Transduction — leading transformation — Issue #102

Benjamin P. Taylor
22 min readSep 22, 2023

This week:

  • Upcoming Events
  • Public Service Transformation
  • Cybernetic Practises
  • Systems Mapping

Upcoming events:

Two new commissioning academies: coming this winter!

Exciting News! Introducing two Commissioning Academies.

  • We will be offering a new Virtual Commissioning Academy, launching in October, facilitated entirely online
  • and an In-Person Commissioning Academy launching in January, with in-person sessions held in Nottingham.

Both offer the same great content, accredited by the PSTA and Cabinet Office.

Join our flagship development program to transform outcomes for the communities we serve!

  • Be part of a national network of commissioning practitioners.
  • Learn to initiate and lead change across complex systems.
  • Develop capabilities to drive real transformation.
  • Access expert insights and collaborative learning.
  • Apply innovative ideas and approaches to your work

Here’s what’s in store for you at the National Commissioning Academy:

  • Foundation concepts: Working as a system, outcomes thinking, collaborative working.
  • Commissioning for outcomes as a system: Systems thinking, asset-based commissioning, trauma-informed practice, prevention and early intervention.
  • Creating conditions for change: Systems leadership, coproduction, innovation, and promoting social value.

Expect a transformative experience with masterclass workshops, action learning, expert speakers, peer challenges, practical action planning, and membership in our nationwide alumni community.

Ready to make a difference? Apply now to secure your spot at the Academy! Contact David Mason at david.mason@publicservicetransformation.org

26 September, Reforming Public Procurement Conference

Tuesday 26 September, 09:00–13:10, in person, Institution of Structural Engineers, London

Westminster Insight are pleased to announce this conference on public procurement, chaired by Benjamin Taylor. The proposed Procurement Act will radically change the way supplies, services and works are procured for the public sector. With the Act predicted to come into force in early 2024, Westminster Insight’s Conference will help contracting authorities prepare for the forthcoming changes to ensure effective delivery.

We recommend early booking. Secure your place today and use code EARLY4040Z for 20% off. Please email us for group bookings — info@westminsterinsight.com Pay online by credit card and receive a further 10% off

View the full agenda here. And secure your place here.

5–6 October, StretchCon: Compass Tech Summit, 5-in-1 conference

Budapest.

Benjamin Taylor will be speaking this year at StretchCon. StretchCon is an International conference dedicated to engineering leadership as part of the Compass Tech Summit. This year it will be not only organized as an individual conference but as part of something new. Compass Tech Summit will bring together under one roof several tech conferences, such as Reinforce, Crunch, Amuse and Impact with topics like engineering leadership, UX/UI, data, AI and product management. Register now: https://stretchcon.com/2023/speakers

We can also offer you a coupon code: use the SpeakerSentMe coupon code for 10% off all Compass Tickets, except Student, Workshop, Combo and Teaser tickets.

Systems Thinking Apprenticeship (2023)

We are delighted to share the news that there is now a Level 7 Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship available in England.

Systems thinking practice was developed specifically to address highly complex, adaptive, and dynamic situations. It helps you to model each situation as a system incorporating many different parts, dependencies and relationships. Systems thinking practitioners are uniquely equipped for achieving large-scale transformational change.

If you live in England, you can benefit from the scheme. The Apprenticeship is a two-and-a-half year, day release, post-graduate qualification with government funding of up to £18,000 per person. It is fully supported by expert tutors, comprehensive learning materials, and ongoing action learning.

This is a practice-based, portfolio assessed programme which draws on core systems approaches and practice skills. You’ll be supported in your job to actually put the learning to work right away, and you will be evaluated on how you incorporate your continual learning into your practice.

It’s been designed by practitioners for practitioners — the people who have not just read the books, but have written them. More importantly, these are people who have been there, done it, know about all (or at least most) of the pitfalls, and can guide you away from them.

The professional body for systems practice, SCiO, is providing world-class systems practitioner-tutors, and is supporting the curriculum development and overall approach of the programme. They are acting in collaboration with Cherith Simmons Learning and Development, who provide the apprenticeship. Further details are available here.

If you’re not in England, you can still sign up to individual modules here.

And if you are interested in developing your transformation skills, take a look at the RedQuadrant tool shed. This is a small group action learning journey with Benjamin Taylor, founder of the consultancy RedQuadrant, supported by 24 online modules covering all aspects of organisational transformation. Get a 20% discount by mentioning Enlightened Enterprise Academy.

Link Collection:

My Weekly Blog post:

In my field of public service transformation, it’s like rolling the dice on a rollercoaster journey. I often contemplate various approaches: improving my existing skills, crafting better policies, or comprehensive commissioning. Sometimes, I feel all we need is to define and manage outcomes, while other times, it’s about delving into citizen-centric processes. The challenge lies in navigating diverse perspectives and avoiding the trap of merely digitalizing old processes. Working across organizations and influencing change can be daunting, and I’ve also recognized the need for self-improvement. Occasionally, I find myself in the world of systems change, wondering if I can teach others. Amidst this, there are tempting pitfalls like frustration with bosses, tech-fixation, and the danger of disempowering citizens. However, I’ve found ladders in deep simplicity, quality training, radical ideas, and human-centric approaches. Shaping a positive culture and realizing our shared humanity offer paths to success in my career.

So, you want to transform public services?

Aleksandr Bogdanov’s ‘From philosophy to the science of organization’ (1921–1924) John Biggart (2023)

https://www.academia.edu/102019477/Aleksandr_Bogdanovs_From_philosophy_to_the_science_of_organization_1921_1924_?fbclid=IwAR2McKpPIrhIqcFsdbcs5IIbkoTOqI2GfdPwMc619TvQ-dxS1Uwb-MSIyyo

In the Ecology of Systems Thinking group on Facebook, Orsan Senalp says https://www.facebook.com/groups/ecologyofsystemsthinking/posts/6620027151409706/

This recently translated article of Bogdanov, by John Biggart, gives the most lucid summary of what he has done: https://www.academia.edu/…/Aleksandr_Bogdanovs_From…. There are all the elements of the wonder in this short piece. Gramsci’s absolute historicism, ‘philosophy of praxis’ interpretation, complex analysis of state-society and ideology relationship, and cultural hegemony theory become all parts in Bogdanov of a universal science of organization (the science of praxis to him) that encompassed conceptually all three ‘new scientific paradigms’ of the 20th cc. -developed mainly by scientific intelligencia / managerial classes after Bogdanov was buried. These are the systems theory, cybernetics, and complexity science. These elements were absorbed by the ruling classes and were sources of their success in adapting to the complexities of globalization of capitalism, global expansion of production and market, construction of the financial apparatus, and so on. They significantly increased their capability of ‘reflection’ (based on neo-Marxism & cultural analysis — some elements of which are attacked by the extreme right exactly for this reason under the rubric ‘Cultural Marxism’ [since it is assimilated and used by the ruling class]) and adaptation, through the management of the complexity of population growth, since the post-war era. The incorporation of Gramsci’s and other critical and Cultural Marxist approaches, as well as systems, cybernetics, and complexity theories into the ruling machine, also allowed the rulers to successfully disorganize the left and social opposition and maintain control globally — through the control of civil society by media and other ideological apparatus, like promotion of conspiracy theories, and identity politics, which has dismantled social forces and prevented them from gaining and scaling any capacity to organize their lives scientifically and popularly. Imagine now a founder of Bolshevism who was anti-‘Leninist’, was a companion to Lenin and turned into a most fierce rival to him after 1909, whose work incorporated the most fruitful elements and critically by the Hegel-Marx-Engels line as well as the Mach-Avenarius line (which paved the way to the noe-positivism of Vienna school and Einstein’s relativity theory) plus, included all that characterised as Western / noe-Marxism later on: the absolute historicism, ideology and culture analysis which was integral to the critic of the political economy all were integral in Bogndoav, as in Gramsci, and on top of that he developed Marx and Engel’s method and analysis (which was mistakenly and forcefully locked up into and fossilised in form of Plekhanov-Lenin-Stalin style Diamat) into the first (and from worker’s point of view) version of systems, cybernetics, and complexity paradigms. Well, that should have shaken the world from its fundamentals. The second chance was missed when Althusser attacked Bogdanov, and Hegel, and insisted on being Leninist; while it was Lenin who defended Hegel against Bogdanov. Then we know what happened with Althusser’s students, their post-structuralism, post-modernism, and post-marxism, serving for the survival of the existing system.

Videos of Heinz von Foerster lectures, ‘Understanding Understanding’ (recorded at EST and originally introduced by Werner Erhard)

Some details about the digitized video files derived from VHS tapes
from Heinz von Foerster’s lecture series “Understanding Understanding” (1980) [ver. 20211106 / p. schroeder]

Introduction by Paul Schroeder: Please see attached page for an image of the list of video files and of the original VHS tapes. In January 2010, exactly when the ASC’s archives were being physically transferred from Illinois to Vienna, Pille Bunnell sent me (Paul Schroeder) a box that contained 11 VHS video tapes that were labeled as being four lectures given by Heinz von Foerster in 1980. The lectures were presented to an audience convened by Werner Erhard, founder of est, Erhard Seminars Training. The series was titled “Understanding Understanding,” and the talks were given in four approximately two hour sessions. As far as I can tell, there is not a complete copy of the talks on these tapes. As you can see from the list of digital video files, there is not a file for “1A” which would be the very first segment of the first lecture, including (presumably, from various titles and labels) an introduction of Heinz by Werner Erhard. To some extent Heinz made up for this with an extended “recapitulation” that began Session 2, that covered all topics from Session 1 and gives indication of the scope of his first session. Other than that missing segment, all remaining segments of the first session, and all parts of the other sessions are present in the digitized files. In addition to the von Foerster lectures, one of the VHS tapes (Tape 1 of Set 2) carries Francisco Varela’s presentation at the 1984 ASC conference, a talk titled “Cybernetics of Autonomy.” This has been digitized, but is not being distributed with the von Foerster lectures. Plans are to distribute it separately via the ASC. Video quality is poor, as it was poor in the original VHS tapes. During the digitization process the video files were saved at smallest scale and resolution. Nevertheless, except for certain segments already flawed in their original format, the videos are viewable, and provide wonderful context for Heinz’s presentations. The audio quality is generally good — except the file 2B has reduced audio volume. It was derived from Set 2 of the VHS tapes, and for some reason the audio on that segment was not as good as in others. It could be that in future rounds of edits this can be improved. These tapes came to me in my role as an intermediary between ASC membership (and officers) and the ASC archives. Now, 10 years after receiving these tapes, I have been able to make a first pass at digitization. Again, the status of the ASC archives is being discussed actively within the Society. Also, there are renewed efforts in other institutions, including the Univ. of Illinois, to devote resources to the preservation of materials related to the history of cybernetics. We now expect that these original VHS tapes will join other Heinz von Foerster materials at Illinois, and where their archivists will provide for archival digitization of the originals and for public and scholarly access to them, while making other derivative digital products available online.

Videos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/14cakPk5IIeSrAYb-aQ-MYWnZl6iOBWTC

(Links to the book arising from the lectures: https://stream.syscoi.com/2022/01/13/understanding-understanding-essays-on-cybernetics-and-cognition-heinz-von-foerster-2003/ )

Complexity and Management Conference 7–9th June 2024, More than a hint: Roffey Park Institute, Horsham UK

Complexity and Management Conference 7–9th June 2024

Chris Moyles writes:

Finding ourselves in our work

In the last few weeks, three people I have been corresponding with have suggested that we might ‘jump on a call’. When I asked one of them what he thought it signified, he replied that he spent so much time at work jumping from one thing to the next that the expression denoted a state of mind, a way of summing up what work feels like.

When I work with groups of managers they tell me similar things, that they are obliged to rush around ‘delivering’ things without a moment’s thought. They are caught up in the game of every day organisational life, consumed by obligations to the plan, the target or the performance indicator. While it’s great to be busy, being so overwhelmed with ‘feeding the beast’ may lead to feelings of alienation and meaninglessness. Contemporary management offers any number of tools, techniques and recipes which deal in abstractions, where people and what they are saying and doing can disappear from view. If we wanted better to find ourselves in our work with colleagues, we wouldn’t necessarily start there.

The annual Complexity and Management Conference is intended as an antidote to the sense of drift and thoughtlessness which can afflict managers in organisations because of the sheer complexity and pace of work, and the abstractions of contemporary management discourse. The currency of the conference is conversation, reflection and meaning-making about things that matter to us in and beyond the workplace.

Beginning with an inaugural dinner in the evening of Friday 7th of June, the formal conference will start on Saturday morning with a thought-provoking key note to encourage the movement of thinking. Thereafter it is reflection and reflexivity continuously till lunchtime Sunday on topics brought by the conference participants themselves.

The conference promises good food, stimulating conversation, and a chance to rediscover oneself in one’s work.

Booking for the conference will begin in the New Year 2024. This is a reminder to put the dates in your diaries, and to prepare something to bring about your workplace dilemmas.

Post | LinkedIn

Reported on Twitter: The @DartingtonTrust, which runs the famous #SchumacherCollege, has announced, without notice or consultation, that all courses have been cancelled or postponed

@GeorgeMonbiot

A deeply shocking situation. The @DartingtonTrust, which runs the famous #SchumacherCollege, has announced, without notice or consultation, that all courses have been cancelled or postponed. Just as students have arrived from all over the world to study there.

@alishelson

I am part of the cohort that was was due to start an MA at #schumachercollege on Monday — the student body is organising in an incredibly inspiring way — if anyone wants to offer support to students or staff please email: saveschumacher@gmail.com

Reducing Uncertainty in Collective Perception Using Self-Organizing Hierarchy

ARYO JAMSHIDPEY, MARCO DORIGO, AND MARY KATHERINE HEINRICH

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING 13 Sep 2023 Vol 2 Article ID: 0044 DOI: 10.34133/icomputing.0044

In collective perception, agents sample spatial data and use the samples to agree on some estimate. In this paper, we identify the sources of statistical uncertainty that occur in collective perception and note that improving the accuracy of fully decentralized approaches, beyond a certain threshold, might be intractable. We propose self-organizing hierarchy as an approach to improve accuracy in collective perception by reducing or eliminating some of the sources of uncertainty. Using self-organizing hierarchy, aspects of centralization and decentralization can be combined: robots can understand their relative positions system-wide and fuse their information at one point, without requiring, e.g., a fully connected or static communication network. In this way, multi-sensor fusion techniques that were designed for fully centralized systems can be applied to a self-organized system for the first time, without losing the key practical benefits of decentralization. We implement simple proof-of-concept fusion in a self-organizing hierarchy approach and test it against three fully decentralized benchmark approaches. We test the perceptual accuracy of the approaches for absolute conditions that are uniform time-invariant, time-varying, and spatially nonuniform with high heterogeneity, as well as the scalability and fault tolerance of their accuracy. We show that, under our tested conditions, the self-organizing hierarchy approach is generally more accurate, more consistent, and faster than the other approaches and also that its accuracy is more scalable and comparably fault-tolerant. Under spatially nonuniform conditions, our results indicate that the four approaches are comparable in terms of similarity to the reference samples. In future work, extending these results to additional methods, such as collective probability distribution fitting, is likely to be much more straightforward in the self-organizing hierarchy approach than in the decentralized approaches.

Read the full article at: spj.science.org

Design’s secret partner in research: Cybernetic practices for design research pedagogy — Sweeting and Sutherland (2023)

How to understand the relation between design and research is a longstanding question in design theory and practice. It is also a question in design pedagogy, especially in taught postgraduate programmes where students are expected to engage with and conduct research in formal ways, often for the first time. In this article, we discuss a curriculum that we have developed for introducing research literacy to taught postgraduate students in architecture and design disciplines. The curriculum draws both explicitly and implicitly on an analogy between designing and researching developed through the lens of cybernetics, a transdisciplinary field that relates to both design and science. When cybernetics has been invoked in the context of design, it has usually been as a form of explanatory theory, contributing to the theoretical foundations of design research and its relations with other disciplines. Our approach instead positions cybernetics as a mode of transdisciplinary engagement within students’ own learning where an unfamiliar topic (research) is approached through analogy to a familiar one (design). We begin by contextualizing the curriculum and introducing the rationale for this approach in the context of design research. We then summarize key moments in the curriculum and our observations of its impact in students’ work. We conclude by speculating on the extent to which enacted analogies such as the example presented here may be taken up in other practical situations, and the potential value of doing so in reformulating cybernetics in ways that are practiced (rather than abstract) and methodological (not just explanatory).

Design’s secret partner in research: Cybernetic practices for design research pedagogy — Sweeting — Systems Research and Behavioral Science — Wiley Online Library

Stepping Into Systems — open learning sessions (paid) from the School of Systems Change

Join our Open Learning sessions to start your systems change journey as we dive into our new video series!

Overview

What is Stepping into Systems?

Stepping into Systems is our new introductory series to systems change, covering fundamental topics and concepts: What is Systems Change?; The Importance of Systemic Worldviews; and Working Systemically for Transformation. This series has been informed by practitioners from diverse lineages from around the globe to honour the multiplicity of systems practice, and has been created in partnership with Glider.

Our intention is to lay fertile ground for you to navigate the diverse field of systems change and increase your capacity to see the world with a systemic perspective.

This series is for you if you have been curious about systems change and don’t know where to start; if you are seeking a point of view that embraces rather than minimises complexity; and if you want to explore the ‘how’ of systems change rather than the ‘what’.

What are the Open Learning sessions?

We invite you to explore each video with us through three online sessions — one for each film. We’re hosting these alongside practitioners in the field to create space to learn in community, as well as hear from those with a deep systems practice. In hopes we can welcome many people from around the world, embedded in many different ways of knowing, we’re hosting across two timezones: Americas/Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

In each session, we’ll begin by watching the film and then head into a discussion on the concepts and themes that emerge. We’ll get to hear from practitioners in the field and leave space for a Q&A. We will also help you get started on the session’s accompanying worksheet and share resources to support you to apply the learnings to your own work.

FULL DETAILS IN SOURCE: Stepping Into Systems — School of System Change

Weird Studies podcast: Celestial Machine: On the Temperance Card in the Tarot

Episode 153 · September 13th, 2023 · 1 hr 19 mins

Weird Studies, the Tarot, cybernetics… and Nagarjuna! What could be better?

https://www.weirdstudies.com/153

Weird Studies Episode 153: Celestial Machine: On the Temperance Card in the Tarot

Burn the digital paper! A call to arms — Irving (2015)

by Francis Irving on August 7, 2015

This is a blog post version of a lunchtime talk I gave at the Open Data Institute. You may prefer to listen to it or use the slides.

Stafford Beer was a British cybernetician.

He described four stages that happen when you get a computer.

Each stage ends in disappointment.

continues in source:

https://scraperwiki.com/2015/08/burn-the-digital-paper-a-call-to-arms/

Academy of Marxist-Leninist Organizational Science (AMLO): How Socialist Cybernetics Helped the GDR Unlearn Marxism-Leninism

Academy of Marxist-Leninist Organizational Science (AMLO): How Socialist Cybernetics Helped the GDR Unlearn Marxism-Leninism

Academy of Marxist-Leninist Organizational Science (AMLO): How Socialist Cybernetics Helped the GDR Unlearn Marxism-Leninism · BG · berlinergazette.de · 1999–2023

https://berlinergazette.de/academy-of-marxist-leninist-organizational-science-amlo-how-socialist-cybernetics-helped-the-gdr-unlearn-marxism-leninism/

[As well as coverage of Cybersyn, includes this fascinating snippet:

Looking closer at the attendee’s list of the 1980 Leipzig Autumn fair, the surprise guest was undoubtedly the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek. Contrary to his earlier statements and after his first flying visit through the GDR accompanied by Emilio Barrarecan and Frank Volkster, he let himself be carried away to the following statement: „Socialism is becoming a self-regulating system in the way I had once assumed markets to be. Socialist cybernetics thus establishes a harmonious order by itself.“ ]

Other sources of the pdf named in the thing:

http://nicholasmortimer.net/selected-works/amlo-decade-socialist-success/

Damn Interesting long-form/podcast: Chile’s audacious 1970s-era plan to network and automate the country’s entire economy, hindered by political upheaval and CIA maneuvering — Bellows (2012)

A much earlier podcast on the topic of Cybersyn!

Written by Alan Bellows • Non-Fiction • October 2012

Nineteen Seventy ThreeLong-Form/Podcast: Chile’s audacious 1970s-era plan to network and automate the country’s entire economy, hindered by political upheaval and CIA maneuvering.Written by Alan Bellows • Non-Fiction • October 2012

Nineteen Seventy Three • Damn Interesting

Designing Interfaces for Human-Computer Communication: An On-Going Collection of Considerations — Glassman (2023)

Computer Science > Human-Computer Interaction

[Submitted on 5 Sep 2023]

Elena L. Glassman

While we do not always use words, communicating what we want to an AI is a conversation — with ourselves as well as with it, a recurring loop with optional steps depending on the complexity of the situation and our request. Any given conversation of this type may include: (a) the human forming an intent, (b) the human expressing that intent as a command or utterance, © the AI performing one or more rounds of inference on that command to resolve ambiguities and/or requesting clarifications from the human, (d) the AI showing the inferred meaning of the command and/or its execution on current and future situations or data, (e) the human hopefully correctly recognizing whether the AI’s interpretation actually aligns with their intent. In the process, they may (f) update their model of the AI’s capabilities and characteristics, (g) update their model of the situations in which the AI is executing its interpretation of their intent, (h) confirm or refine their intent, and (i) revise their expression of their intent to the AI, where the loop repeats until the human is satisfied. With these critical cognitive and computational steps within this back-and-forth laid out as a framework, it is easier to anticipate where communication can fail, and design algorithms and interfaces that ameliorate those failure points.

https://arxiv.org/abs/2309.02257

[2309.02257] Designing Interfaces for Human-Computer Communication: An On-Going Collection of Considerations

Systems Mapping Academy

Learn how to navigate complexity

Applying System Mapping
to visualize and understand
complex systems

System Mapping Academy

https://www.system-mapping.com/

The Systems Being Lab at the University of British Columbia Vancouver

Systems Beings Lab

Who we areSystems Beings Lab (SBL) is a collaborative research collective to facilitate and elevate various approaches to grapple with complexity. We bring process-oriented approaches to foster non-linear dynamics of un/learning, and allow space and time to explore the messes of paradoxes, contradictions, and multiples perspectives.

Home — Systems Beings Lab

Procurement Reform Roadshow Overview — Procurement Reform https://www.procurementreform.co.uk/roadshow/

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