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Thinking in Systems (A Primer)

Started by droqen, February 11, 2023, 04:23:59 PM

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Quote from: p170We can't control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!
I already knew that, in a way. I had learned about dancing with great powers from whitewater kayaking, from gardening, from playing music, from skiing. All those endeavors require one to stay wide awake, pay close attention, participate flat out, and respond to feedback.
. . . Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity---our rationality, our ability to sort out truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality.

~ Inspiring Awakeness
~ Starseed Pilgrim and The Void - Two Strange Worlds of Light and Darkness


pages 170-175

Get the Beat of the System
Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves. . . . study its beat. . . . watch it work. Learn its history. Ask people who've been around a long time to tell you what has happened. If possible, find or make a time graph of actual data from the system. . . Starting with the behavior of the system forces you to focus on facts, not theories. It keeps you from falling too quickly into your own beliefs or misconceptions, or those of others.
. . .
Listen to any discussion. . . watch people leap to solutions, usually solutions in "predict, control, or impose your will" mode, without having paid any attention to what the system is doing and why it's doing it.

Expose Your Mental Models to the Light of Day
. . . scuttle them if they are no longer supported . . .

Honor, Respect, and Distribute Information
. . .

Use Language with Care and Enrich It with Systems Concepts
. . . Honoring information means above all avoiding language pollution. . . expanding our language so we can talk about complexity.
. . .
A society that talks incessantly about "productivity" but that hardly understands, much less uses, the word "resilience" is going to become productive and not resilient. . . . A society that talks about "creating jobs" as if that's something only companies can do will not inspire the great majority of its people to create jobs, for themselves or anyone else.
. . .
. . . first . . . [keep language] as concrete, meaningful, and truthful as possible. . . . [Keep] information streams clear.
. . . second . . . enlarge language to make it consistent with our enlarged understanding of systems.


pages 175-177

Pay Attention to What Is Important,
Not Just What Is Quantifiable

Our culture, obsessed with numbers, has given us the idea that what we can measure is more important than what we can't measure. . . . As modelers we have exposed ourselves to the ridicule of our scientific colleagues more than once by putting variables labeled "prejudice," or "self-esteem," or "quality of life" into our models. . . . there certainly was a real connection between prejudice and performance. It was arbitrary what kind of scale to measure it by. . .but it would have been much more unscientific [inaccurate] to leave "prejudice" out . . .
. . .
Pretending that something doesn't exist if it's hard to quantify leads to faulty models. You've already seen the system trap that comes from setting goals what is easily measured, rather than around what is important. So don't fall into that trap. Human beings have been endowed not only with the ability to count, but also with the ability to assess quality. . . If something is ugly, say so. If it is tacky, inappropriate, out of proportion, unsustainable, morally degrading, ecologically impoverishing, or humanly demeaning, don't let it pass you. Don't be stopped by the "if you can't define it and measure it, I don't have to pay attention to it" ploy. No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value.

(Backlink: Book Four, beyond-mechanistic or ultra-mechanistic assumptions)


pages 177-180

Make Feedback Policies for Feedback Systems
. . . design policies that change depending on the state of the system. . . . policies that design learning into the management process.

Go for the Good of the Whole
Aim to enhance total systems properties, such as growth, ability, diversity, resilience, and sustainability---whether they are easily measured or not. ~ Synapse "Measuring imprecisely but accurately by feeling."

Listen to the Wisdom of the System (Hold on, isn't this the same as 'get the beat' of it?)

Locate Responsibility in the System (or, FEEDBACK)
"Intrinsic responsibility" means that the system is designed to send feedback about the consequences of decision making directly and quickly and compellingly to the decision makers.


pages 180-185

Stay Humble--Stay a Learner
Systems thinking has taught me to trust my intuition more and my figuring-out rationality less, to lean on both as much as I can, but still to be prepared for surprises. . . .
The thing to do, when you don't know, is not to bluff and not to freeze, but to learn. The way you learn is by experiment---or, as Buckminster Fuller put it, by trial and error, error, error. [Maybe 'trial and error' gameplay isn't so bad after all?]
. . . small steps, constant monitoring, and a willingness to change course as you find out more about where it's leading. . . . making mistakes and, worse, admitting them. . . . Error-embracing is the condition for learning. It means seeking and using---and sharing---information about what went wrong with what you expected or hoped would go right.

Celebrate Complexity
There's something within the human mind that is attracted to straight lines and not curves, to whole numbers and not fractions, to uniformity and not diversity, to certainties and not mystery. But there is something else within us that has the opposite set of tendencies. . . recognizes instinctively that nature designs . . . with intriguing detail on every scale from the microscopic to the macroscopic.
. . .
We can. . . celebrate and encourage self-organization, disorder, variety, and diversity. . . . Aldo Leopold did with his land ethic: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

Expand Time Horizons
Many Native American cultures actively spoke of and considered in their decisions the effects on the seventh generation to come. . . . As Kenneth Boulding wrote: "There is a great deal of historical evidence to suggest that a society which loses its identity with posterity and which loses its positive image of the future loses also its capacity to deal with present problems, and soon falls apart . . ."
. . . You need to be watching both the short and the long term---the whole system.

Defy the Disciplines
Seeing systems whole requires more than being "interdisciplinary" . . . Interdisciplinary communication works only if there is a real problem to be solved, and if the representatives from the various disciplines are more committed to solving the problem than to being academically correct. . . . They will have to admit ignorance and be willing to be taught, by each other and by the system.
   It can be done. It's very exciting when it happens.

Expand the Boundary of Caring
If will not be possible in this integrated world
for your heart to succeed if your lungs fail, or
for your company to succeed if your workers fail, or
for the rich in Los Angeles to succeed if the poor in Los Angeles fail, or . . .
for the global economy to succeed if the global environment fails.
   As with everything else about systems, most people already know about the interconnections that make moral and practical rules turn out to be the same rules. ~ Synapse: Aligning seemingly disparate values.
. . . They just have to bring themselves to believe that which they know. ~ Synapse: Measuring imprecisely but accurately by feeling.

Don't Erode the Goal of Goodness
The most damaging example of the systems archetype called "drift to low performance" is the process by which modern industrial culture has eroded the goal of morality . . . Examples of bad human behavior are held up, magnified by the media, affirmed by the culture, as typical.
. . .
We know what to do about drift to low performance. Don't weigh the bad news more heavily than the good. And keep standards absolute.


Finished the book :) Great book. Thanks jack.