ideal system redesign methodology

Ideal system redesign: Systems thinking distinguishes between problem solving and problem dissolving.

Some problems that are inherent in a system can be solved (e.g. fixing the broken part of a car). This typically requires root-cause analysis to identify the faulty part and then fixing it.

By comparison, systemic problems need to be dissolved. They emerge from the interaction (or co-production) of different systems (e.g. an unhappy marriage is co-produced by the partners). A closer investigation of a systemic problem reveals a whole system of interacting problems which differ according to who looks at them (e.g. each partner is unhappy about different things). If one of the interacting systems changes, the problem does not necessarily disappear, but changes its form (e.g. one marriage partner is trying to change, but the other does not like the change or refuses to cooperate).

Analysing a systemic problem merely reveals the problem logic of the interaction, not a coherent solution. By analogy, one cannot find health in a situation of disease, because it is not there. Albert Einstein observed: “We cannot solve problems at the level of thinking that created them.” To produce new outcomes, the interacting systems have to formulate them (e.g. a shared vision of what constitutes a happy marriage and what needs to be done to bring it about) and commit to working towards them. This can include incorporating previously suggested solutions, albeit within the overarching context of the new thinking.

ideal system redesign methodologyIdeal system redesign is a methodology for inspiring the rethinking of issues that are problem riddled. When analysed, the complexity of such issues seems overwhelming. However, once a shared ideal design is in place, the prospect of dissolving them becomes attainable and the strategic changes required of the co-producing stakeholders can become acceptable.

The reason for this lies in the nature of systems thinking. It introduces a higher order (i.e. systemic) logic that inspires synergistic behaviour and win / win outcomes. By analogy, there are hundreds of diseases and even more ways of fighting them. However, there are only a handful of strategies required to produce health. And as health is being produced, all diseases dissolve. The same reasoning applies to a problem riddled issue.

The reason why a design should be ideal is that it can never (or only temporarily) be achieved, but it can inspire working towards it as long as the system exists. The system can work towards the design using different strategies according to what becomes feasible as the environment changes. For example, one could formulate the societal ideal of energy provision as: it is freely available when and where it is needed and its generation has zero environmental impacts. As an unobtainable idea this vision could inspire a society hundreds of years from now to find cheaper, more decentralised and cleaner options. The vision will guide scientific research, as well as technological, organisational and investment choices.

The Biomatrix development programmes provide the underlying systems theory as well as practical methodology for transforming systems. The newly functioning systems co-produce more desirable outcomes for the collective that represents a win / win for all stakeholders.