Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Christmas dynamics

December 8th, 2010 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,

Christmas is approaching. Parents and relative usually buy toys for children (theirs and others). But, given the increasing revenues in developed countries and decreasing costs of toys (thanks to production outsourced to developing countries with low production costs), children often have more and more toys for Christmas.

I tried to modeled the way children usually engage with toys and the consequences for them. The diagram is provided below.

SD diagram for a fix that fails in buying more toys for children

SD diagram for a fix that fail in buying more toys for children

It goes something like that:

When provided with toys, children play with them, which directly reduces their need for new toys. But, the more toys are provided to the children, the less they can engage with them (because their attention is spread over all the toys). The less engaged they are with the toys, the more boredom they experience, which increases their need for new toys. And then, because/when parents can offer new toys, the cycle goes again, this time with even more toys provided, which on a short term allows the children to play with them, but in the longer term, further spread their attention and then will increase their boredom.

So providing a lot of toys works on the short term, but fails on the long term. This is an archetype of Fix that Fail.

What are effective strategies? The archetype proposes two of them:

  • advance planning, which would mean anticipating the situation and don’t offer too much toys
  • disconnect the unintended consequence from the action (offering toys), which would mean here to provide toys that don’t induce boredom. Maybe toys that are so versatile that each time you engage with them, they provide for something new? This might be an explanation of why Playmobil, Lego, Meccano or other dolls are so popular, even after all these years: you can create stories out of them!

I would also encourage parents not to provide too much toys to their children (and ask relatives not to compensate for that!) That’s heartbreaking for sure, but we (yes, I too have kids) need to think to their long term benefits. Didn’t your parents or grandparents talked about when they were kids and could play for hours with very few toys?

So, should we inquire into what works for the sustain enjoyment of kids, we would know the answer. How come we can hardly apply that knowledge?

ReBlog: Avoid Creating Resistance To #Change

November 30th, 2010 Posted in Change, Systems Thinking Tags: ,

I have just stumbled upon this nice blog article: “Avoid Creating Resistance To Change – A Change Managment Tip“.

The rest of the blog features some interesting articles as well!

In short: use systems thinking, without using bad words.

The LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking World” features a number of discussions about that very same topic as well.

Change method: Vision, Dialogue, Results

In this very first article, I would like to introduce you to some change methodology that I have encountered while researching the topic on Internet. I find it blissfully simple, yet powerful and embedding concepts that root into strength-based approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry or The World Café.

That “change method”, should we give it a name is based on a simple approach:

  1. Establish a Vision of where you would like the organization to be
  2. Foster a Dialogue of what needs to be done to get to that vision
  3. Promote quick Results to sustain enthusiasm

Vision

By Vision, it is meant a powerful description of a highly desired state to be in. That vision should be given in the present tense, as if it were already attained. I’m not sure the original work I drew this mentioned it (I’ve lost the link), but I must add that a co-created vision seems to be a must. Indeed, a vision decided by top management only can only get you so far: people rarely feel motivated by others’ vision, unless maybe the vision holder is skilled enough to articulate it in vivid language. But the most effective way to transmit a vision is to let people co-build it themselves in their mind.

There are plenty of ways you can find on Internet which may help you co-build a vision. These methods usually also take the next point into consideration by involving the whole system (organization) in the co-design of it and have it emerge from the complexity of all stakeholders being present at the same time. The World Café, Theory U, Appreciative Inquiry just to name a few seem interesting to me!

Dialogue

By Dialogue, we’re referring to an exchange of ideas in the style of David Bohm. That way of exchanging with each others is also mentioned in Peter Senge seminal work on Systems Thinking “The Fifth Discipline”. That kind of Dialogue needs two conditions to occur:

  • deeply listening to others’ ideas to understand them ;
  • suspending one’s own judgement as one could suspend something to a rope, for others to consider and analyse

That way, people are able to non-judmentally consider each others’ opinions and enrich their own by them. There’s respect and humility in this, for sure.

Results

By praising quick results, one encourages the continuation of the work that would lead to realization of the vision. I’d personally link this strength-based approaches (such as Appreciative Inquiry of which I’ll talk more on this blog) which tries to inquire into what works and ways of doing more of it. To prevent exhaustion of people working toward the vision, it is necessary to maintain their enthusiasm, and Vision associated with results is a must for this. Plus, it requires personal involvement of top management for this, which is a motivation in itself for employees.

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