2011 – Test a hypothesis

January 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Out of my mind, Systems Health, Systems Thinking | Leave a comment

Recently I read somewhere that scientific method is all about making a hypothesis and verifying it with actual observations. If it gets supported by reality then it is likely to be useful; if not it can always be modified or dropped. I like the tentativeness of this approach and would try it with a hypothesis to explore during the New Year.

Scientific method starts with asking a question, making a hypothesis and verifying it with observations / measurements. My motivation for such an exploration is the New Year resolution I made for 2011 and shared here, which was, “work to increase the energy flow in the systems I identify with”. The assumption was that it can be done by identifying and removing the bottlenecks which restrict smooth energy flow through the system. A side effect of such bottlenecks is creation of toxins in pockets where there is stagnation and such toxins would seriously affect the health of the system.

So first the question,
What are the factors that create bottlenecks in a system and hinder smooth flow of energy and what are their symptoms?

There is a beautiful and thought provoking book “Buddhism without beliefs” by Stephen Batchelor where he states that “Lines are drawn in mind; there are no lines in nature” He further expands on this as “(Everything that we see) emerges from a matrix of conditions and in turn becomes part of another matrix of conditions from which something else emerges. Everything that happens emerges out of what precedes it. Everything we do now becomes a condition for what is possible later. Whatever emerges in this way is devoid of an intrinsic identity: in other words, things are empty. And so is each of us. There is no essential me that exist apart from this unique configuration of biological and cultural processes.”

Inspired by this insight my hypothesis is,
The nature provides for unlimited nameless interactions in a matrix of cause-effect relationships. But as human beings we need a shared language for communication which is based on names or identities. Once we give names, we need definitions to clarify what it means and what it does not. This starts creating boundaries around the named systems. Even though we build a shared language, each of us may have a different interpretation of what the system by that name means. We also may perceive different boundaries for it. Thus for any system, its identity and its boundaries are a result of our collective psyche.

For a given system, different systems from its ecosystem may relate to it at different levels. Some may be just observers with no intervention; some may interact from outside but not participate; others identify with and participate in it. The level determines the extent of bonding. Higher the bonding more is the expectation from the system to behave in a certain way.

Since the identity of a system is created by the collective psyche of the ecosystem, the collective strength of expectations determine the forces which try to preserve / protect the identity of the system (let’s call these P-forces). But the system also has an inherent impulse to return to its natural state by transforming / transcending itself (let’s call them T-forces).

The P-forces give it the stability / predictability but too much of it tends to lose its touch with reality. This leads to attachment, ignorance & inertia which act as bottlenecks to the free flow of energy. On the other hand, T-forces give it agility and make it responsive to dynamics of the reality, but too much of it also makes it unstable / unpredictable. This is not liked by the ecosystem which tries to resist and create pressure & hindrances which act as bottlenecks. Therefore, a right balance between P & T forces is very essential to avoid the bottlenecks & toxins and to keep the system healthy.

Giving identity to the systems and creating boundaries around it for effective communication through a shared language is a limitation of human mind. The nature promises unlimited potential to tap the tremendous energy available, if only we can successfully manage to let the systems we deal with, by carefully releasing our grip on them and let them progressively go back to their natural potential. The concept of “Structured freedom” can be very useful which is about providing right structures so that the system can maturely enjoy its freedom, while at the same time protecting the interests of the ecosystem.

This hypothesis has some similarities with Yin-Yang system from Chinese philosophy. Both consider interaction and balance of opposing forces and see its effect on the energy flow (chi in yin-yang system). But there are major differences in terms of the opposing characteristics considered. As per Wikipedia, Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive. Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive. In my hypothesis, I am considering the P-forces & T-forces as the opposing & balancing elements.

To summarize, this hypothesis is about the importance of collective psyche of the ecosystem in creating bottlenecks & toxins as well as in helping the system to tap its potential by carefully providing right kind of structured freedom.

What are the practical uses of this exploration?
If this hypothesis stands the test of verification in different scenarios, at the systems level such an understanding would help us in improving our ability to predict influence and control the systems that we participate in or interact with. Nearer home, it would help us to know the factors & their symptoms which affect the fine balance between the production & innovation systems leading to the organizational excellence.

I would really appreciate any thoughts / experiences from you that either support or challenge what is said above. I will continue to share the outcome of my exploration from time to time.


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