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Intentionality: A Cross-Disciplinary Explanation


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The diversity of disciplines providing advisories and direction about reaching the desired future may be independently assigned, but they are not independently experienced. Like working with multiple languages, we know each has a way of meaning something; the difficulty is to act on meaning instead of on confusion.

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Intentionality: A Cross-Disciplinary Explanation

  1. 1. Intentionality A Cross-Disciplinary Explanation © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research
  2. 2. Now versus Next One of the main effects of having regular, sustained interaction simultaneously with people involved in design thinking, strategy, innovation and futuring is the emergence of several recurring simple themes that get constant attention. We try to do something but we don’t get a result. We want something but its importance falls into debate. We need something but we don’t know yet what it should be. We see or imagine something but we aren’t sure what it means These themes, and similar others, are the “challenges” that typically drive the emphases on methods, objectives and advice given to clients. Each discipline has something to say and do about each challenge. Notably, none of the disciplines presumes that being passive is likely to turn into a desired outcome. Taken to a higher level of generality, the overall challenge is that there is an intention, with a past history or current risk that it did, or will, go unmet. Just being able to say “it’s done” or “we’re there” is the single galvanizing experience central to all the different justifications of why the various disciplines are required.
  3. 3. Intentionality We define intentionality as a prospect, of action directed for a reason. Driven by the issue of intentionality, design thinking, strategy, innovation and futuring utilize diverse semantics in their disciplinary discussions and concerns. The framework provided in the following notes consolidates those various semantics, in a generic common ground underlying their discussions. The framework purposely avoids reliance on the popular vocabulary of those disciplines, while allowing each of the disciplines to find itself as a contributor or actor within the dimensions of the frame. The purpose of the framework is to present a non-technical reflection of a party’s common experience participating in (or across) the efforts of any of those disciplines. In the spirit of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the framework relies on distinguishing several basic types of connections between thought and behaviors, or to a degree, between a stimulus reason and a potential for response. The primary thesis is that there are four types of concerns (called “drivers” of intent) that power effort in those disciplines, while there are three types of attributes (called “facilitators” of intent) of any effort that “proves” to meet those concerns. People will note that, on an even more general level, drivers correspond to “needs”, and facilitators correspond to “requirements”.
  4. 4. Getting “Done” The semantics of Drivers correspond to definable, utilitarian ideas. Any problem, model, inspiration or theory may be a driver. The semantics of Facilitators correspond to definable, evident plan or history of acts. The means, motives, and opportunity of an effort together complete the description of its realization. The semantics are not originated by disciplines; they are features of disciplines. All disciplines pursuing intent include the framework’s drivers and facilitators. The other contents within the framework are not activities but instead are outcomes. Different disciplines pursue respectively different ways to reach the outcomes. The framework does not specify those ways but instead, by locating the related outcomes, it classifies them, semantically. ©2014MalcolmRyder/archestraresearch
  5. 5. PROBLEM MODEL INSPIRATION THEORY OPPORTUNITY Resolution Validation Realization Discovery MOTIVE Security Certainty Identity Choice MEANS Process Resource Observation Knowledge FACILITATORS DRIVERS What can What ifWhat mayWhat for How Why When “DONE” Expression CognitionCompetencySafetyVALUES: Goal PerspectivePriorityPermissionCONSTRAINTS: Values are Important Conditions expected in the future state versus the current state. Value attracts adopters and participants. Constraints are Gating Factors that in effect establish the development culture for value. Constraints determine what cannot get through from a procedural beginning to end. Meanwhile, every constraint is itself variable, subject to numerous kinds of influences. Recognizing Intention ©2014MalcolmRyder/archestraresearch
  6. 6. Using the Framework Drivers correspond heavily to value, an innate sense of what is important. At the same time, it is necessary to recognize that “innate” typically corresponds to a given context and is neither magical nor absolute. However, every context includes the same identified generic values among its concerns. A given context simply interprets what the value means for the context. For example, if the context is “politics”, the value “safety” represents an acceptable level of political risk accompanying outcomes. Value is also constrained by circumstances. Circumstances may be impermanent but the experience of “intent” always involves attention to a definable difference between the probable current state and possible future state. Circumstances immediately affect the transition from current to future conditions. A constraint on a value does not remove the value from consideration, but it may affect the strength of the outcomes having that type of value. The framework identifies the type of constraint most commonly affecting the given type of value. Being most common does not mean necessarily being exclusive. However, in the framework, commonality also reflects applicability found across the various disciplines.
  7. 7. Outside of the Box As shown here, a subset (in green) of the framework indicates a set of outcomes that are the focus of a highly conventional commitment to intent. The importance of showing this subset is twofold. First, it “describes” the ordinary reliance on the notion that the party with intent expects to use its own capability to do something for which it will take credit. The chance to gain (for example) reward and reputation, or achievement and authority, makes sense as a “source” of intent. However, in many cases, it also “focuses” effort in ways that tend to neglect other outcomes that may critically affect the chance of realizing or sustaining the desired gain. That myopia (usually of achievement/authority) is a common cause of omissions and disconnects in facilitators needed to reach sufficient “done-ness”. Second, in the framework, it is evident that values and drivers exist concurrently, not necessarily sequentially. Addressing one value to a certain degree is not necessarily establishing a trigger or threshold for another value; instead, these are largely independent variables that may reach a state of compatibility. In that state, “alignment” allows other things to occur that otherwise cannot – in the same way that the pins of a tumbler lock must be aligned before it can be opened. Alignment is not “sequence”, it is “state”.
  8. 8. Culture Change Exploiting constraints is a success factor of pursuing intentionality. Our increasing awareness of the true complexity of most environments helps us to see success as available mainly in a “system” having dynamic equilibrium. The primary barrier to success is not unintended consequences but actually un- intended pursuit – that is, pursuit without aligned intent. Constraints are highly manageable elements of the environment. As independent variables, they can be influenced directionally if the commitment to doing so is strong enough. For example, education can change perspectives; benefits can change goals; impacts can change priorities; risks can change permissions. These universally confirmed experiences are art of the cultural dynamics that may find a state of equilibrium allowing desired values to be intentionally realized. At the same time, the culture is not a cause but a prerequisite. The overall reason why the intentionality framework has meaning is because it catalogs outcomes that are conspicuously absent or vague during failures, while in contrast are conspicuously present in successes. Goal PerspectivePriorityPermissionCONSTRAINTS:
  9. 9. © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research