Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Might #problemsolving be our civilization’s root cause of the #collapse to come?

Problem solving, RCA (root cause analysis), continuous improvement, Lean management, all in order to study the problem, and find a fix for it… sounds the best way to progress, right? Hell, we even have ISO norms like ISO 9001 for it! Plan your actions, Do an experiment, Check the results, and Adjust upon deviations found. In itself, that PDCA or Shewart/Deming improvement circle doesn’t sound bad. Indeed, evolution thrives on it:

  • Plan is what’s your genetic material and your sociological background tells you to do (through language when it comes to humans)
  • Do is well, living
  • Check is when feedback is felt (more on this later)
  • Adjust is when learning occurs and living creatures adapt to the change

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, I think the wrong happens under the radar, but first in the Check step (indeed, PDCA starts at Check… I’ve read about that some years ago but can’t find the reference, sorry). It’s a systemic issue, and one that wouldn’t occur if we accepted to move to second order cybernetics / systems thinking.

In the 1st order cybernetics or systems thinking (or cybernetics), there’s an observer, and an observed, and no link, no influence (except for the decided) between them.

In 2nd order cybernetics, the observer considers the self to be part of the system and its perspective / world view / weltanschauung about it having an influence on the “observed”.

When you’re still in the 1st order of thinking, it’s all the most easy to fall in the trap of thinking the observed is “wrong” (with respect to what you would like it to be) and “fix” it by some intervention. Indeed, that brought civilization to where it is today with all our science and technology, arts, philosophy, etc. But it also brought with it environmental exhaustion, pollution and peak everything (eg. peak minerals)…

In 2nd order cybernetics, one recognizes that one’s own (preconceived) perspective on anything shapes the perception of that very thing it is observing. As a consequence, perceiving a problem in an observed might be more revealing on a “problem” in the mind of the observer than in reality. Indeed, Nature doesn’t have problems. Nature *is* and evolves on its own. It’s the perception of a problem and the desire to fix it that tampers with the natural cycles of nature and most often than not creates more unintended consequences (though at a later time), for which a new cycle of “problem solving” will need to be done.

So, the 1st order way of doing the Check is searching for an external (to self) source of the problem, consequently followed by an external search of a solution, or “fix” to that very (external) problem, at its perceived (external) root cause.

Indeed, in 2nd order cybernetics, one would ponder how is it that we are seeing a problem in the first place… and then stop doing what’s causing it. The Check thus turns its inspection toward self and becomes introspection. Consequently, the Adjust begins to see a different way of behaving, in such a way that it doesn’t trigger negative feedbacks.

Does it have something to do with deficit-based change versus strength-based change? Not necessarily. One can decide to seek the positive, what worked (like previous acts on the observed rather than on oneself) because it did have apparent beneficial effects, but without considering that it might have future unintended consequences.

Permaculture, for instance, is, IMHO, both a strength-based approach to change AND an intrinsic way of changing (do we need to design a new word for it? Does one already exist? Please tell me in the comments). Permaculture seeks to stop detrimental living practices (housing, agriculture, health, economy, etc.) and instead, change its practitioners’ behaviors to be more in line with what Nature does already, or to step by step (PDCA!) approach Nature’s way of doing things.

#Permaculture and #P2P Culture: hand in hand?

While I was reading that excellent french introduction to P2P on the P2P Foundation website (it’s old but very interesting nonetheless), I remembered my own thinking around permaculture and efficiency or management.

And so it occurred to me that both permaculture and P2P interactions could work hand in hand. Indeed, as I think people need to be trained or at least showed how P2P interactions are easy, the 12 permaculture principles could well be a list of patterns or a roadmap to foster that Peer Production or at least the development of more recurrent and fruitful P2P interactions.

Indeed, we could even just start with the 3 ethics of Permaculture:

  1. Earth Care: in the context of P2P, it would be the results of peer production, that is, the Commons. Respect what’s been done previously: it had a reason to exist, and we can only build on top of it. And even if we don’t, it framed people’s current mental models, and so we must bear with the consequences and take these into consideration for our own creation.
  2. People Care: self explanatory; to better interact with people we have to be as respectful to their ideas as we are keen to promoting ours. In Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline”, it is explained as Bohm’s Dialog: “balance advocacy and inquiry” and “suspend your beliefs” (both in the sense of 1) refraining from letting your judgement be altered by your preconceptions and 2) exposing your beliefs for others to consider and take into consideration).
  3. Fair Share: whatever you co-create, use it and share the rest for others to re-use and build upon. That’s how civilizations are created.

That was the easy part, and you can probably only go with these 3. The 12 permaculture principles below are an elaboration of the 3 ethics. More practical principles if you need something more concrete to apply.

IMHO the reason these 12 agricultural principles seem to work so well is because they are precisely just this: principles applying to a system (nature and agriculture as they are). And because systems thinking is transdisciplinary, they can be quite easily transposed into different realms (like I did in management or efficiency – besides, what I propose below is just a generalization of my thinking on efficiency and better social teleogical interactions [social interactions toward a goal] which we’ve packages into the Labso with my peer Alexis Nicolas).

Also, should you need to explain to starting Holacracy or Sociocracy communities how employees should behave with one another for the cultural change to flourish, it might be a good recipe: more emotionally and metaphorically loaded than a bloated constitution (Holacracy) or 4 rough naked principles (Sociocracy).

Here’s my list of the 12 permaculture principles adapted toward fostering flourishing P2P interactions:

  1. OBSERVE & INTERACT – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The best way to accustom yourself to someone else or to a pre-existing group is to observe and interact without trying to actively interfere with the group. Feel the rhythm and get used to the beat before entering the dance floor.
  2. CATCH & STORE ENERGY – “Make hay while the sun shines.” Don’t spoil your energy, nor that of others. P2P interactions should make the best use of energy and better yet, capture the environmental energy (that out of the Commons as I said above with the 3 ethics) in order to reuse it later. That energy may be in the form of peers wanting to contribute, meaning which can be leveraged to fuel a new project, ideas in the air waiting to coalesce into something bigger and thicker…
  3. OBTAIN A YIELD – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Whatever you want to collaborate on, it needs to produce something, because 1) you need to be able to (at least partly) live on it and 2) that very production is what will motivate your peers to continue. Idealized vision are a must to start, but they evaporate quickly with time unless concrete results can sustain the momentum.
  4. APPLY SELF-REGULATION & ACCEPT FEEDBACK – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.” P2P is not lonely work. For the collaboration to work, the group must accept internal 1:1 exchanges between its members so they can coordinate among themselves and people self-correct when they feel their interactions aren’t inducing the best results for the other peers as individuals and for the group as a whole. But for that internal balance to exist, people must provide and accept (respectful) feedback.
  5. USE & VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES & SERVICES – “Let nature take its course.” Avoid producing one-off artefacts. Build Commons that can be reused by others. Make them flexible, easy to dismount and remount differently, easy to compose with others’ own artefacts.
  6. PRODUCE NO WASTE – “Waste not, want not. A stitch in time saves nine.” Waste is that which doesn’t bring value to others. When you create waste, you loose support from others and you work against your own group of peers, because it will go against the energy they’re trying to invest. It will clog your interactions, grind the creative process and eat all your (individual and collective) energy for nothing. Don’t do that.
  7. DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS – “Can’t see the wood for the trees.” Lay down the general principles, which are more intellectual and high level but also more flexible and around which you can more easily exchange, interact and adapt. It’s easier to mold an idea than to rebuild a physical gizmo. Yet balance that with #3: obtain a yield. The global idea is best tackled with the whole group when the details can be addressed in smaller subgroups or even by individuals acting for the benefit of the whole.
  8. INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE – “Many hands make light work.” To avoid centrifugal forces, seek to weave links rather than erect barriers. Search for what’s similar and what’s similar inside the differences instead of focusing on the sole differences. Constantly reweave the group together with similarities and connections between ideas and people. Don’t let differences and dissimilarities tear you apart from one another. It’s a natural step for the mind to spot differences (I’ve started to write about that in my book) so you need to pay special attention against it.
  9. USE SMALL & SLOW SOLUTIONS – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Although we’re a lot wanting to change the world, it all starts with small steps. They also are the best way to coordinate with one another and let people enough time to chew on new ideas and adapt to them. Slowly build a robust small foundation rather than a hasty big fragile one that will crumble under pressure later on.
  10. USE & VALUE DIVERSITY – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” The best group is composed of diverse people with various perspectives. It ensures resilience, innovation, constant (individual) energy access, etc. Uniformity, just like in Nature, is prone to diseases and thus failure.
  11. USE EDGES & VALUE THE MARGINAL – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path.” What’s on the border is what’s more likely to be different. It mixes the internal (who the group is) with the external (what the environment needs, calls for, provides…) Edgers are better armed to provide that diversity (see previous point) to the group and allow it to evolve as best as possible along with its environment (provided the group accepts feedback, see #4). Make as many people edgers as you can. Interview them, find what makes them different because of hidden edges they have (untapped potential, skills, talents), then make these edges explicit and weave those with what’s the group is doing. Yes, that would mean a sort of community manager for the real physical world. Or peer-ify that and ensure people regularly do that to one another.
  12. CREATIVELY USE & RESPOND TO CHANGE – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” And that’s the corollary of all that preceded: learn to recognize the need for change when you meet it, whether it comes from the outside environment, from the edges or from deeper inside. Be purposeful and stick to your values, but don’t rigidify so as to break when it would have been better to pivot and change gears.









#AI has surpassed us already and made us its slaves.

I was thinking about the recent news of renowned scientists and experts warning us against Artificial Intelligence that could surpass us. Unfortunately, I think this happened already without us knowing it, and, what most, it has made us its slaves (or we’ve inadvertently submitted ourselves to it).

Read more »









Synthèse des définitions de la #permaculture

Je ne peux ne pas citer ce site que je viens de découvrir avec cette excellente vision systémique (!) de la permaculture comme approche de changement de la société. Lisez toute la page ci-dessous !

Synthèse des définitions de la permaculture | Permaculture sans frontières – Reforestation sans frontières









Transformational Change vs. Continuous Improvement (#Lean #change)

March 21st, 2016 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , ,

Great article taking a different approach to what’s most often done in organization. Lean is a whole system thing. You cannot nit pick tools out of it, you have to gobble the whole thing and change everything, becasue everything in Lean works and touches every other thing in the organization.

It may sound like sacrilege to hear someone say that continuous improvement may not always be the right answer. Of course, it is the core process of lean management. But, there are times when more significant and more rapid change is required – sometimes revolution rather than evolution is called for.

Source: Transformational Change vs. Continuous Improvement









Michael Ballé’s @TheGembaCoach Column: respect and sensei

Interesting question asked to Michael Ballé, to which I added my comments at the end (with lots of typos, sorry :-/)

Dear Gemba Coach,If lean is based on respect for people, why are sensei gemba visits reputed to be so tough?

Source: Michael Ballé’s Gemba Coach Column









Christopher Alexander Fifteen Properties of #Wholeness applied to Mental Models #systemsthinking

It’s been a while since I’ve been pondering the fifteen properties of wholeness as expressed by Christopher Alexander. Although I have yet to read one of his book, his work has transpired up to me already through the well know pattern languages.

Being found of Systems Thinking and the transdiscplinarity this permits, I couldn’t help but wonder how these 15 properties could apply to mind and mental models as well, and how it could inform our feeling of wholeness or explain when we feel like being one and belonging to a bigger, encompassing one as well. Sounds like spirituality to me, although I consider myself an atheist!

Of course, feeling also attracted to radical constructivism and social constructionism, I can safely affirm that you both are influenced by what you distinguish in the world around you and that you construct what you’re looking for. So, I hope the interpretation I give below (which is purely empirical… or my own construct) may be useful both as a way to construct that feeling of wholeness than as a way to find where it may exist when you didn’t feel it in the first place. Now, back to constructivism: where’s the difference between building and finding-and-constructing at the same time?

Here is my inner travel through the fifteen properties of wholeness. Fancy a trip with me? Here we go… Read more »









#DSRP from @CabreraResearch: a way to order and procedurize it?

January 28th, 2015 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , , ,
I’ve been a big fan of Dr Derek Cabrera “DSRP” generic systems thinking tool set and approach. Along with Dr Laura Colosi, they developed the concept into a full range of approaches to teach children how to think better: Cabrera Research.

As fan as I may be of theories, I also like a good putting in practice of them, and DSRP comes in just as a handy way of “doing” Systems Thinking, or, as one might put it, “Systems Doing”.

But first, a bit of a reminder of what DSRP is and what it does stand for.

What “DSRP” is

DSRP first appeared, I think, in Dr Derek Cabrera PhD thesis near the end where he studied the different flavors of Systems Thinking (eg. this one) and came to the conclusion that there are now two similar methods or even definitions of what Systems Thinking or how to “do” it in practice. And so he proposed these four letters and the corresponding generic questions (page 170 of the thesis: “The Minimal Concept Theory of Systems Thinking (MCT/ST)”):

  • D stands for “Distinctions”: what something IS and IS NOT, given the fact that once you decide one, you de facto decide the other as well. Incidentally, this looks like what George Spencer-Brown also does with his initial distinction being perfect continence (in “Laws of Form“) – I’ll come to this below
  • S stands for “Systems”: what it is COMPOSED OF, and what it is A PART OF
  • R stands for “Relations”: what it IS CONNECTED TO, and what IT CONNECTS TO (seeing the thing as a relation)
  • and lastly P stands for “Perspectives”: what does the things BRINGS as a perspective, and what OTHER perspective can be considered to look at the thing.

What I propose is that we make some little change to the order of the four letters because I feel like there’s a progression in them and that some other view might be more natural, if not powerfully generative.

Moving from DSRP to DRSP

I just propose we switch the S and R to make that DRSP. Although the four letter indeed, in my mind, form a system to build system in one’s own mind, I find it works better the following way. Beside, I’m not sure Dr Cabrera had a specific order in mind when he proposed it. Here how it goes for me:

  • First, there’s a general Distinction, which makes it clear what is the thing, and what “other” is with respect to that thing. From a 1st order systems thinking, we can stick to that simple explanation, but from a 2nd order perspective (the one that takes the observing observer into consideration) we must remember that a specific perspective is at play behind that initial distinction, something George Spencer-Brown himself seemed to introduce in his later updating of Laws of Form, in some annexes with the re-entrant principles.
  • Then, once that initial Distinction has been made, there’s a necessary Relationship established between One and Other, because of the distinction (the mark) between them.
  • And here we just pause now (that is, without pursuing our Distinctions of the initial element or of the relationship itself), then we can say we have a System, made of the One and the Other, connected through their Relationship.

Now, we continue our investigation, and surely enough, some other Distinctions will be made, along with the drawing of Relationships between the new ones and the preceding ones, whether they are at the same level or at a lower (distinction of an element into smaller entities, giving visibility to a smaller sub-system) and bigger ones (identification of a super-system). Lastly, once the initial investigation is finished, we have:

  • an overall Perspective represented by the whole DRSP analysis we have. It’s now then time, of course, to question all elements of it (DR&S) and see if each one might not bring new insights to further refine the picture, and also ask other people what their own individual perspective might want to have added to the picture. Hint: inviting stakeholders of the issue or system modelled is always a good idea…

So here we are now with a beginning of a method to “apply and use DRSP”. Ask questions about each one of the four letters to build and refine a system of interest. When the work is finished, it’s still possible to consider the whole as an element in itself and ask: if this element is a Distinction, what is Other? What relation stands between this One and Other? And of course, there will be a final time when it will be worth considering the question: whatever Other there is, we decide we stop there and will work out a solution or whatever needs to happen for the modelled system from only the component we brought forth through our DRSP questioning.

So, of course, there are a huge number of systems thinking methods, all of them featuring advantages, some even trying to unify the field (like in Michael C. Jackson’s Creative Holism for Managers: Total Systems Intervention) but not all are (IMHO) as easy to use as Dr Cabrera’s. So when you need to answer that spontaneous question “But how do you do systems thinking?”, now you have a simple 4 letters, easy to memorize, approach.

 









Reblog @SSIReview: The Dawn of System Leadership – #systemsthinking #stwg

First systems thinking reading during commute this year, and it’s already an excellent paper from SSI Review “The Dawn of System Leadership“. Thorough and with gems inside, I can only urge you to reserve some time to read it (it’s longer than a classical blogpost, but it more than deserves the time invested)!

The Core Capabilities of System Leaders identified in the article are:

  • the ability to see the larger system;
  • fostering reflection and more generative conversations;
  • shifting the collective focus from reactive problem solving to co-creating the future.

The article also mentions Appreciative Inquiry, which is quite rare in the systems thinking field not to be mentioned.

Also mentioned is Otto Scharmer’s “Theory U” which starts with three openings:

  • opening the mind (to challenge our assumptions),
  • opening the heart (to be vulnerable and to truly hear one another),
  • and opening the will (to let go of pre-set goals and agendas and see what is really needed and possible)

Ironically (well, maybe not so in the end) is the link I made in the past between the Strengths of people and Simon Sinek’s three circles in this blogpost and the work we’re developping with Alexis Nicolas in the Labso (laboratory of social technologies) (in bold are the new additions to the previous article):

  • Why <–> Purpose <–> Vision (heart) of where you want to go
  • How <–> Mastery <–> Ideas (mind) of how to get there
  • What <–> Autonomy <–> Experience (hand) that proved to work in the past that can support you going forward

2015 seems to be off to a very good start!









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