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).
What the #ebola pandemic reveals (again) about the world systemic vulnerabilities – #systemsthinking #vsm #labso
Out of a discussion on LinkedIn, I wrote the following:
Regarding the Ebola pandemic, at first we, the outsiders of Africa, didn’t notice, then we didn’t believe, then we didn’t invest, then we weren’t prepared, then we’re stuck by the huge implications of what might happen, then bounded rationality kicked in and we blinded ourselves to what ought to be done.
Sounds like a reinforcing loop (the epidemic archetype) running faster then the structural adaptation of the minds (cf. works of Maturana & Varela) getting progressively (though exponentially) involved in the system at play.
It seems to be our modern living habits (cheap international travels – flights, trains, cars), dense inhabiting zones, etc have created systems into which both information and viruses spread faster than the speed at which we can think, adapt and react.
This conclusion, for me, supports the idea that we need to change the way we address that high-speed complexity (high interconnectedness). More than ever, we don’t have the requisite variety to tackle it, whether static or, now, dynamic. More than ever we need skills in facilitation of big groups to achieve collective intelligence. This is what we’ve tried to do by creating the Labso, Laboratory of Social Technologies: showing people how easy it is to tap into the power of the crowd and social networks by uncovering what works and why and making more of it, if not co-creating something bigger.
I hereby also predicts that this won’t be enough in the near future, on two accounts:
- connectivity will continue increase both in the number of connections and in the speed (because of technology)
- AND because by going to mass facilitation, we’re just solving a short term problem and contributing to the acceleration as well.
My personal solution to the near future (or present situation for some problems) is to accelerate further by sticking close to the geographical area, trust it to handle the local situation properly, and only signal/ask for help “upwards” when the need arises.
Sounds like a global Viable System Model to me, don’t you think?
This, I posted on the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn group:
I feel like I moved beyond ST methods (the one I cited in a previous blogpost). I was swallowed by Complexity and Ashby‘s law of requisite variety was the crack through which I came on the other side of the mirror.
What this means is: I recognize the complexity of the world and our (recent) capacity to acknowledge it. I recognize my own limitation to understand that complexity in a decent (short time) way: I simply acknowledged that I don’t have the requisite variety.
I also do recognize that people are structurally coupled to their own conditions and their own understanding of them, far better than I will ever be capable of.
So, my own ST way of approaching life is now to help people weave their own mental models with that of others (when they’re supposed to interact successfully) so they can co-build (ie, influence each other) a new one that work for both of them.
In any situation, the best strengths to use and the one of the people inside that very situation. So I help people weave themselves and make their co-intelligence emerge and address the situation.
The generic term for that is “strength-based approaches to change”, but, to me, it goes way beyond just identifying people skills and traits and using them…
Motivating novices through positive feedback and experts through negative feedback (a #SolutionFocus paper mentioned by Coert Visser @DoingWhatworks)
Indeed, my first shot was that there is a difference between someone who feels Competent with respect to some learning and someone who doesn’t. I’m using here Competent as in Self-Determination Theory that basically says that intrinsic motivation comes out of promoting Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness (thanks to @Coert for bring it to my radar, BTW).
So, if you’re pointing problems to a beginner, you’re just undermining both their sense of competence and autonomy.
It then seems to me that it all depends on whether someone thinks he’s competent (or autonomous) with respect to some knowledge or skill, or not. So, before feeling competent, you’d need to grow their intrinsic motivation (by praising their hard acquired competence and autonomy), and when they think they’ve come to some kind of expertise, then bringing that kind of positive feedback is just acknowledging the obvious to them and thus not working anymore.
And then for experts (or people who think they are), pointing to problems (gaps between perfection and where they stand) make the unobvious obvious. And if these people are willing to close the gap, then they might want to work on that gap.
I told in the beginning that there was a common principle. Here it is IMHO: it’s about what Gregory Bateson called Information. If you don’t bring information to someone, he won’t act (of course). But if you do, he might react to it.
And what did Bateson called Information? He called Information “a difference that makes a difference”.
So, to someone who thinks he’s a beginner, you point the difference with the beginner: that he’s better than that. To an expert that knows already he’s not a beginner anymore, talking of where he is doesn’t bring information. You’re not stating a difference in his mental model. But if you’re pointing to an unseen difference between his perceived expertise level and some kind of objective/better expertise level, then that is information to him, and he might work on it.
Now the problem is: how can we know where someone think he is on that scale of expertise? Well maybe that Solution Focus scale might come to help here. But then we would need another discussion about how to move up the scale: root cause analyse the gap (no way!) or find times where the gap’s sometimes smaller, and what is done at these times, and do more of it (yes).
Also, furthering the Solution Focus approach to help that expert improve, it might help to ask him about what does he wants more of. Because one can think that although he might be considered an expert when it comes to generalities about some field, he might himself doesn’t agree with that and/or think that inside the field there are some areas where he feels like a beginner.
So in the end, the difference that can make a difference mostly comes out right to someone when the person is giving hints as to where it might be.
Only when someone’s expertise claim to be encompassing might we bring to the table other mental models or situation that the so-called expert might have problems to solve. Indeed, who said one mind has the requisite variety (Wikipedia) to handle two (or more)? No one, for sure as 1 never equaled 1+1.
Someone (Franck V.) sent me this nice cartoon about Overcoming Resistance :: TOC.tv. Check it out, it’s nice!
It’s the classical 4 elements of change:
- what are the positive aspects of changing (need to have a lot)
- what are the negative aspects of changing (as few as possible)
- what are the positive aspects of staying the same (as few as possible)
- and what are the negative aspects of staying the same (need to have a lot)
If all these variables are right, then people will most probably change.
Of course, this is the logical side of change, and it needs to be right.
But there are other aspects not evoked in this video that others (including myself) have found important for a change. Here’s an example why logic only isn’t enough of a motivation to change that I wrote some time ago about: Change or Die.
For instance, Self-Determination Theory explains that what’s motivating people ought to be intrinsic to them to be the most effective (surely, a motivation to change follows the same pattern). And intrinsic motivation mostly comes out of:
- Autonomy: the decision has to be theirs
- Competence: they need to feel competent to achieve the change
- Relatedness: they need to feel being part of a group
I have other hints as to what needs to be true for the change to be accepted and done, and it has to do with the cybernetics of mental models (or that the mind needs the requisite variety to understand the change and its consequences). The less a mind is “adapted” to a change, the more it will find discrepancies between how it is now and how the change would have it then. And since that’s discrepancies against a (supposedly) good state, these are most probably seen as bad. And thus not wanted.
I have a paper in writing on this, so I’m not going to explain this in details here, I need to lay down my ideas properly first. Stay tuned!
I don’t know why, but it triggered something in myself that I would like to share here as well.
Let me again come back to constructivism: all these approaches and methods reflect the mental models of their conceptors. As such, they’re perfectly adapted to whoever created them along with the context in which they were primarily intended for.
Biomatrix seems the more systeMAtic of all those I’ve encountered, with this respect.
Now, I question the practicality of such highly sophisticated approaches. How do you teach them to people?
I don’t question their usefulness in bringing further understanding of a situation and consequently improving if with less unintended consequences than if no approach would have been used instead. But the more sophisticated an approach is, the more difficult it will me, IMO to “sell” it to some organization, either externally from a consultancy perspective or internally.
All these approaches try to do is help creating a model of a problem or situation in order to improve it. From basic principles (causal loops diagrams, DSRP…) to more sophisticated ones (Biomatrix, SoSM (System of Systems Methodology), etc.) they try to be as close as possible to reality, yet without fully embracing it (for it would be reality itself, not a map of it!) So, here again, we’re in constructivism: that of the creators of the aforementioned methods, and that of the people making up a system we would like to study/improve using one of those methods.
I have two personal convictions.
- The first one is that a system is its best map and that the (future) solution to its problems is already embedded i it, even if invisible for now.
- The second one is that you have to make a tradeoff somewhere between having a very good (ie matching the variety of the system) method to help a system see what solution would work for it, and a simple enough method that can be taught and explain to people making up the system. Too simple, it might not bring any insight, too complicated, it will be dismissed before even using it.
I personally turned to strength-based approaches to change such as Appreciative Inquiry (part of the “whole-system” change methods) or Solution Focus where the system itself is helped deliver what would work for itself.
If really needed, I can revert to some very simple models (that I use as a checklist) to help ensure some basic elements of an organization have been considered. For instance, McKinsey’s 7S might be helpful sometimes (and I don’t go further than what Wikipedia).
The fact is that a system is what it is, composed of most importantly (to me) its autonomous (sub)parts: humans. And humans construct their own reality, so instead of trying to box them into some different reality, I think we need to help them see their own boxes and help them connect them all so that they do something that matters and makes sense to themselves.
Don’t try to understand in too much details what they mean of what they want. Trust them to know better than you’d ever could. Lead them in the trouble waters of where they are to the clarity of where they would like to be. Let them identify the impediments on the way. Let them identify their strengths. Let them identify their own solutions (most of them they have *already* experimented to some extent – solution focus!). Then let them decide what path would work best for them and help them maintain the direction they chose. And then help them identify when they arrived at their destination so they can congratulate themselves.
And don’t even get me into change resistance, because that’s what a sophisticated method will probably trigger anyway!
This is a concept that I’m using since quite some time now and that I seemed to understand rather intuitively though, necessarily at a general level.
What it basically says is that for a controller to remove noise from a signal, it needs to have a minimum variety that depends on the signal it needs to remove noise from and the variety of the result that it deems Good. Which Ross Ashby summarized as “only variety can kill variety“, where the killing part was about killing the variety of noise. Read more »
I read the paper here: Rio+20: who owns the Green Economy? | Opinion | Whitsunday Times and I’m worried (also see the other document from the parallel People Summit at Rio “Another Future is Possible” which is referenced from that “Tragedy of the Commons” blog post of the School of Commoning).
I’m worried because, like so many expert advices in organizations and governments, it’s unheard by those in a position to lead the change. To the best case, it will end on presidential desks and maybe will be read by them. To the worst, it will be forgot or even fuel that “tragedy of the commons” we’re experiencing regarding ecology on a global level where the more pressing the situation is, the more pushy ecologically aware people will become, thereby making leaders resist.
To me, the problem is two-fold: 1) experts having a non systemic perspective and 2) experts pushing leaders to change using fear.
Let’s look at these. Read more »
There’s this article I’ve just read here: What You Can Say To Kill Ideas | Productivity Improvement. I haven’t been in the Lean business for long, but I feel like I’ve already encountered all of them. Sigh.
I think I can give it a try at Solution-focusing it. Let’s go!
My main focus points during these rewording was to keep in mind:
- resistance surely is because I don’t have requisite variety when proposing a plan to change: so I need to let the people / managers adapt it
- keep being oriented toward solutions: people are very probably already doing some parts of the future state map: find out which and build on it
I assumed a top managers wanting to move fast forward, so my reframing always has been somewhat pushy. Another approach could have been to be not to push at all and let the manager whether he wants to change or not. See my Solution Focus / Motivational Interviewing Series for such an approach.
So long for command & control: Seth’s Blog: Cities don’t die (but corporations do).
One ruler cannot have the requisite variety to manage a system entirely on its own, except for chance.
Give up control and adopt direction. Better yet, share direction setting with your collaborators. Co-create. Help them rather than direct them. Use Appreciative Inquiry!
Probably something to do with Servant Leadership…
Also, when people participate and build something, they learn and can adapt to changing setting. Like building resilience in. When you’re in charge, they don’t learn. Or they don’t learn what could save you all later. The less they learn, the more reluctant you’ll be to give them the reins. That’s shifting the burden… You’re setting up yourself for failure…