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System thinking and complexity theory

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“The absence of evidence of an effect is not evidence of the absence of the effect” David C. Aron Introduction When the sum of the parts of a certain system is not equal to the whole (could be less or more than the whole) such system is say, to
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  Systems Thinking  Adizes Graduates School Roberto Bonilla-Núñez page 1 Week 1 Essay Systems Thinking and Complexity Theory  Adizes Graduates School Roberto Bonilla-Núñez  “The absence of evidence of an effect is not evidence of the absence of the effect” David C. Aron   Introduction When the sum of the parts of a certain system is not equal to the whole (could be less or more than the whole) such system is say, to exhibit emergent properties, ( Aron, 2010) due mainly of three properties: 1.   Interconnectedness among the parts 2.   Interdependent parts 3.   Feedback These traits of a system also correspond to what Gharajedaghi calls a Multi-minded System with interdependent variables, while Aron (2010) calls it as a Complex System. The following figure taken after Gharajedaghi (p. 15) is a visual representation of a Complex/Multi-minded System. This figure also shows a very important principle of any system: All systems exhibits a limit in its performance, and this limit is reached when the interdependent variable exhaust the slacks among them, in this case the limit is represented by the external rectangle, where the right lines are the same broken ABDCABDC  Systems Thinking  Adizes Graduates School Roberto Bonilla-Núñez page 2 lines but reaching its limit. (Gharajedaghi, pp.13-16). By the time when a system reaches its limit, the only way to improve the performance is by a radical redesign based in new paradigms that could challenge the current ones. My Mental Model While seeing the assigned video (Aron, 2010) I was making personal notes, and after that tried to represent in a single image my understanding and also a potential model that could be applied in complex social systems. This representation or mental model is derived from the examples given by Dr. Aron (Diabetes seen as a USA national epidemy and HVIS epidemy at Brazil) Source: own elaboration The rest of this essay I will elaborate on this metal model in a bottom-up way. IGNOREPROBLEMLOW IMPACTPREVENTIVEACTIONSIGNOREPROBLEMCOSTLY ANDINEFFECTIVESOLUTIONSTRANSITION THINKINGHOLD CURRENT CULTURAL ASSUMPTIONS / QUESTION THE QUESTIONSEE: SYSTEM / SUPRA-SYSTEM / SUB-SYSTEMSSUPER-ORDINATE-GOALHIGH IMPACT INNOVATIVEPREVENTION ACTIONSHIGH IMPACT INNOVATIVEROOT SOLUTIONS    A   n   a    l   y   t   i   c   T    h   i   n    k   i   n   g    S   y   s   t   e   m   s   T    h   i   n    k   i   n   g COMPLEX SOCIAL PROBLEMEARLY WARNING INDICATORS + ANTICIPATE: COLLATERAL EFFECTS + NEXT PROBLEMS      T   I   M   E   L   I   N   E …  Systems Thinking  Adizes Graduates School Roberto Bonilla-Núñez page 3 The Analytic Thinking In this part I will address the way a certain social problem (I am trying to generalize) is analyzed by the problem solver(s) (Checkland, 1999) using analytical thinking. The first two left green boxes are related to the prevention side, and the two remaining relate to the solutions for the selected problem. In both cases, the problem solvers could opt to ignore the problem either in the preventive side or the look for solutions. In the case we ignore the problem we can see a small graph that shows the way the problem escalate or get worse and worse. If this is the case, (worsening problem) the analytic thinking will awake weak or low impact preventive actions and/or costly and ineffective solutions. I both cases you can see also a small graph showing minor improvements followed by a small worsening period in an alternate way, but finally with a worsening trend. Note: The ideas of the small graphs was adapted from Kim (1999, p. 7)  As we can see, in any case a complex social problem addressed with analytical thinking will derive in a worse situation, where the same solution or set of solutions contains elements to worsen the problematic situation. The Transition Thinking  As the time passes and the problem get worse and worse, the problem solvers could arrive to a tipping-point where a new way of thinking could emerge, either because of the life conditions or because they accept the poor quality of their solutions and look for external advice. IGNOREPROBLEMLOW IMPACTPREVENTIVEACTIONSIGNOREPROBLEMCOSTLY ANDINEFFECTIVESOLUTIONSCOMPLEX SOCIAL PROBLEM  Systems Thinking  Adizes Graduates School Roberto Bonilla-Núñez page 4 In these stage the problems solvers start or should start exposing, observing and holding back their current assumptions (paradigms) and also  – very important- to question the prior questions they were trying to find and answer (i.e. the Brazilian HIVS case where the re-frame the question to find better solutions). Also in this stage, the analytical thinking is put aside, and start seeing the system as well the supra-system and sub-systems (Checkland, 1999, pp. 96-97), this changes in the way to approach the problem will derive in new venues to find innovative solutions. The Systems Thinking In this third stage  – my conclusion- the problem solver should look for two kinds of actions, -meaning- preventive actions and actions to solve the complex social problem. In both cases we can see  – also- small graphs showing how the problem is moving in a bettering path till its dissolution. Also the previous figure includes the  “ Super-Ordinate-Goal ”   concept (Beck, 2011) which is defined as  “ Such goal that all actors want to achieve, but none of the can achieve it alone ”  . This concept could also help to start building a culture of mutual trust and respect. (Adizes, 1992) Stressing the idea that both kind of actions should be designed and executed simultaneously, for two teams acting in parallel and sharing some of their members to assure a proper communication and synchronization of the actions, as the next figure shows us. TRANSITION THINKINGHOLD CURRENT CULTURAL ASSUMPTIONS / QUESTION THE QUESTIONSEE: SYSTEM / SUPRA-SYSTEM / SUB-SYSTEMS SUPER-ORDINATE-GOALHIGH IMPACT INNOVATIVEPREVENTION ACTIONSHIGH IMPACT INNOVATIVEROOT SOLUTIONS  Systems Thinking  Adizes Graduates School Roberto Bonilla-Núñez page 5 The collateral effects Dr. Ichak Adizes (1992) adds a fact regarding the sequence Change   Problem   Solution   More Changes  New Problem. In this way I decided to enrich this mental model with elements to consider this fact as well with concept of Vital Sings Monitor (Beck, 2011) represented in this image as the Early Warning Indicators element. This two elements  – from my point of view- could reduce a naïve approach, thinking the previous stages are enough to dissolve a complex social problem and pass immediately to a  “ live forever happily ”   as most tales ends. Final Comments: 1.   This video contains many valuable aspects, what impacted most to me was the Brazilian strategy to solve the HIVS epidemy, just by reframing  – as a starting point- the way the problem solvers formulated the initial questions, as well including the decision to include (Orchestrate) hundreds of NGO´s and Churches to act as vehicles for preventive and educational actions. 2.   The exercise of summarize this video lead me to integrate new elements to my model to change and improve societies. In the video mentions the need to address preventive actions and corrective actions at the same time, also stress the importance of seeing the social problems with a systemic perspective. Dissolving Problem Actions   Preventive Problem Actions   EARLY WARNING INDICATORS + ANTICIPATE: COLLATERAL EFFECTS + NEXT PROBLEMS

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Feb 15, 2018
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