Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#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!

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?

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