The "Systems Thinking Loop" (or "ST Loop") is where the rubber meets the road for systems thinkers. It is perhaps the most important of all the images because it describes WHAT systems thinking really is and HOW to do it. It is best to digest this image (Systems thinking itself) in three bites (red):
Making distinctions is like painting a room. It's the boundaries that need the most attention. My parents hired a professional to paint our garage every couple years. As a curious kid, I would pepper him with questions. "How do you get it smooth? Would it be faster with a sprayer? Who picked the color?" A few years later my mom gave me the job of painting the bathrooms. I then advanced to painting houses as a summer job in college. I’ve painted more walls, doors, and window frames than I care to remember.
Excerpt from the book, Flock Not Clock. The Power of Sharing Mental Models: Wow Stories "I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests." This simple employee statement (number 3 on the Ritz-Carlton’s list of 12 service values) exemplifies a culture in which employees are empowered to learn. Ritz-Carlton, one of the world’s most recognized luxury hotel chains, with 90 hotels and resorts around the world, uses organizational learning to drive its award-winning customer service. They do so by building capacity through institutionalized processes they call Daily Line-Ups and Wow Stories that use the power of storytelling as a way to spread learning across the organization. At 9 every morning, Ritz-Carlton employees (referred to as “ladies and gentlemen”) meet for their 15-minute Daily Line-Up. All employees, irrespective of position, meet to discuss their wins and losses, and to share their own stories. Empowered by the Gold Standards of the company, employees are encouraged to share stories in which they created a wow moment for a guest. Wow Stories range from small personal moments to complex and involved displays of caring.
Another System Thinking trope that gets my gander up. Not because it's ill intentioned but because so many well-intentioned people do it. In discussions on systems thinking we often hear, "well, it's all about the context." Or, "what about the environment." Recently, our lab posted this post (and poster).
I am fascinated by how easily humans are manipulated; which is often the result of structural blindspots (bias) that are used against one another. In many ways, the last few years have been a crash course in the ways of manipulation, dishonest debate and dialogue, rhetoric, gaslighting and the like. But we often forget that these manipulations come very slowly, much like the fable of the boiling frog.
For decades I have built much of my understanding of reality on dialectical materialism and systems thinking learned from systems thinkers and scientists before me. Maybe the most important of them was Dr. Edwards Deming. He created the “System of Profound Knowledge” (SoPK), which contains basic lessons for people who have worked with Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, and Lean (Toyota Production Systems). SoPK consists of four ways of "seeing" and understanding the world. Dr. Deming called them "lenses".
Let’s take an example where a learner is asked to understand the species concept, a categorization system that explains that all life is organized according to: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. There’s a few ways one might go through this process of being able to remember the species concept. First, a student might use flash cards:
This post was adapted from A Literature Review of the Universal and Atomic Elements of Complex Cognition. Researching any of the four DSRP patterns requires some creativity. One way scientists have achieved this is through the creation of "Greebles." Greebles are computer generated 3D figures that are intended to be unfamiliar to participants.
This blog has been partially adapted from A Literature Review of the Universal and Atomic Elements of Complex Cognition. The Systems pattern (5) (the interaction between the elements part and whole) exists in mind and nature. Nature (a.k.a., reality) organizes parts into wholes; so, in order for humans to adequately describe nature, we should, too. Humans naturally systematize things by breaking them down into parts and wholes automatically, which often leads to the creation of "groupings" or what we often erroneously call "categories." However, categories require something else: a Perspective.
This blog has been partially adapted from A Literature Review of the Universal and Atomic Elements of Complex Cognition. You cannot feel empathy without taking perspective. Empathy is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another ." It was once thought to be unique to humans, but empathy is found in a variety of organisms.
This blog was written by Austin Reid as a project for PADM 5449 at Cornell University. The following three-part poster series is designed to serve as a teaching aid in preschool settings to assist children in understanding feelings and how to process them. This poster series can also be used as a teaching aid for children between the ages of three and five in other settings including daycare, summer camp or Sunday school. The first poster provides children with an opportunity to think about how they are feeling and explain why. Children will point to the face that most accurately mirrors how they are feeling and they can also learn from others how they are feeling. This check-in can also be done as a one-on-one exercise between a guardian and a child.
This isn't a blog post, but more of a blog-collection. 7 common things that systems thinkers like to say that are bupkis. We call them sacred cows of systems thinking because it is almost blasphemous to disagree with them, even though most have a much bigger bark than bite. Click on the links below (in the right column) to red the blogs on each sacred cow. And, one thing is for sure, dare to challenge any one of these sacred cows 🐮, and you'll take a rash of shit 💩for it. People will come out of the woodwork to defend them with great fanfare and handwaving 👋. But stay steady, the logic of nature 🌱 and science 🔬 eventually win them over, but it can take time ⌛. Ug. 😛 In the list below, click on the links to go to articles on the sacred cow and its scientifically-valid replacement.
This blog has been partially adapted from A Literature Review of the Universal and Atomic Elements of Complex Cognition. Some earlier research into perspective taking focused on the development of a "theory of mind," which is the ability to attribute beliefs, thoughts or feelings to another person (i.e., take another’s perspective).
When I was a child, my mother would tell me a story of her own childhood. She spoke of how the children would collect tin foil wrappers from gum and cigarette packs and make a foil ball that could be turned in to help the war effort. This was all part of a scrap drive that children and citizens participated in willingly that included gathering grease fat containing glycerine that was used for bombs and metals of all kinds used in bombers (made by an increasingly female workforce that “manned” the factories where B-52 bombers were being made). Everyone pitched in because “our boys” were “over there” fighting.
Learn more about the definition of a slider, or read our other sliders... If you’ve raised children, you will inevitably be accused of being mean. You’re mean because you won’t let them have a third dessert. Because you insist that they wear a jacket when it is -5°F. Or, when you enforce a reasonable bedtime. But lately we’ve been noticing that Gen Z children—and to a large extent, the Millennial generation—think of a whole range of new things as “mean.” If I were to say for example, “hey can you brush your teeth? Your breath is terrible,” that might be considered mean. Even if, factually, you have halitosis.
This blog has been partially adapted from A Literature Review of the Universal and Atomic Elements of Complex Cognition. When you picture things that think, a slime mold probably wouldn't be the first organism to jump to mind. However, research has shown that you don't necessarily need a brain to think; in other words, non-neural organisms can think. Previously, we discussed how chemotaxis is an inherently DSRP-based process which allows bacteria and cells to make distinctions, build systems, recognize relationships, and take perspectives. As research has shown, slime molds can do DSRP too.
This blog has been partially adapted from A Literature Review of the Universal and Atomic Elements of Complex Cognition. Like a pack of wolves, tiny bacteria band together to hunt their evasive prey. In the soil underfoot, a nematode (“round worm”) avoids a deadly chemical. A cell runs toward oxygen to take part in photosynthesis and make the planet habitable by humans. Brightly colored water droplets animate and chase each other across a glass landscape. These are a few of the amazing microscopic dramas that occur just out of range of sight. Microbes and even non-living molecules use DSRP to sense and respond to their environment in a process called chemotaxis.
There are moments in life when we instinctively know that our life is changing and that a corollary transformation of ourselves is underway. I am sure that every parent remembers with great clarity the moment that the totality of becoming a parent hit them. Never is there such a crystallization of absolute joy and heart stopping fear. The enormity of the responsibility of parenthood weighs on us before a child arrives in our home. Yet, we embrace the joy, face that fear, and take the responsibility head on to do what our instincts tell us to do as biological beings raising our young.
This post is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Flock Not Clock. Members of your organization will share a large number of mental models, all of varying importance and centrality to the organization and its success. So what are the most important mental models—the pillars of your culture? Where do you focus first and foremost? Organizational success depends on sharing the right mental models, ones that are complexity-friendly and promote learning and adaptation.
One of the specific and practical things you can do to build a culture of mental models is to get the entire leadership team to assume another as leaders of learning. The CEO must also serve as a Chief Learning Officer (CLO). This dual role is required not just of CEOs but of any leader across the organization. If managers make learning a priority, others will see it as a priority, too. Effective leaders are skilled “lead learners” adroit at inculcating culture (facilitating shared understanding of key mental models).
Over the years, different variables/symbols have been used for the same equation. In some cases for good reason, and in other cases solely because, like an English sentence, a mathematical sentence can be read and written in different ways toward the same effect. For example, take the following four equations:
If the right kind of Vision is so important, what explains companies that succeed with no [discernible] Vision? This is an important question we get asked a lot. Vision is a function of all organizations, whether formalized as companies, or informal groups of people such as protesters. Additionally, "good" Visions adhere to the vision-litmus-checks such that:
Dogs are our best friends, but we can't talk to them... we have no common language. But, what if you could use the simple rules of DSRP to teach your dog to communicate with you? This blog and the remarkable videos included illustrates how this is possible when we use the underlying stuctures of systems thinking.
Staff: I'm curious to hear more about the slider, "People As A Means Versus Ends." And when I look at how you've drawn it up (see the map here), it seems to me that this slider has to do with how a person interacts with other people. Can you explain a little bit more about what the basics of the slider?
This blog is part of a set of blogs under the tag "cognitive jigs." Be sure to checkout the tag to read them as a group and learn how cognitive jigs are at play in our everyday lives. Lists are everywhere from the beginning of our life. Simply put, lists are part-whole arrangements of the Systems rule as used in the DSRP Theory.
The term cognitive slider was coined by Derek Cabrera to communicate “a relatively small, nourishing or ‘meaty’ mental model” for use in increasing one’s prosocial or emotional intelligence. This blog is part of a set of blogs under the tag "sliders." Be sure to check out the tag to read them as a group and learn how sliders are at play and can help us in our everyday lives. Over the years, I’ve worked with many students and folks who are new to the workforce. I must say, working with a team of young, passionate professionals who still believe they can change the world for the better (and likely will) is one of the best parts of my job.
I discovered Systems Thinking and Systems Mapping less than three months ago. Well, more precisely, I discovered cabreraresearch.org. Diving deep into Derek and Laura’s insightful tools and generous resources, I realized I had known about Systems Mapping for years. I just didn’t know what it was called. Let me explain.
“Systems Thinking” sounds like such a grandiose thing, requiring complicated tools designed to solve complicated problems. But what if there is more (or less) to it? What follows is a short blow-by-blow account of how I solved a small problem using DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, Perspectives).