Transduction — leading transformation — Issue #120

Benjamin P. Taylor
21 min readFeb 16, 2024

This week:

  • Upcoming Events
  • Systems and Complexity in Organisation
  • Organisation theory
  • Development

Upcoming Events:

SE Stakeholder Engagement — Productive Conversations (0.5d)

This training programme could equally be called ‘honest conversations’, ‘difficult conversations’, ‘constructive conversations’, or ‘challenging conversations’.

Fundamental to the success and flavour of organisational life — and systems practice interventions — are the quality of conversations we are able to have. If we can develop an honest and shared attempt to get at shared understanding — shared ‘truth’ if you like — or at least to fully appreciate each others’ understanding — then we can make true progress.

This interactive session will:

  • Discuss different types of feedback / difficult conversation
  • Understand how the brain rationalises and protect us
  • Increase awareness of our own habits and perceptions
  • Prepare and plan for a difficult conversation
  • Have effective performance conversations
  • Learn how to respond / look after yourself in the moment

And help you to have productive conversations even when it seems most unlikely. You will need to bring a record of an ‘unproductive’ conversation you have had, or fear having, and be prepared to work with others around it and other examples. You will end the session with the ability to surface more productive conversations even when it is difficult.

Trainer
These courses are delivered by Benjamin P Taylor, an expert in systems, cybernetics, and complexity in service transformation.

Pricing Info

£250 +VAT

To enquire please go on this link: https://www.systemspractice.org/courses/ise-stakeholder-engagement-productive-conversations-05d

ILG Large Group Interventions (1.0d)

In a classic 2005 article, ‘Techniques to Match our Values’, Weisbord set out the ‘learning curve’, with a movement from ‘experts solve problems’ to ‘’everybody’ solves problems’ to ‘experts improve whole systems’ to ‘’everybody’ improves whole systems’. Inherent in the development of systems practice from the start has been recognition of ‘the whole’, which comes in various forms from group dynamics to organisational viability.

This programme will give an overview of intervention approaches which ‘bring whole systems into the room’ rather than have a few experts work on individual issues. We will look at some of the history and the wide range of interventions that have been developed, and provide an overview of some of the most interesting.

We will compare and contrast these approaches and provide ‘ways in’ to consider when, and which, large group intervention might be an appropriate part of a systems practice intervention.

Trainer
These courses are delivered by Benjamin P Taylor, an expert in systems, cybernetics, and complexity in service transformation.

Pricing Info

£500 +VAT

To enquire please go on this link: https://www.systemspractice.org/courses/ilg-large-group-interventions-10d

ICS3 Workshop Design (0.5d)

This module provides learners with an understanding of the design of workshops and relevant considerations, taking into account the potentially very different contexts and definitions of what a ‘workshop’ is. It introduces a range of tools and approaches for workshop design, building on the facilitation module. It gives tools to consider evaluation and learning about workshop design, and compares various approaches, enabling learners to better select and apply appropriate workshop design approaches to their context.

A workshop can be distinguished from a meeting (though the boundaries may be blurry at times), by some of the following indicators:

  • intensive discussion and activity, designed to progress thinking and planning
  • intentionally designed activities (rather than simply an agenda), or flow
  • an impact focus, usually above and beyond just a discussion or decision — some kind of output taking an intervention or initiative forward

An alternative use of the work, to workshop (something), refers to taking a product or idea into a period of intense focused experimentation and development, often bringing in fresh or different perspectives than the original developers of the product or idea. This is of course closely related, but implies some partly-developed ‘content’ as the workshop focus, as opposed to simply a product or idea. In either case, some input is expected to a workshop, whether process, content, or both.

The learning will cover:

  • What a workshop is
  • Where and when we might use a workshop
  • A range of tools and approaches
  • How to appropriately select an approach, and design a workshop to fit the requirements in context
  • The importance of reflection and how to evaluate and build a learning loop
  • Workshop design tools, core and conceptual

This is a very practical, hands-on course based on you creating an initial workshop design from your context, using sources offered, and sharing and discussing it in the session.

This course complements the course on Facilitation for systems practice interventions, though they can be done independently or in any order.

Trainer
These courses are delivered by Benjamin P Taylor, an expert in systems, cybernetics, and complexity in service transformation.

Pricing Info

£250 +VAT

To enquire please go on this link: https://www.systemspractice.org/courses/ics3-workshop-design-05d

ICS2 Facilitation Skills for Systems Practice Interventions (0.5d)

This course provides learners with an understanding of the facilitation relationship in the context of systems intervention itself, and of the challenges it brings. It introduces a range of tools and practices for facilitation and provides guidance on workshop planning. Finally, it compares various approaches to facilitation, enabling learners to develop a stronger sense of the kind of facilitator they want to be.

Topics covered include:

  • The facilitraining rainbow — where do you stand?
  • Divergence, emergence, convergence;
  • Differentiation and integration method;
  • Adaptive change;
  • Facilitation for ‘robust systems’;
  • Session planning and session flow;
  • The perceptual positions;
  • Ground rules for workshops and ways into partnership;
  • Maintaining your authenticity;
  • Peter Block’s ‘six conversations that matter’;
  • Chris Corrigan’s ‘seven little helpers’;
  • Hosting and guiding and/or customer services;
  • Context cues;
  • History and three futures;
  • Power tools and making concrete — Naming The Thing.

Trainer
These courses are delivered by Benjamin P Taylor, an expert in systems, cybernetics, and complexity in service transformation.

Pricing Info

£250 +VAT

To enquire please go on this link: https://www.systemspractice.org/courses/ics2-facilitation-skills-systems-practice-interventions-05d

ICS1b Consulting for Systems Practice Interventions — (b) Core (0.5d)

This course provides learners with a deeper understanding of:

  • Discovery and research into the client system;
  • Power questions, layers of analysis, and objectifying ‘the system’;
  • Research and action-based approaches;
  • Third-party and whole systems approaches;
  • Maintaining the balance of responsibility for deep engagement;
  • Structuring analysis and feedback, developing commitment;
  • Choosing dirty or clean consulting.

To maximise your chances of being effective in achieving positive change, you should combine a sound understanding of systems approaches with well-developed intervention skills.

This in turn requires a clear conception of the role of the systems practitioner as ‘consultant’, of their relationships with stakeholders, especially the ‘client’, and the nature of the practitioner’s influence on the organisations they seek to transform.

Drawing on Flawless Consulting, Barry Oshry’s Organic Systems Framework, and more, Consulting for Systems Practice Interventions emphasises a collaborative approach and equal responsibility between the intervention practitioner and the client, navigating a path between the twin traps of ‘consultant as boss’ and ‘consultant as servant’.

These courses are relevant to anyone — consultant or not! — who is engaging in organisational change.

Trainer
These courses are delivered by Benjamin P Taylor, an expert in systems, cybernetics, and complexity in service transformation.

Pricing Info

£250 +VAT

To enquire please go on this link: https://www.systemspractice.org/courses/ics1b-consulting-systems-practice-interventions-b-core-05d

ICS1a Consulting for Systems Practice Interventions — (a) Foundation (0.5d)

This course will provide learners with key principles and a structure for interventions. Topics covered include:

  • The five phases of the consultative process;
  • ‘Techniques are not enough’: relationships in consulting;
  • Dealing with ‘the space of service’;
  • Setting up a clear ‘contract’ for interventions — including triangular and rectangular contracting;
  • Authenticity and setting your assumptions;
  • The client behind the client and the problem behind the problem;

To maximise your chances of being effective in achieving positive change, you should combine a sound understanding of systems approaches with well-developed intervention skills.

This in turn requires a clear conception of the role of the systems practitioner as ‘consultant’, of their relationships with stakeholders, especially the ‘client’, and the nature of the practitioner’s influence on the organisations they seek to transform.

Drawing on Flawless Consulting, Barry Oshry’s Organic Systems Framework, and more, Consulting for Systems Practice Interventions emphasises a collaborative approach and equal responsibility between the intervention practitioner and the client, navigating a path between the twin traps of ‘consultant as boss’ and ‘consultant as servant’.

These courses are relevant to anyone — consultant or not! — who is engaging in organisational change.

Trainer
These courses are delivered by Benjamin P Taylor, an expert in systems, cybernetics, and complexity in service transformation.

Pricing Info

£250 +VAT

To enquire please go on this link: https://www.systemspractice.org/courses/ics1a-consulting-systems-practice-interventions-foundation-05d

Link Collection:

My Weekly Blog post:

In my recent post, I delved into the ‘royal paradigm’ inherent in UK doctor visits, expecting responses that either echoed frustration with the healthcare system or defended doctors’ strenuous efforts. In subsequent discussions, Cormac Russell’s Twitter thread highlighted four models of community engagement, sparking debate particularly around the ‘medical model’ versus more inclusive approaches.

Transitioning from a needs-based system to one centered on individual purpose and interdependence presents challenges. Despite power imbalances, genuine human connections persist, underscoring the need for nuanced communication to effect meaningful change within existing structures. While advocating for a shift, I acknowledge the essential role of doctors while emphasizing individuals’ agency in their well-being. The notion of ‘prescriptive power’ underscores that healing ultimately resides within individuals, hinting at alternative approaches to healthcare. Encouraging dialogue and mutual understanding, I recognize the complexity of transformation within entrenched systems, where outcomes may appear similar but the underlying dynamics differ significantly.

There’s a better way for us to ‘get our needs met’. Can we talk about it?

Life as a planetary regulator: an experimental test — via the Santa Fe Institute

A new paper proposes an experimental setup that could test the classic Daisyworld model — a hypothesis of a self-regulating planetary ecosystem — in the lab via two synthetic bacterial strains. (image: Victor Maull, created with Image Designer)

According to the Gaia hypothesis, which was proposed by the scientists Lovelock and Margulis in the 1970s, our planet should have been getting progressively warmer for millions of years, while our oceans should have been progressively more acidic as well. The fact that this hasn’t happened suggests a planet-wide complex system that is self-regulating, with planetary life and geological processes working together to stabilize planetary geology and climate. Despite its importance, this idea could not be previously tested due to its planetary scale.

In a recent paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, SFI External Professor Ricard Solé (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and collaborators propose an experimental system that will test, on a small scale, the dynamics that regulate planetary processes. Using synthetic biology, they will test two engineered micro-organisms in a self-contained system to see if they can achieve a stable equilibrium.

This proposed setup is inspired by recent research in fermentation, which has typically required finely-tuned outside control, to achieve stable, regulated conditions, including a stable pH level. “There’s been recent work in trying to see if you can engineer microorganisms for fermentation so that they can self-regulate,” Solé says. “That was the key inspiration.” This experimental setup, which Solé and several of his students developed during a visit to SFI, has the potential to answer long-standing questions in the field about planetary-wide regulatory systems.

In this experimental setup, one strain will detect if the environment is becoming too acidic, and counteract the increasing acidity, while the other strain will detect if the environment is becoming too basic, and act to counteract this decreasing acidity. “Because these strains act on the environment, and the environment affects them, this creates a closed causal loop,” Solé said. “The idea is to show that under very broad conditions, they will stabilize to a constant pH level, as predicted by the original theory.”

Read the paper “A synthetic microbial Daisyworld: planetary regulation in the test tube” in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface (February 7, 2024) by Victor Maull, Jordi Pla Mauri, Nuria Conde Pueyo, and Ricard Solé. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2023.0585

https://www.santafe.edu/news-center/news/life-as-a-planetary-regulator-an-experimental-test

UNDP Unstick: Systems and portfolio approaches toolkit

[h/t David Ing]

System and portfolio approaches toolkitThis is an evolving repository of practical portfolio-design toolkits that emerged from our own experience working with governments and other partners in over 45 countries. We hope that these might help as you get started on your journey of discovering new approaches and perspectives. We’re always keen to connect and learn how these resources may be landing in other organisations and context, so do get in touch to let us know about your experience.

System and portfolio approaches toolkit — Unstuck by UNDP

Talking About Organizations podcast 110: Organizations and Law — Lauren Edelman February 13, 2024

[Really interesting on relationship between decision-making, ‘managerial discretion’, law, symbolic/mythology responses, public, professional, and trade union perspectives, and how these evolve together]

In this episode, we explore two articles from Lauren Edelman, “Legal Ambiguity and Symbolic Structures: Organizational Mediation of Civil Rights Law” from 1992 and “The Endogeneity of Legal Regulation: Grievance Procedures as Rational Myth” from 1999. These studies showed a wide variety of organizational responses to the enactment of civil rights legislation, but that certain responses were legitimated due to their success in symbolically showing effort in addressing discrimination and thus institutionalized across other organizations.

A Podcast About Organization Theory and Management Studies — Talking About Organizations Podcast

Share this:

antlerboy — Benjamin P Taylor 7:34 pm on February 12, 2024

The strategy of model building in population biology — Levins (1966) — and implications

Matt Spike on X: “One of many ways I annoy people is saying that *arguing* about dynamical vs computational cognition, or mechanism vs function, or internalism vs 4e stuff… is *a stupid waste of time* This 1966 paper by Levins is a big reason I have this annoying take https://t.co/tpxKFMD2XUhttps://t.co/ZqI1NoWIO0” / X

Images:

Demystifying the Principle of Subsidiarity: Balancing Autonomy with Cohesion in Organizations — Lambertz (2024)

Mark Lambertz

Demystifying the Principle of Subsidiarity: Balancing Autonomy with Cohesion in OrganizationsMark LambertzUnderstand. Enable. Create Value.3 articles Following February 2, 2024

Demystifying the Principle of Subsidiarity: Balancing Autonomy with Cohesion in Organizations | LinkedIn

Cybernetics: A General Theory that Includes Command and Control — Umpleby (2015, for ICCRTS)

Stuart Umpleby

History of Science

The field of cybernetics originated in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s in a series of meetings sponsored by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. Norbert Wiener named the field after the Greek word, cybernetes, for governor. In 1948 he defined cybernetics as control and communication in animal and machine. Social systems were soon added. Although originally based on the study of biological and social systems, information technology has progressed so rapidly, the prefix “cyber” now means either computers or the internet to most people. There are currently no academic programs in the U.S. that cover the broad field of cybernetics. The authors of articles in cybernetics journals used to be predominantly from the U.S. Now most articles are by authors from European countries or China. This paper reviews the history of cybernetics in the U.S. and other countries and points out some nontechnical aspects of cybernetics with security implications.

Cybernetics: A General Theory that Includes Command and ControlStuart Umpleby527 Views18 Pages1 File ▾History of ScienceThe field of cybernetics originated in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s in a series of meetings sponsored by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. Norbert Wiener named the field after the Greek word, cybernetes, for governor. In 1948 he defined cybernetics as control and communication in animal and machine. Social systems were soon added. Although originally based on the study of biological and social systems, information technology has progressed so rapidly, the prefix “cyber” now means either computers or the internet to most people. There are currently no academic programs in the U.S. that cover the broad field of cybernetics. The authors of articles in cybernetics journals used to be predominantly from the U.S. Now most articles are by authors from European countries or China. This paper reviews the history of cybernetics in the U.S. and other countries and points out some nontechnical aspects of cybernetics with security implications.

(83) Cybernetics: A General Theory that Includes Command and Control | Stuart Umpleby — Academia.edu

A small critique on Twitter from @Kihbernetics

Being Whole — Nachmanovitch (2024, I think)

“Being Whole Stephen Nachmanovitch “I begin by thinking of my friend and mentor Gregory Bateson, but the questions here are broad and relate to the experience of many people, and many kinds of people. Gregory was known as a great polymath. But that is not quite right. In truth, he was a holomath, if we can coin that word. A polymath is a person who turns to, and sometimes excels in, multiple fields of endeavor. A holomath is a person who sees multiple fields as being really the same enterprise, circling a central pattern from different angles and points of view.” Click to access Nachmanovitch-project_muse_917058.pdf

The application of systems thinking to health promotion: complexity-informed community-based prevention in Healthy Together Victoria — Bensberg (2022, PhD by publication)

Available versions

Abstract

This thesis by publication examines the application of systems thinking to health promotion in Healthy Together Victoria (HTV). HTV was a large-scale, multi-site initiative that adopted a complex systems approach to reduce obesity in Victoria, Australia from 2012 to 2016. Data were collected through 31 semi-structured in-depth interviews with HTV participants. The findings are described with respect to implications for systems practice, theories, tools and capacity for health promotion professionals. This thesis includes four peer reviewed journal articles and two practice reports.

Publication year

2022

The application of systems thinking to health promotion: complexity-informed community-based prevention in Healthy Together VictoriaAuthorBensberg, MonicaAvailable versionsMonica Bensberg ThesisAbstractThis thesis by publication examines the application of systems thinking to health promotion in Healthy Together Victoria (HTV). HTV was a large-scale, multi-site initiative that adopted a complex systems approach to reduce obesity in Victoria, Australia from 2012 to 2016. Data were collected through 31 semi-structured in-depth interviews with HTV participants. The findings are described with respect to implications for systems practice, theories, tools and capacity for health promotion professionals. This thesis includes four peer reviewed journal articles and two practice reports.Publication year2022

Swinburne Research Bank | Swinburne University of Technology

The VSM Canvas — Krishan Mathis

The VSM Canvas allows a quick start with diagnosing the structures, the decision making and the information systems of an organization. For a workshop, you may want to download the template and print it in a large format, e.g. A0.

The VSM CanvasThe VSM Canvas allows a quick start with diagnosing the structures, the decision making and the information systems of an organization. For a workshop, you may want to download the template and print it in a large format, e.g. A0

The VSM Canvas — Grado Group Sit

The Systemic Intervention Approach — Midgley (2023)

Author(s): Gerald Midgley 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ,

Publication date (Electronic, pub): 12 December 2023

On facebook, Gerald says:

Here is a new paper of mine on the systemic intervention approach. It is open access, so downloadable for free. The download button is just below my name, the journal title and the paper’s keywords.

Midgley G (2023). The Systemic Intervention Approach. Journal of Systems Thinking, 3, 1–24. DOI:10.54120/jost.000050

ABSTRACT

This paper presents a systemic intervention methodology that starts with boundary critique: exploring different boundaries and values that might matter to stakeholders when framing the purposes of an intervention. Boundary critique helps people develop an enhanced understanding of the situation being addressed, and it focuses attention on dealing with conflict and marginalization. Systemic intervention also offers a theory and practice of methodological pluralism: creatively mixing methods from a diverse range of methodological sources in response to the initial boundary critique, so systemic improvements can be designed. This creative mixing of methods yields a much more flexible and responsive approach than might be possible with a narrower range of methods. The value of a systemic intervention approach is illustrated through several practical examples.

The Systemic Intervention Approach — ScienceOpen

entailing ecology — framework for an informed urbanism — Werner (2023, doctoral thesis, in German)

Werner, Liss Christine

FG urban planning and sustainable urban development

This dissertation examines a design practice that is intended to help solve complexity challenges in urban design. To this end, the historical foundations of computer-aided architecture and urban design are examined from an ecological perspective. Understanding computer-aided design process as a branch of architectural ecology is identified as a fundamental research problem. The work uses cybernetics as a methodological tool for observation, analysis and evaluation of systemic complex networked spatial organizations. The result of the research is a proposal for a design framework for urbanism that is designed and generated by embedding information and epistemology. The approach links to the idea of ​​a human-machine interface. It considers the emergence of a new architectural culture characterized by code and self-organization. Furthermore, the dissertation suggests that the changes in our relationship to architecture and to our built physically and digitally constructed virtual environments, is characterized by interacting communicating elements, architectural production, and dynamic organization. This initiates a shift in the focus of architectural consciousness from delineated discrete objects to networked subsystems. It is divided into 4 parts. Part 1 establishes a theoretical framework, Part 2 a conceptual framework of historical foundations. These first two parts refer to linear analog systems and the beginnings of digital production of architecture, as a phenomenon of interaction and learning. They apply an integrative research method with descriptive literature and project research. Part 3 presents design research of progressive design strategies, including algorithmic, parametric, and bio-inspired approaches. It thus illustrates the development of a new architectural ecology. It applies experimental design research as research method. Part 4 demonstrates a new systemic methodology for conducting a structured design operation as research result. It is a pervasive digitization that fuses data and knowledge embedded in the physical environment in a structured way. A prerequisite for an Untailing Ecology, a Framework for an informed Urbanism.

https://depositonce.tu-berlin.de/items/59de4362-2b9e-4325-8f63-e0bab8f728ab

Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory

Summary of Rosenblatt,1994. “The transactional theory of reading and writing”

Reading and Writing about Literary Texts — Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory

THE INVISIBLE SUBSTRATE OF INFORMATION SCIENCE — Bates (1999)

by Marcia J. Bates

Dept. of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
mjbates@ucla.edu

Copyright © 1999
by John Wiley and Sons
Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50, #12 (1999) 1043–1050.

INFORMATION SCIENCE: THE INVISIBLE SUBSTRATE

Mycopunk Principles

A work-in-progress to explore the principles of mycelial networks applied in socio-technical systems.

Mycopunk Principles — Mycopunk principles

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