds problems to solve by use of Command Structure Management. The environment though continually raised new problems, some from the manner in which management has organized the environment and new learning about the environment, as a complicated machine requiring new algorithms is required, which is then applied to the new problems.

There is a point though at which this method begins to break down. Systems move from complicated to complex because they begin to become non-linear and demonstrate emergent properties, or perhaps the ability of the complicated management system begins to loose its capacity to contain those aspects of the always complex system. The approach exhibits “Decreasingly Effective Action” (R1) through “Inappropriate Actions” based on an over dependence upon “Outdated Thinking, Communicating and Learning”, and the effectiveness of (B1) is diminished. Things go down hill from there.

There are two ways under New Community Paradigms that communities can be on purpose. One is community governance, through participatory democracy, as considered through Community Governance and the wiki-pages and related blog posts found under it. It is also believed, however, that this approach needs to be supported or scaffolded through Systems Thinking Approaches so that members of the community are not merely engaged but become empowered with the ability to effectively address the challenges, even wicked challenges, facing their community. The second way is Democratic Direct Disruptive Design, first introduce through Open Data as End and Means of Civic Disruptive Innovation and based, at least analogously, on Clayton Christensen’s theory of Disruptive Innovation and extending that concept to Disruptive Innovation in Governance. This is still only part of the strategy that is required though to implement new community paradigms. We will need to incorporate more if we wish to succeed in creating a better tomorrow and we will undoubtedly need, I strongly suspect, some form or forms of systems thinking to accomplish it.

Original post: Dancing through the Complexities of Thinking Systematically about Systems Thinking

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