Systems Thinking: A Foxy Approach


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Talk at ALM Chicago 2013.

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  • Fox and Hedgehog are Jungian shadows of each other in many ways
  • Fox and Hedgehog are Jungian shadows of each other in many ways
  • Systems Thinking: A Foxy Approach

    1. Systems Thinking: A Foxy Approach Venkatesh Rao,
    2. Inconsistent UnreliableTwo negative archetypes Duplicitous Selfish Irresponsible Scheming Bullshitter Hidebound Bureaucratic Holier-than-thou Naïve Which do you dislike more? Boring Risk-averse Predictable 2
    3. Sees Hedgehogs as Sees Foxes as Consistent Inconsistent Conscientious Unreliable Fair Duplicitous Selfless SelfishHedgehogs Responsible Irresponsible Trustworthy Scheming Realistic Bullshitter Hidebound Open-minded Bureaucratic Resourceful Holier-than-thou Adaptable Foxes Naïve Worldly Boring Interesting Risk-averse Adventurous Predictable Imaginative 3
    4. Story: The crazy personal trainer
    5. “To be great at many things, not just one. My clients will be well rounded and competent in all areas of fitness. They will be able to take on any physical challenges and succeed. I help people change their lifestyles for a healthier tomorrow.”Arthur Hsu
    6. “The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.” -- ArchilocusThe philosophy primer: 6
    7. Definition:Systems thinking is the consistent ability to get unstuck whenstuck…
    8. …in the presence of VUCA VUCA Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity
    9. Two complementary modes of getting unstuck Directional systems thinking Operational systems thinking Finding the right question Finding the right answer Attributions: Fox: Rob Lee Hedgehog: Lars Karlsson 9
    10. Anticipation ExecutionAdvantage FOX Advantage HEDGEHOG
    11. Foxes appear to haveinternalized cross-functional teams inside their heads
    12. …fox work “Big picture” The right porn questionsWhen hedgehogs do.. When foxes do… The right Clumsy answers hacks …hedgehog work
    13. Hedgehog Systems Thinking Done Right GTD
    14. Hedgehog Systems Thinking Done Wrong
    15. Foxy Systems Thinking Done Wrong Employers didnt start offering health benefits roughly 60 years ago because they were experts in medical decisions. It was a way of circumventing the World War II wage and price controls. Barred from offering higher salaries to attract workers, employers offered health insurance instead. Aided by an IRS ruling that said workers who received health benefits did not have to pay income taxes on them, and by the fact that employers could write off the cost of the health benefits as a business related expense, this accidental arrangement became the primary way most Americans access health care. -- WSJ, December 10, 2008
    16. Foxy Systems Thinking Done Right
    17. Can you have your cake and eat it too? Maybe…OODA: A fox dressed like a hedgehog (a story for another day…)
    18. …fox work Example: GlobalizationWhen hedgehogs do… When foxes do… …hedgehog work
    19. Where foxes get terminally stuck, Hedgehogs are most hedgehogs get started comfortable developing momentumDEVOPS = FOXHOG? Foxes are most comfortable finding direction Where hedgehogs get terminally stuck, foxes get started
    20. The fatal hedgehog error: understanding how a system works isnecessary for understanding how to work the system The fatal fox error: an elegant insight into the workings of a system is sufficient for building an elegant system that works
    21. Dangerous books often bought and displayed proudly …but (thankfully) rarely read
    22. 2x2 diagrams Motifs Equipment in the Foxy GymArbitrage NamingAphorisms NarrativeArchetyping Non SequitursBloody-mindedness OverloadingBricolage ParablesBrowsing ParadoxesCaricature Pattern recognitionCollage RandomnessConstraint Triangles SerendipityFree-lunching TheftGonzo longform TriageHacks Surprise seekingImprovisation Viral Venn DiagramsMaps Yin-Yang diagramsMetaphor
    23. MotifA tangible symbol that evokes the gestalt of a complex system andsuggests a useful organizing perspective.Test: if you make a mind-map with the motif at the root, you willend up with a different diagram than if you start with the abstractidea.
    24. China Jobs World Outsourcing is Flat Globalization InternetWTO Currency Trading
    25. BackhaulSupply ProblemChains Trade Imbalance Walmart Dirty Nukes RFID China
    26. Weird Fraud Weather MoreControversy droughts, Global more rain Is it Warming real? Carbon Emissions Melting Conspiracy Ice Caps Theory
    27. GlobalWarming Extinction Will our children Melting see polar Ice caps bears? Other What about non- Implications? We share cute species? this planet
    28. Exercise #1A (3 minutes): draw a mind-map starting with… Application Lifecycle Management
    29. Exercise #1B (3 minutes): now draw one starting with… Y2K bug
    30. Why this can get you unstuck:Good motifs naturally allow our minds to pick out the important patternsrather than the conventional ones.Drawing a mind-map starting with a new motif is like reseeding a randomnumber generator in your mind.
    31. AphorismAn aphorism is a succinct statement that captures an essentialinsight into the workings of a complex system, withoutcharacterizing it in detail.Test: Retweetability
    32. Gamification is the high-fructose corn syrup of user engagement -- Kathy Sierra
    33. Plan to throw one away – BrooksNever throw one away – Spolsky
    34. Two from yours trulyKeep your psychology complex, but your morality simpleCivilization is the process of turning the incomprehensible into the arbitrary
    35. Prize!Exercise #2 (3 minutes): Tweet your own aphorism about applicationlifecycle management in 120 characters to @almchicago(hint: try to start with a few different motifs)
    36. Why this can get you unstuck:Good aphorisms are extremely high-leverage decision simplificationprinciples that allow you to eliminate entire classes of possibilities at thesystemic level and supply good defaults at the detailed level.
    37. Metaphoric MapA metaphoric map is a visualization that uses the rich phenomena ofgeography to represent complex realities in ways that show things inthe right relative proportions and relationships, suggest a set ofcoherent meanings and guide high-level prioritization.Test: How often your map gets cited by others.
    38. xkcd
    39. Homework (3 hours): Draw a metaphoric map of your industryThings to use:• walls, mountains, gorges• rivers, lakes, oceans, deserts• forests, swamps• villages, cities, countriesPRIZE: Free hour of consulting if you agree to post your finished map in public
    40. Why this can get you unstuck:Good maps suggest the right sense of proportion and rearrange priorities.• Are you ignoring something huge?• Are you wasting attention on something trivial?• Are you missing a relationship?• Are you underestimating the size of a barrier to action?
    41. Advanced material: the 2x2 DiagramA good 2x2 diagram discriminates a complex and messy reality intofour more tractable and equally rich classes by employing twoorthogonal but mutually relevant dichotomies.Test: How easily you are able to name each quadrant with anarchetype label or motif.
    42. RichA bad 2x2…why? Wealth Lucky Winner Stupid Intelligence Smart Loser Unlucky Poor
    43. HighA good 2x2 Perspective(David Allen) Master and Crazymaker Commander Control High Low Victim Micromanager Low
    44. Centralized and HierarchicalAnother Good 2x2(Microsoft: Rasmus/Salkowitz) Organization Continental Proud Drift Tower More More Regionalized Globalization Globalized Frontier Freelance Friction Planet Networked and Distributed
    45. HedgehogOne for Gene Kim McCoy Spock Ops Dev Completing triads Scotty Kirk into quadrants a common technique Fox
    46. HedgehogAnd one more…(me!) Values Tolstoi Dante Fox Hedgehog Strengths Shakespeare Taleb(based on famous Isaiah Berlin Foxessay)
    47. You can make up the grid and find the motifs (easier) orYou can start with motifs and get to the 2x2 (harder)Example: Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw
    48. NobleOne possible solutionWhy wouldn’t the following work? Hufflepuff Gryffindor1. Good versus evil2. Works smart/works hard3. Loyal/disloyal Follower Leader Ravenclaw Slytherin Selfish
    49. Another oneThe four elements of Blitzkrieg*1. Einheit (“culture”)2. Fingerspitzengefühl (“instinctive skill”)3. Auftragstaktik (“tactical contract”)4. Schwerpunkt (“commander’s intent” or “focal point”)*See Chet Richards’ Certain to Win for an accessible introduction
    50. Vector One possible solution(from a very smart consulting client) Commander’s Tactical Intent Contract Tangible Intangible Instinctive Culture Skill Scalar
    51. 7 rules for 2x2s1. No unlabeled quadrants…2. …but labeled-and-empty is okay3. Name the prototypical instance, not the class4. Bonus points if x and y axes are strongly related or identical5. Drop either the axes labels or the end points labels if you can…6. …but not both!7. The middle must be unoccupied (related to Taleb’s “barbell principle”)
    52. Prize!Final exam, Part I: (5 minutes)Draw a 2x2 relating to application lifecycle management.(extra credit: take a picture and tweet it to @almchicago)
    53. 2Final exam, Part II: (5 minutes) Prizes!Organize the following into a 2x2 matrix.Hacker, Hustler, UX designer, sysadminExtra foxy credit: try and come up with two alternative 2x2s
    54. Fox tools Hedgehog tools1. Blank, one-sided print outs 1. Bound, ruled/graph notebooks (“free lunch”) 2. Post-it notes2. Index cards 3. Pencils3. Pens 4. Complex, specialized software4. Simple, versatile software 5. Takes serious training5. Intuitive or easy to learn
    55. • Question like a fox, answer like a hedgehog• See like a fox, do like a hedgehog• Imagine like a fox, execute like a hedgehog• Create problems like a fox, solve them like a hedgehog• Startup like a fox, scale like a hedgehog
    56. Thank you!In development: workshop/short course (ETA: Summer 2013)Blog: http://ribbonfarm.comEmail: vgr@ribbonfarm.comTwitter: @vgr