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Systems Thinking: A Foxy Approach

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Systems Thinking: A Foxy Approach

  1. Systems Thinking: A Foxy Approach Venkatesh Rao,
  2. Inconsistent Unreliable Two 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 Selfish Hedgehogs 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.” -- Archilocus The philosophy primer: 6
  7. Definition: Systems thinking is the consistent ability to get unstuck when stuck…
  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 Execution Advantage FOX Advantage HEDGEHOG
  11. Foxes appear to have internalized cross-functional teams inside their heads
  12. …fox work “Big picture” The right porn questions When 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 didn't 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: Globalization When hedgehogs do… When foxes do… …hedgehog work
  19. Where foxes get terminally stuck, Hedgehogs are most hedgehogs get started comfortable developing momentum DEVOPS = 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 is necessary 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 Gym Arbitrage Naming Aphorisms Narrative Archetyping Non Sequiturs Bloody-mindedness Overloading Bricolage Parables Browsing Paradoxes Caricature Pattern recognition Collage Randomness Constraint Triangles Serendipity Free-lunching Theft Gonzo longform Triage Hacks Surprise seeking Improvisation Viral Venn Diagrams Maps Yin-Yang diagrams Metaphor
  23. Motif A tangible symbol that evokes the gestalt of a complex system and suggests a useful organizing perspective. Test: if you make a mind-map with the motif at the root, you will end up with a different diagram than if you start with the abstract idea.
  24. China Jobs World Outsourcing is Flat Globalization Internet WTO Currency Trading
  25. Backhaul Supply Problem Chains Trade Imbalance Walmart Dirty Nukes RFID China
  26. Weird Fraud Weather More Controversy droughts, Global more rain Is it Warming real? Carbon Emissions Melting Conspiracy Ice Caps Theory
  27. Global Warming 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 patterns rather than the conventional ones. Drawing a mind-map starting with a new motif is like reseeding a random number generator in your mind.
  31. Aphorism An aphorism is a succinct statement that captures an essential insight into the workings of a complex system, without characterizing it in detail. Test: Retweetability
  32. Gamification is the high-fructose corn syrup of user engagement -- Kathy Sierra
  33. Plan to throw one away – Brooks Never throw one away – Spolsky
  34. Two from yours truly Keep your psychology complex, but your morality simple Civilization is the process of turning the incomprehensible into the arbitrary
  35. Prize! Exercise #2 (3 minutes): Tweet your own aphorism about application lifecycle 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 simplification principles that allow you to eliminate entire classes of possibilities at the systemic level and supply good defaults at the detailed level.
  37. Metaphoric Map A metaphoric map is a visualization that uses the rich phenomena of geography to represent complex realities in ways that show things in the right relative proportions and relationships, suggest a set of coherent 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 industry Things to use: • walls, mountains, gorges • rivers, lakes, oceans, deserts • forests, swamps • villages, cities, countries PRIZE: 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 Diagram A good 2x2 diagram discriminates a complex and messy reality into four more tractable and equally rich classes by employing two orthogonal but mutually relevant dichotomies. Test: How easily you are able to name each quadrant with an archetype label or motif.
  42. Rich A bad 2x2…why? Wealth Lucky Winner Stupid Intelligence Smart Loser Unlucky Poor
  43. High A good 2x2 Perspective (David Allen) Master and Crazymaker Commander Control High Low Victim Micromanager Low
  44. Centralized and Hierarchical Another Good 2x2 (Microsoft: Rasmus/Salkowitz) Organization Continental Proud Drift Tower More More Regionalized Globalization Globalized Frontier Freelance Friction Planet Networked and Distributed
  45. Hedgehog One for Gene Kim McCoy Spock Ops Dev Completing triads Scotty Kirk into quadrants a common technique Fox
  46. Hedgehog And one more… (me!) Values Tolstoi Dante Fox Hedgehog Strengths Shakespeare Taleb (based on famous Isaiah Berlin Fox essay)
  47. You can make up the grid and find the motifs (easier) or You can start with motifs and get to the 2x2 (harder) Example: Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw
  48. Noble One possible solution Why wouldn’t the following work? Hufflepuff Gryffindor 1. Good versus evil 2. Works smart/works hard 3. Loyal/disloyal Follower Leader Ravenclaw Slytherin Selfish
  49. Another one The 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 2x2s 1. No unlabeled quadrants… 2. …but labeled-and-empty is okay 3. Name the prototypical instance, not the class 4. Bonus points if x and y axes are strongly related or identical 5. 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. 2 Final exam, Part II: (5 minutes) Prizes! Organize the following into a 2x2 matrix. Hacker, Hustler, UX designer, sysadmin Extra foxy credit: try and come up with two alternative 2x2s
  54. Fox tools Hedgehog tools 1. Blank, one-sided print outs 1. Bound, ruled/graph notebooks (“free lunch”) 2. Post-it notes 2. Index cards 3. Pencils 3. Pens 4. Complex, specialized software 4. Simple, versatile software 5. Takes serious training 5. 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: Email: Twitter: @vgr

Editor's Notes

  • Fox and Hedgehog are Jungian shadows of each other in many ways
  • Fox and Hedgehog are Jungian shadows of each other in many ways