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Planning and doing, mapping and going

[ by Charles Cameron — still catching up with unfinished posts — here, wicked problems & John Henry Newman ]

I’ve just been re-reading Jeff Conklin‘s Wicked Problems and Social Complexity, which includes these two diagrams:


— so I was struck by this tweet:


There’s a similar sense of a jagged path in the final verse of Bl John Henry Newman‘s great hymn, The Pillar of the Cloud, better known by its first line, Lead, Kindly Light:

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

It is sung here at the Hyde Park vigil on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI‘s visit to the United Kingdom, with a final verse added by an Anglican Bishop of Exeter, Edward Henry Bickersteth:


The first two items appeal to my intellect, whereas Newman’s hymn can bring me to tears.

2 Responses to “Planning and doing, mapping and going”

  1. Terry Barnhart Says:

    I’m often struck that people think cognitive processes are linear (top graph). Apparently, the thought process broght to the table by that graph maker did not include complex, parallel independent, or high speed problem solving. That is, he’s never heard of John Boyd or Taiichi Ohno.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Terry:
    Conklin’s top diagram is intended to show a theory he rejects as a simple-minded version of s much more complex process, illustrated in the lower of his two diagrams, and as I recall he has at least one further diagram in which he shows the realities involved in multiple minds collaborating to solve a problem. He is far from advocating the “waterfall” of the top diagram above.
    I can’t speak to Taiichi Ohno, but Boyd and Conklin seem to me to be tackling different aspects of decision-making.
    Boyd is concerned with adversarial conflicts with a winner and a loser, no? and perhaps a very speedy outcome, as in a dog-fight. Conklin is dealing with social problems, which may be part adversarial and part collaborative, in which the problem is at least somewhat enduring and very possibly morphs as time passes, some deadlines pass, new elements, stake-holders or technologies become available, etc — and where the problem itself may be viewed and defined differently by different stakeholders, so that they may not be a single “solution” approved or conceded as such by all those involved.
    His “motto” seems to be taken from Laurence J. Peter:

    Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.

    A quick lookup on “Jeff Conklin” and “John Boyd” found a few documents which deal with both:

    John Kruse et al, The POET Approach: A collaborative means for enhancing C2 systems engineering
    John F. Schmitt, A Systemic Concept for Operational Design
    K. Todd Chamberlain. Applying Natural System Metaphors to the Force Modernization Process
    David Zvijac, An Alternative Approach for Operational Assessment

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