John G Bell

Systemic Thinking

Spring '04 - Geist

Revised System Description Response

After reading the Cybernetics article I recognize that I'm trepidacious about using nodes in my diagrams that are abstract things. I feel like I need to be more concrete about what a node is and want to nominalize the contents. What are the best practices for causal diagramming as far are representing actions and verbs. Is it best to think of nodes as phenomena not actions?

I don't have the system archetypes down. I keep wondering if I should grab a list of those, like is provided in Senge, and check for those in the systems I'm describing. I don't remember an archetype for “Caught between a rock and a hard place” as a Catch-22, but maybe there was a standard way to diagram that relationship that I could have used.

When I originally did the system description I didn't like the article. I felt that the two sections really didn't have anything to do with each other and that the author really was mixing apples and oranges. The first section was about the internal dynamics of funding in the US. The second section was about a beautified act of a core company extending its market through globalization. This time, when I looked at the article I could see how HP's initiative could meet some of the criticisms of typical globalization efforts. The expansion of production into the periphery is usually first, not the attempt to build local literacy and skill. This then was the link between the two parts that I'd missed the first time. I think I had to get over a semantic allergy to anything that smacks of capitalist globalization. I recognize my own mental model and prejudices are playing into how I view HP's actions with suspicion and in how I view the actions of the Bush administration.

I really struggled with the fact that my description was shorter this time. I hesitated on it and was about to go back and fluff it up with a bunch of stuff from my previous description that was still relevant. The way I described the article's first section as two balancing loops and then derived the reinforcing loop to which those would be attached was different in this article. Perhaps it was more concise to develop the simplest relationships first and then see how they linked together.

In my notes, I had included delays in several of the diagrams. I didn't end up putting those into the paper. There's a delay between Govt Funding and Digital Literacy because of implementation and learning time, for example. I didn't really have much to say about them so I left them out. I could have looked at how those change the weight of the Apparent Gap due to the delay making the connection between funding and the rise in digital literacy and economic growth less obvious.

I talked vaguely about leverage when I focused on the reinforcing loop in the first section of the article. I could have done more to talk about possible leverage points and to speculate about the possible result of making changes to the systems. I realize that I'd like to see how causal loop diagrams are used on the ground. Reading Senge and doing the exercises are good skill builders but I'm just curious about how these play out. Are they used mostly for reflective work on problems to help a practitioner sort out what's going on, are they used in brainstorming or group sessions to have the group socratically come up with what's going on, etc ...