There Be Dragons!

Learning HSD challenges your habits of THOUGHT, while it confirms and expands your patterns of intuition and habits of ACTION . . . and there be Dragons!

When you learn something new, it usually confirms or expands on what you already THINK, and it inspires or prepares you to ACT differently in the future. Rarely does learning challenge deep assumptions about ourselves and our realities.

Human Systems Dynamics is different.

Learning HSD challenges your habits of THOUGHT, while it confirms and expands your patterns of intuition and habits of ACTION.

We don’t usually expound on the conceptual challenges of HSD. We prefer to reach into practice to help people ACT their ways into new paths of THINKING. In 2022, we tested a radical departure from this 20-year practice to address directly the shocking ideas that are the underpinnings of HSD. The Dragons of Complexity was the product of this experiment. This training and discussion series was developed and delivered in partnership with Michael Spayd and Marie Murtaugh of The Collective Edge. We are planning our fourth cohort of this training for April 22 to June 10, 2024. Here is a brief overview of the “mind-blowing” ideas we call “dragons”.

Certainty is an illusion. We like to think that uncertainty is some kind of accident or deviation from reality. In fact—and in experience—the opposite is true. Certainty is rare and costly to sustain. Our culture invests heavily to sustain its sense of control and certainty, but over time, nature wins out, and surprises begin to emerge.

Intractable problems are shiftable patterns. When we define a problem, we assume a closed system and root cause. All we have to do is find and fix the cause. In the complex world we live in, most challenges are neither closed nor dependent on a single cause. Understanding and working with Patterns, on the other hand, allows for the messiness, power, and possibility we experience every day.

Difference is energy. We expect the power of equilibrium-seeking systems. Similarity, or perfect balance is the goal! Nature, however, has a different driver. Difference holds the potential of the system, and bridging difference releases the possibility locked inside. The same dynamics hold true in volcanoes, weather systems, political reformation, and falling in love.

Time is not a Line. Western science and society have depended on the linear nature of time. Past, present, future; before and after; actions and consequences all rely on a conception of time as a line on which we walk. The experience of time can be quite different, when one reflects on life, considers collective trauma, or participates in cultural rituals. We posit that time is a manifold, including all that went before and all that will come after this singular moment. The line may be there, but it doesn’t have to restrict what is possible.

Precision is not accuracy. In the world of solid objects and finite games, you will get a more accurate measure from a micrometer than from a meter stick. We assume that the smaller the unit of measure, the more accurate the measure. Complex systems are infinitely varied, and each scale can yield different answers from the same questions. The pattern of the whole, more than any arbitrary bit of that whole, will give a more accurate picture of what is.

We call these notions “the dragons” because they are like the sea monsters the ancients drew beyond the edge of the known universe. They exist beyond the edges of Western assumptions, but they fit perfectly in the world of surprise and powerful possibility you can see in the complex reality of life viewed through the HSD lens.

If you want to know more, if you want to navigate these dangerous waters, join us for the next edition of The Dragons of Transformation.
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