Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#systemsthinking Might humans higher intellect be the cause for the announced doom?

The Club of Rome and “Limits to Growth” book have warned us since when I was born that without a drastic change, humanity is doomed. Indeed, a point of non-return was passed over in the 80s, so we I guess we all have to cross fingers and hope for an innovation to save us all.

Meanwhile, I was thinking out loud on LinkedIn/Systems Thinking World and happened to have posted the following, which I think might be of interest to readers of this blog.

I think there’s a system at play in humans on a second level that is absent in animals (and insects) [the discussion was about Insect Economies]

Animals interact on a ground level with their environment and are structurally coupled with it (Maturana). When there’s food available, they use it. When the resource is exhausted or below a *practical* level corresponding to their natural ability to gather/use it, they just stop, either through migrating to better places, which indeed let time for nature to rebuild itself or they breed less, or even they disappear altogether.

Humans on the contrary are able to adapt themselves to a higher level to their environment. When their usual way of using resources isn’t sufficient enough, they invent/innovate a new/different/better way of doing it, and exploit the resources further (usually through tools). The result is that nature goes beyond a point of being able to regenerate itself (overshoot and collapse? Mentioned here). When we achieve this point, we usually either move elsewhere (find a new oil natural tank) or innovate to use another kind of resource.

Indeed, it’s always a search for more, with (as far as I noted for now) more and more negative longer term consequences.

So, from a systemic perspective, I’d say that what allowed humanity to prosper up to now is its capacity to think at “upper” levels and have a new kind of adaptation to change, where animals are more limited. It might well be what will put humanity at risk in the longer term, unless we evolve one layer further up.

I thus see 3 tendencies for now:

  • continue humankind as usual (the 90%)
  • embrace decrease/frugal economy (ie, consume less and less, the 9%) – in which I place initiatives such as The Commons
  • embrace thinking to a higher level (the 1%?): systems thinking, the human project (http://www.thehumanproject.us/) and similar.

Despite being attracted with the third option, I’m wondering whether this direction is the good one given that it showed such poor results to date (incredible progress but with an exhausted planet in the end).

Comments?

Level 1 Module 1 – ThinkNation @iDSRP #systemsthinking: why we need it so much

I’ve just viewed the video here about the DSRP “thinking toolkit” I’ve already blogged about. Indeed, I even used it for my introductory Systems Thinking Slides out of my recent Napkin skills.

Level 1 Module 1 – ThinkNation.

Check the web site!

What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind (N. Carr) @LinkedIn. Is this really a problem?

December 7th, 2012 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a nice discussion launched on the LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking and Lean for Services”: What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind (N. Carr) | LinkedIn.

I make my own contribution which I reiter here, since the group’s closed:

The original english article (from 2008) hasn’t been linked. Here is it:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

A remark I just made to myself: we’re changing the way we read, undoubtedly. That we probably are also changing our way of thinking, I can understand it too.

But should it really be viewed as a problem? I mean, if you want to continue to live by thinking the way you thought a few years ago (ie, ‘deeply’), then surely you have a problem. No argument either that deep thinking allowed some fantastic inventions.

But I think there’s an (unspoken) assumption behind the article: that this new zapping way of thinking is worse than the deeper one. Surely the same things can’t probably be achieved using the new way than with the older one.

Yet, again, is it really a problem?

Humans are structurally coupled with their environment (Maturana). Their environment reflects themselves, and this is reflected also in the language they use (and inversely if we agree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – now that I know Systems Thinking, I’d say there’s structural coupling here as well).

So that (new) languaging (Twitter or Facebook short messages), thinking, web surfing, zapping, etc. is the new way life is lived today. Or is going to be lived for years to come (I don’t see it changing soon: ask any teacher for instance about the trends they see).

In the article, Google is assumed to be the equivalent of Taylor. Then I suggest that Tim Berners-Lee was the Ford of Internet (he pulled knowledge online on the web), and now Taylor/Google is organizing it for us. I suspect the Semantic Web will even reinforce that (go think why! 😉

May I remind you that Taiichi Ohno came after Taylor with what was deemed to be known as the Toyota Production System (or Lean, though the latter lacks that Respect for People part, most of the time).

Should we compare the two, I’d say that where Taylor (Google) devised how to work (think), Ohno (? no replacement yet?) devised how to improve that work… without too much deep thinking, instead with constant and continuous improvement of the work.

Where Taylor split the work, Ohno used the small thinking of people to have them improve their small part of the work, then connect the dots (the parts) through A3 thinking and nemawashi (Google these! 😉

I see an enormous advantage in being able to surf knowledge on the web (for instance): it allows to far more rapidly connect concepts and ideas together, which you can only do so slowly when only thinking deep.

So instead of scarce big changes once in a while, we might end up with a flow of continuous small changes and innovations, all the time.

Toyota became the best in manufacturing doing exactly that. Why couldn’t people do the same for their own thinking?

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