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Learning Maths and Physics with Dyslexia

This is a work in progress. Feedback on Clarity, what’s missing, what doesn’t make sense appreciated.

How I Learned Physics

  • For A-Level Study (16-18 in the Uk) EXAM TECHNIQUE: Questions are usually written long form and you need to pick out the relavent information.
    • I don’t always read accurately.
      • So I copy the question out exactly – word for word. This forces me to read accurately as I copy the question. I’d often find that I’d skim read something and get it wrong when I was copying. IIRC this was for questions that had answers as words and sentences, aswell as those requiring calculation.
      • This would often take 1/4 of a page of a4 and a few minutes of time.


  • I extract anything that could fit in a formula/equation, and write a list of everything I find. So there are another few lines of things that potentially could fit in a equation.
  • There might be another few lines, generally I might put two things per line, usually quite neatly.
    • like s=145m u=20m/s
    • t=4s m=25kg
    • g=9.8ms I also include standard things like gravity – even if it isn’t mentioned.
    • Units are interesting to get a picture in my head of what’s happening. Things that change over time have a time part in the unit.
    • I’d also convert stuff to SI units if necessary.
  • Next I write down any equation I can remember that contains as many of the variables as possible.
    • This includes any equations given
      • Writing equations would usually triggers me into remembering the next equation until I had all the ones related to any of the variables.
      • I don’t try to remember the right equations needed here. I’d usually surprise myself by how much I remembered.
    • Every equation I remember gets written down.
  • So I now have more than half a page of stuff, and none of it is worth any marks in an exam 🙂

I showed this method I was using (that I was quite proud of) to my teacher and some friends and they replied something like “Why do you waste your time doing that? Just answer the ##!!!ing question! The early 90’s were maybe not a great time for neurodiversity.

mE, circa 1991
  • So I now have
    • A copy of the question, so it’s been through my brain at least once, and I can read it again, both in the printed version, and in my own handwriting. This is kind of like changing fonts.
    • A copy of all the variables mentioned in the question, plus stuff like gravity.
    • A brain dump of all the equations that I’ve been memorizing, usually remembering one equation would trigger the next one.
    • I wouldn’t think if the equtions were relavent at this point – as that would stop my flow. I’d just get everything out of my head onto paper in front of me.
    • I had a way of visualising the situations – I’d visualise how the equations worked in real life, this was how I memorised them – I’d visualise myself in the situations, and how the the equations would describe stuff around me.
      • This worked better for some problems more than others. And fails entirely if the explanation why something works is ‘Just Because’. I think I needed to visualise forwards and backwards in time how things happen.
    • As a brute force method for solving problems I’d put the values into the equations, and see which had one or two ‘unknowns’. I could work out anything with one unknown, and then use the value in the other equations.
      • Having a list of equations that was visually in front of me, with a list of all the variables meant I didn’t need much working memory to do this.
      • Most answers are ‘nice’ numbers. So an answer of -0.234124 is less likely than an answer of 15, or 0.
      • Questions don’t usually contain tricks. You’re solving a closed problem at this stage.
        • You’re not going to be told anything that doesn’t matter
        • Answers won’t depend on something you’re not told

At University Level

I seemed to spend a lot of time working through examples trying to visualise what was happening over time with what I was being shown, and if I could explain something ‘in simple terms, using metaphors and analogioes‘ to people who were struggling it meant I knew it.

If I couldn’t explain or make sense of what was happening I struggled.

I remember not being able to do the Quantum Physics stuff, as it was taught something like ‘these are the equations, this is the data, it just works, don’t ask how.’

I couldn’t just ‘remember the right equations and put the numbers in’ as I couldn’t remember things like that. If I could visualise the problem I could work out the equation I needed.

I also remeber some counter intutative things (maybe with wave interfernece) that I couldn’t get my head around.

Although particle/wave duality never bothered me or cause issues.

For Maths

  • I mainly studied the maths required for physics, so there was not a lot of theory that was separated from a practice
    • I need to find out what the theory was if we were not told
      • Or kinda invent some kinda thing in my head
        • When that chap does this, the other dude does that….
    • I could visualise what was happening with matrices in 3d space (I struggle with more than 3d 🙂
    • At the time I didn’t make the connection that I was learning the maths behind a lot of the first person shooters (like to origional Doom). But we were working to calculate where matrices collided.

Mapping getting Radical..

Where am I going with this?

I missed most Cat Swetel‘s interactive session at MapCamp2022 about understanding and mapping extremism. I saw a bit at the beginning and the end.

This post is my contribution – but I’m not sure if it fits on Cat’s finished map, which I’ve lost the link to..

My thinking here is the things that are fundamental to Systemic Modelling (a team coaching approach) look fundamental to the ‘We‘ in the ‘Me vs We’ debate, and I think they are being actively radicalised

It’s hard to agree what getting Radical even means.

Start with a cup of tea, yeah?

A hot cup of tea relies on electrical or gas power to heat water. That power relies on gas/coal/nuclear/wind/solar.

Fundamemtals – boring stuff at the bottom of a map are essential for the things further up the map. Ask the cafes closing as they can’t pay the heating bill.

Mapping Systemic Modelling

When Mapping Systemic Modelling I drew it relying on 4 fundamental things.

  • A Standard of Evidence
  • A Practical Theory of People
  • An Acceptance of Complexity
  • A Practical Theory of Curiosity
Map of Fundamentals

The Map above shows these on a Wardley Map.

The Theory of People and Standard of Evidence are in Product, as they are ‘Off the Shelf’ things to learn. Applying them might be hard, and noticing when they show up in real time might be tricky, but you can pay someone to help you.

The Acceptance of Curiosity is in “Custom“. Someone can tell you about complexity, but I’m suggesting it’s something you’ll need to work on yourself to “get”, so it’s a custom thing – you need to build the understanding yourself.

Similarly a Practical Theory of Curiosity is only part learnable “Off the Shelf”, it’s easy to tell if someone is not really curious. And it’s super hard to be curious about people you fundamentally disagree with or who actively hate you. See Loretta J Ross or Darryl Davis for examples. So Practical Curiosity is something you need to work to build, and keep.

So what’s being attacked?

Standard of Evidence.

Systemic Modelling has a Standard of Evidence. I’ll not go into details here, but there is stuff that acceptable as shared evidence, and other stuff that is important, but doesn’t count as shared evidence. It’s yours.
There are standards of evidence for court, wikipedia, science, and newspapers. What counts as a ‘fact’ has been under attack by radical extremists doing their own research, and defining a lower standard of evidence that isn’t really a standard at all.

Acceptance of Complexity.

Complexity Science suggests that there are some things that can’t be known. At least not in a meaningful timeframe.
Arguments that suggest a simple, knowable right way to do things, and the correct perspective to look at things are a challenge to an Acceptance of Complexity.

Systemic Modelling shows that there are multiple interpretations of simple things, and there is no one single correct perspective. It keeps anchored with a Standard of Evidence. We’re ‘happy not knowing’.

There are attacks on an ‘Acceptance of Complexity’ when a single correct perspective, viewpoint and understanding of reality is promoted. This also looks like a promotion of the idea that there are people who are wrong, and who need to be removed. At which point everything will works ok.


It might be easier to see how curiosity is under attack. People take sides are create ‘others’ who they can’t understand and have no common ground with. Anyone thinking or looking different is othered and attacked.

Practical Theory of People

A practical theory of people includes both Fight, Flight and Freeze, and a theory of how great it feels to blame someone else. Or how great it feels to be a victim of someone else.

Triggering people into Fight, Flight, Freeze, stops them paying attention while they react. You’re inside their decision loop, and you’re making them look emotional and stupid while you’re all cool, calm and presumably correct.
Blaming others who you’re either Blaming directly, or you’re claiming you’re a victim of, gives you a just cause for action.

Value Chains built on fundamentals

We can build value chains on these 4 fundamental things that we’d like to see more of. Systemic Modelling builds team behaviours aligned to espoused values – that’s worthwhile in my opinion

We can also imagine what Value Chains could be built on the lack of these things. We can imagine why this might happen, follow the money and the feel good brain chemicals.

It’s looks pretty Radical.

What sort of Generalist?

What sort of thing is meant when we talk about someone as ‘A Generalist’?

I recently joined my second generalist community. Once again I thought ‘Hey! My People!’ as I recognised folks like me.

Communities of Approach

I’m already in communities of interest with people interested in similar things. Like complexity science, strategy mapping and coaching.

These can show up as Slack groups, people on Twitter to follow or groups that learn and share together.

But these Generalist communities are communities of approach, not communities of interest.

In my first generalist community people have many interests, and seem to make a living mashing them together, or with multiple offerings somehow. Or they work a normal job and have lots of side projects. This community is great.

People here feel like my tribe but they have passions nothing like mine.

I’m not interesting it what they’re interested in. This is really cool – they are a great community to work in/with – lots of variety and perspectives I don’t normally find.

What I recognise and share their approach and multiple focuses.

Generalist World

The second community I’ve just joined is also great. But confusing too, many people there feel less like me. They seem to have a tighter focus, and a range of ‘business generalist’ skills.

That’s not wrong in any way. It’s super useful – and super employable too. It feels many organisations are increasingly looking for Generalists of this sort, especially early stage startups. There are even articles online about when and how to pivot from hiring generalists to hiring specialists – and the tricky task of how to manage generalists when what they do can be so illegible.

I have experience as working as an IT Generalist – and the painful process when the organisation decided it needed to pivot to ‘specialist’ IT roles.

‘What is a Generalist’?

And I’m not sure there is one answer.

There seems to be a ‘Specialist to Generalist Skills’.

Specialists have a deep knowledge of one thing. They might have general knowledge of the broader area their work exists in. They may even have two areas of expertise…

In IT, there are Full-Stack Developers and Engineers, who can make things using the Full IT Stack of software to deliver the organisations services..

I’m wondering if some of the Generalists World generalists are Full Stack Business Generalists? They seem to have skills from code, finance, ux, design etc.

This sort of thinking leads to different sorts of generalists. Business Full Stack, IT Full Stack Generalists, Medicine Generalist (General Practitioners in the UK?).

So what sort of generalist am I?

And is it different again?

If so this may be a call out to a community…

– I struggle to learn things from example
– When I do, it’s because I’ve forced enough examples in my mind to work out some overarching principle.
– And I remember the principles, rules, guidelines
– And I know that I understand something when I work out the same solution to a problem as an expert, using the principles.
– I’m usually not searching through solutions, but applying the principles.
– I think this is a different category of generalist
– I’m OK at working out the principles, given examples
– From principles I can work out an approach.
– For example, linux. There are some principles
– Everything is a file
– There is a permissions / security model on files. You are someone.
– configuration lives in files
– command line tools do one thing
– You can connect tools together
– log files tell you what’s happening
– You can change the behaviour of commands with switches. Described in man pages.
– knowing these, it’s possible to break down and solve issues.
– An education based in hands on problem solving helped here.
– and I did this for nearly 20 years.
– Give me a problem, and I’ll work out a way to solve it.
– But I don’t have a general range of specialist skills.
– I have a skill of working things out from first principles.
– Who’s like me?

Given some principles, and a desired direction of travel, or a set of values I can work out what to do that follows the principles.

That’s a type of generalist I think. But it doesn’t need a set of IT or Business or other skills – although this sort of generalist may have them.

Let me know if this sounds like you!

Feedback for Mike

What sort of feedback would I like on the things I create?

This is an interesting question, as I’ve created a cartoon guide on giving better feedback to creatives. So I ought to eat my own dog food and let people know the sort of feedback I’d like.


Feedback for Mike!

  • What’s your initial reaction and thoughts (send me a reaction video!)
  • If it’s useful? – tell me how?
  • Is it not clear? – what’s missing?
    • My brain makes many leaps, from 1-10 sometimes.
    • I’ve tried to include ideas 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 to make the thinking and ideas clear.
    • Let me know if I’ve left a gap in the logic or story.
  • Is there some theory or something else I have wrong?
  • How is the tone?
    • Is there an audience for this who would need a different tone?
    • Maybe the tone doesn’t work for you?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes?
  • Are you happy this exists?
    • Send me some positive vibes!
  • Is there something else wrong here?

I’ll draw up a feedback canvas that has all the types on it.

  • Standards
  • Positivity
  • What’s Wrong
  • Tone
  • Ideas
  • Legibility
  • Usefulness
  • Reaction

Hey Mike, have you got any advice for facilitating my workshop?

This work started with the question above. My initial response was ‘well it depends on what you want.’ A few hours work later we’d worked up a design for a workshop that was likely to go to plan. How hard can it be? That depends, what follows is one example that can be used as a guide. A word of caution – this planning was for a straightforward ‘low disagreement’ workshop.

You’ll find in the article

  • description of the planning
  • the thinking behind the choices that were made
  • The power of pointing at stuff
  • the outcomes we got
  • things we’d do differently

If you have a similar need in a similar context there is also a checklist at the end you can use.

The workshop was for a local University Department. They would like to design future courses and assessments using input from employers. There will be about 35 attendees – split between the University and local employers. A “back of a cigarette packet” calculation just for the attendees time is about £7000. This workshop is important and expensive.

Cartoon of people, and bank notes with clocks on. Time is money, yeah?

This article is about planning this workshop. The design and use of tabletop data collection sheets played a large part in the success of this workshop. See Part 2 of this article for more information about what happened on the day. There is a takeaway checklistat the end of the article for planning similar workshops.

What makes this workshop worth everyones time? 

The output of the workshop is to 

get ideas and information from employers so the University can better meet the needs of employers and create a more work like experience for students.

We want to gather information to be used to design future courses and assessments.

What type of workshop do we need?

From the outcomes of this workshop we’re looking to run an Information Gathering type workshop. The image below shows a few of the alternatives we could run.

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Workshops that are ‘Plan-able and then go to plan’ are on the left. Further right are the workshops you need to plan, and you don’t expect they will go to plan. It’s useful to know when these types of workshop are appropriate, and when not to use them.

There is a lot emergence on the right hand side and less on the left. We’re not expecting there to be a lot of unexpected stuff in our workshop.

I’ll write about planning and running workshops on the right hand side of this image in a future article.

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How much planning do we need?

The rough cost of attendees time for your workshop puts the time and cost of planning and facilitation into perspective. And it’s not just the time costs, there is an opportunity cost too. The right people are unlikely to be in the same room again anytime soon. 

You’ll need to decide how much planning is right.

Start with the outcome

Start by mentally drafting a ‘Thank you for attending – this is what we learned and this is what we’re going to do‘ email. 

Knowing what is going to happen with the outputs from the workshop helps you to design to get those outputs. 

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The information in this email informs the way you will introduce the workshop. By starting with what you’re going to do with the information you focus on what you want.

Where does the workshop fit in the big picture?

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The workshop is in the area at the bottom of the image above. It helps to see how this workshop fits into the big picture to get everyone on the same page.

Tabletop Data Collection Sheets

This is visual part of the workshop and the bit that we got really good feedback on.

Table top data collect sheets on every table can do lot of heavy lifting in the workshop when designed well.

The sheets can

  • Be a visual indicator of the purpose and outputs for the workshop reinforcing the introduction and instructions from the facilitator.
  • Provide context for discussion like “We’re discussing this bit?”, “Where does this part fit” while pointing.
  • Show where more data might be required – look for the gaps that don’t have post it’s
  • Break down things into the parts you want. There are 3 parts to specialist skills in the sheet below.
  • The sheets Provide something to point at. Something happened when the container for an idea is a post it note you can point at, rather than the person who said the words. (See my Just Draw the Thing Manifesto for more details)
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These data collection sheets provide context for conversations and allow participants to question what is on the sheet – rather than challenging the person who added it.

Creating all these sheets for the workshop by hand might take an hour or so. If you have a A0 plotter you may want to design the sheets to be printed.

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By pointing at the data collection sheet attendees can indicate what they’re talking about, and have questions, conversations and disagreements with the data and not the person. As a facilitator you can see if there are areas that are over or under represented by looking at the number of ideas in each part of the collection sheet. There is a Power to Pointing at Stuff!

Let people know what to do

Last in the planning is letting people know what is expected from them. For each table there needs to be a local employer and representatives from the University. There are not strict roles – anyone can write notes on the data collection sheets, but it’s the local employers who are providing the answers to the questions. 

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Practice your introduction. The Words Matter.

The way the facilitator introduces the workshop is vital. A few of the things that need to be in the introduction for this workshop are

Why are we all here

What are we going to do

A shared outcome that everyone wants

The opportunity we have today

What is going to happen – how it’s going to work

The introduction is vital to a good outcome. You can refer to it during the workshop if things are not going the way you want. Things that are not planned but still meet the shared outcome might be encouraged.

Putting it all together

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For Information Gathering Workshops we can use the checklist below.

Make sure that this is appropriate for your workshop. This checklist is context specific for Information Gathering Workshops that are unlikely to have much drama!

Don’t forget the standard Workshop 101 stuff. Location, accessibility, safety, duration, refreshments, break times, spare pens, name badges etc. Once you have that:

  1. Check everyone is likely to have a shared goal that is within reach. The goal should not be reliant on lots of things out of the control of attendees. If there isn’t a shared goal, stop.
  2. What information inputs are required? It’s unlikely you’ve in a completely new space for ideas or action. Where are you now? If there is likely to be disagreement, stop. 
  3. What outcomes do you want to happen with the outputs of this workshop. Be as specific as you can. Are these likely to be wanted by all attendees? If not, stop.
  4. There will be a ‘system’. Inputs, data, outputs. Be clear about this. People like to see how what they are doing fits in a bigger picture. You can mention this in the introduction.
  5. Is everyone likely to be happy to be at the workshop? If you’ve got drama or conflict between attendees, stop.
  6. Decide on your outputs from the workshop and the best way to collect this information so that is is usable in the next step. I’d recommend the tabletop data collection method.
  7. How will you know that the workshop is going OK? The visual data collection sheets that gather data into ‘context’ provide visual feedback and a way to point at the sheet and ask ‘What’s Missing Here?’. 
  8. If you’ve reached a reason to stop your workshop is not just straightforward data collection. You’ll need some additional design and facilitation skills not covered here. I’ll write about this next, but if you’d like a chat message me

Lastly – what would we do differently?

  • We’d look to get the tabletop data collection sheets printed out. They can still retain the hand drawn feel. It took a few hours to draw all the sheets up.
  • We’d put a visual for the roles on the table, and maybe direct people to tables based on role

Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for more stuff you can follow and apply yourself.

Sign up to my newsletter for news of new book content and courses to learn about what ideas and theories I’m using.

Message me (LinkedIn or Twitter) if you’d like help with the designing or running your workshops.

Wardley Mapping for Good*

*for some definition of good.

Drawing of people and map

This post is about working towards an end goal of creating strategies for doing good, rather than for competition. It uses Cynefin®, and looks towards building Wardley Maps . It’s both learning in public, and a work in progress.

Strategy not just for competition

Wardley Mapping is a great approach to strategy – it’s especially useful for Tech companies in a fast moving environments of competition and innovation. There is a solid application of strategy and there are lots of great examples to learn from. This article from Eric Schon is a great place to find examples.

I’d like to suggest that mapping for competition and innovation is context specific. Competition is great, but sometimes collaboration, communication, and finding a way that we can get on is appropriate.

Wardley mapping for competition may be a context specific. We could also collaborate. Or do something else.

In any situataion there may be groups of stakeholders, with spoken or unspoken doctrine, group values and principles. For each group there may be different ways they are willing to act. Collaboration is a choice, before deciding how to collaborate.

Making actual Wardley Maps of collaboration to meet a user need is a long way off. There is a lot to understand, including what x-axis values to use, and recognising and naming strategic options. Collaboration can get better and worse, so there isn’t a simple ‘everything moves to the right’ pattern that you have with the ‘capitalism’ frame the Wardley Mapping traditionally sits.

Who is this collaboration for?

Everyone can potentially benefit from better collaboration, communications and co-ordination, not just people who agree with me.

This opens up a whole set of questions – not least “Doing good according to who?”, that eventually may end up in discussing what we value, and the types of things we’d like to see more or less of in the world.

Doing good according to who? We have different ideas – depending on our values.

Types of doing good for may be;

  • Types of doing good:
    • Collaborating for a better community
    • Managing and Avoiding unnecessary conflict
    • Maximising things other than cost
    • Minimising things other than cost
    • Debugging issues in Organisations
    • Pitching ideas for improvements
    • Collaborating on a response to a natural disaster

I’m not alone in thinking what needs to happen for good to happen. Visa, @visakanv on twitter is looking at creating communities, and what he calls the asshole problem. Specifically how we co-ordinate to stop assholes ruining communities.

Sketch of @visakanv’s asshole problem thread.

It’s possible that a lot of problems have been solved – we just need to put all the knowledge together,.

Starting to think about Mapping.

Creating Wardley maps is a long way off in this project. Not least because I’ve no idea what the evolution (x) axis would look like in a lot of the contexts, or what movements there would be.

I can think of User Needs and look at things that have worked in the past to inform what might work in similar contexts in the future. In complex contexts, like those involving other people, we can’t know what will work, but we can try to understand the ways that things are disposed to behave. It may be possible to produce plausible, coherent options for actions based on things we know, or can learn, how to do.

Making sense of collaboration

I’m going to start with thinking about collaboration and communication. Collaboration isn’t necessarily always for good – you can collaborate for all sorts of reasons, but poor collaboration is often a barrier to getting stuff done.

Cartoon of Collaboration to help someone escaping from a police van.
You can collaborate for all sorts of reasons that not everyone will agree with…

Starting to look at collaboration

I’ve starting with a list of times that I can think of where collaboration may be required.

  1. Collaborate with neighbours to park cars
  2. Collaborate with other students to create coursework
  3. Collaborate with team members to make IT changes
  4. Collaborate with Russia to win second world war
  5. Collaborate with others to run community space
  6. Collaborate with other presenters to share time at conference
  7. Collaborate with house-share members to keep house clean
  8. Collaborate with Tradesman to get cash in hand work
  9. Collaborate with other teams hooligans in Europe
  10. Collaborate with police to get sentence reduced
  11. Collaborate (bribe)officials to get go ahead for something
  12. Collaborate with band members on setlist
  13. Collaborate with others politically
  14. Collaborate with others to pool Money and buy something
  15. Collaborate with others to get a discount with a group booking
  16. Collaborate with other protest groups to get bigger protests
  17. Collaborate with other consumers to change companies behaviour
  18. Collaborate with other voters to vote tactically
  19. Collaborate with other inmates to break out of jail
  20. Collaborate with newspaper to break a story
  21. Collaborate with new business partners to make money
  22. Collaborate with others to share knowledge
  23. Collaborate with others to share experience
  24. Collaborate with X to Stop Y
  25. Collaborate with X to Protect Y
  26. Collaborate with service providers to provide service to person
  27. Collaborate on an academic paper
  28. Collaborate on presentation for a conference
  29. Collaborate on Ideas
  30. Collaborate on Blog Post 
  31. Collaborate on Podcast
  32. Collaborate with a community interest group

We can place these types of collaboration on a board, and position them according to some ‘exemplars’ of collaboration type, following the sensemaking guidelines from Cynefin®.

This should give us an understanding of the sort of collaboration problem we have.

Exemplars of Collaboration could be

Clear collaboration is obvious to everyone what to do.
It’s sometime clear and obvious how you ought to collaborate
Complicated collaboration can be designed by experts
Complicated collaboration can be designed by experts
Complex collaboration is not knowable in advance
Cartoon of a choice of mystery burgers.
Complex collaboration can’t be know in advance. But if we get one of each type of burger there is a good chance everyone can swap and will get something they like.
Chaotic is where we just have to act
Cartoon of space invaders invading the earth.
If you need to act before thinking how best to collaborate, it’s chaotic.

We can place these on a Miro board and move the collaboration post it’s where we think they belong.

The next step (I think) is to think of stuff that works, might work, has worked in the past for each of the domains – and see if we can put together a toolkit of approaches that are coherent.

Wikipedia as a Complex System

This blog is inspired by Dave Snowden’s talk with Scott Sievwright about “Convivial Debate” for Agile 2020 Reflect. Being able to talk and debate with people you don’t agree with is a skill. When talking about things with contexts and perspectives, including the upcoming Agile 2020 Reflect conference, ‘disagreeing skills’ are vital.

This is the drawing I did of Dave and Scotts YouTube talk linked above.

In this interview Dave mentions Wikipedia as an example of a complex system where constraints on behaviour enable the production of a mainstream encyclopaedia. With perspectives and contexts from around the world, Wikipedia is one of the collaborative successes of the internet – with no shortage of disagreement.

Wikipedia is governed by enabling constraints of behaviour.

I started looking at the Wikipedia guidance on Civility as an example of enabling constraints in a Complex Adaptive System.

I was interested to understand more here about how these constraints works in practice. I started by reading what I could find, I then tried to work out the patterns in what I was reading.

As an aside, when reading the articles on Wikipedia I didn’t find any advice that was ‘according to theory X’ or any references to articles that are in Wikipedia.

This could be due to one of the ‘enabling constraints’ of Wikipedia – There is a consensus on the standard of evidence on wikipedia. That standard is greater than the evidence we have that any of the articles on civility are the ones that work in this particular complex system.

It could also be that there is a consensus that a narrative works better when it doesn’t have links to theory.

Finding Enabling Constraints

I categorised the Enabling Constraints I found in the following areas. (Unsurprisingly these align to the kind of things I’m looking out for. I’d be interested other perspectives to add to this one using other areas.)

  1. Framing – A constraint on what wikipedia is, and what it is for.
    1. Enables buy in, and focus on outcomes.
  2. Evidence – A constraint on what is counted as evidence.
    1. Enables easy ‘This isn’t evidence’ conversations – focus on what is supported by evidence.
  3. Notability – A constraint on what is notable enough for inclusion.
    1. Basically, my 6th form band needs to reform and write some hits to get a page.
    2. Enables Wikipedia to focus on being a Mainstream Encyclopaedia.
  4. A good ‘state’ for editing – Don’t edit if you’re angry, hungry, tired etc.
    1. Edit in a good brain state
    2. Assuming good faith in others can be hard even when you’ re feeling fine.
  5. Behaviour towards others in the community
    1. The way we treat each other.
    2. Behaviours are spelled out – the way we do things around here

1. Framing

  1. Wikipedia frames what it is for, namly
    1. Mainstream encyclopaedia
    2. A community

“Remember what we are doing here. We are building a free encyclopedia for every single person on the planet. We are trying to do it in an atmosphere of fun, love, and respect for others. We try to be kind to others, thoughtful in our actions, and professional in our approach to our responsibilities.”

Jimbo Wales

Wikipedia also is explicit about the rules and guidelines. The directive ‘Ignore all Rules’ frames the relationship with rules governance and the purpose of Wikipedia. It reads:

“If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it.”

This statement created a heirarchial relationship between people working on Wikipedia and the rules, and it enables quick resolution of discussions interpreting the rules. Some people love rules. Wikipedia make creating an encyclopaedia a more important goal than developing the rules to create an encyclopaedia. There is probably something about avoiding becoming a bureaucracy too.


3. Notability

What I’m calling the Framing to what content is appropriate for Wikipedia, including what makes content noteworthy enough for an entry.

It’s worth pointing out that defining noteworthiness isn’t done by claiming wikipedia content is better than other content, it’s just not for Wikipedia. Not making people wrong helps them stay in a good brain state, and helps keep new contributors.

4. A good State for editing

There are some posts that suggest if you’re tired, angry or hungry then maybe editing Wikipedia is not the best thing to be doing.

Enjoy Yourself, Have a nice cup of tea, it’s not the end of the world, move on, say nice things are all pieces of advice for suitable behaviour.

Wikipedia is a community alongside an encyclopaedia and behavioural constraints are needed in communities.

5. Behaviour towards others

The largest number of documents I found are related to an outcome based discussion of how editors ought to treat each other.

These behaviours contribute to the behaviour of an ‘Ideal Wikipedian’. I have no idea if the number of Ideal Wikipedians is greater than zero.

The main advice appears to be ‘Assume Good Faith‘ and the reciprical ‘Assume the Assumption of Good Faith‘. There are discussions about the pitfalls of claiming someone is not acting in good faith. Without evidence it may be seen as bad faith…

Starting a War with Evil Facilitation™

Chris Morris gives us a masterclass of manipulation and Evil Facilitation™ by starting war between Hong Kong and Australia.

Chris Morris.

In this post I’m examining a conversation going wrong in the ‘War!’ sketch from The Day Today. I’m using theory from Systemic Modelling to name the things Chris does. Click the link above to watch the sketch then read on.

I’ll pull out quotes, but I won’t go through the whole thing line by line.

You can only observe things that you are looking for and it helps to have a name.

The things I’m looking to Observe (from OODA) include:

  • Are we talking about a problem, the remedy to a problem, or an outcome. This is the PRO model.
  • Are we using metaphors in a positive or negative way?
  • Are we curious about each other, or is there contempt?
  • Are using evidence that everyone agrees with, or are we talking about the inferences we’re making?
  • How are we framing the conversation? Is everyone in agreement about what the conversation is about, and what the outcome is?
  • Are we aware of our own and others brain state, mainly are we aware of Fight, Flight or Freeze reactions?

If we watch the clip, and are actively Observing for the above we’re exercising our muscles for when we need to do the rest of OODA in real time, Orienting what is meant, Deciding what we like to do, and then stringing the right words together in Act.

The discussion starts with an upbeat and contemptuous framing of the situation. Chris as the interviewer focuses on past Problems as much as the Outcomes and introduces his own negative metaphors that neither of the participants used.

…the two countries have been at each other’s throats for years but now the hatchets been buried…

Framing the situation sets up the discussion

Often when looking at a conversation that didn’t go well the initial frame, where we set the topic and tone of the conversation, is the place where the problems started. Framing the discussion sets the overall tone, and Chris wants conflict.

I’m inferring the person in charge of the captions timing is also in contempt….

The first question puts Martin Craste on the spot with a hypothetical problem situation. Chris is a persecutor framing Martin a ‘not OK’ so he can start the conversation on shaky ground.

And if, as in the past, Australia exceed their trade agreement, what will you do about it?

The interviewees are not expecting this line of questioning, and are likely be put in an unhelpful brain state of fight flight or freeze, while Chris asks “What are you going to do about it?”

I’m inferring that Chris is ready to frame any conciliatory answers as weak.

Naturally if the limits were exceeded this will be met with a firm line.

We don’t know what a ‘Firm Line’ is, we could find out, or we could go with everyone’s inference, and go towards questioning what the impact of the inference may be. Chris continues with Evil Facilitation,

“He’s knocking a firm line in your direction, what are you going to do about that?”

Chris Morris, while pointing…

We’d just reimpose sanctions…

Hang on a sec, they’ve only just swallowed their sanctions and now they are burping them back in your face.

Chris is bringing in more metaphors here, “knocking in your direction” and “burping in your face” are metaphors that don’t suggest harmony. These metaphors are Chris’s words and he’s picked these for the impact they’ll have.

If sanctions were imposed we’d have to retaliate with appropriate measures.

Appropriate Measures is a euphemism Mr Hawtry, you know what it means, what are you going to do about that?

Another inference that Chris uses is”you know what it means”. We have no idea what that means, but Chris is ratcheting up the conflict. Not wanting to look weak, the conflict is escalated:

Maybe it’s a matter for the military….

I think military action is totally inappropriate and way over the top…

It sounds like (he’s saying) you’re being inappropriate? Are you?

Gentlemen I’ll put you on hold

Chris’s work here is done…

Gentlemen, I’ll put you on hold’ is a bit of good facilitation from Systemic Modelling, often used when inferences are investigated. It’s one of the highlights in this sketch for me, and has Chris in full contempt.

Mr. Patton what do you think of the idea of a war now? ….I’ll take that as a Yes!

Think I can stop pointing out inferences now…

That’s it, this is a War!

Chris get’s his way by starting a war with Framing, Brain State Inference, introducing negative metaphors and Framing Problems. He bosses the room to get his way and contempetiously wheels the guests wheeled out of the studio when he’s go what he wants.

Chris and the News Studio get the war they want.

There is a lot we can learn from Evil Facilitation™, especially if you’re happy learning what not to do from other people.

Ideas from Caitlin Walker’s Systemic Modelling, used in this post include:

Hey Mike, what would you do differently? If I wanted to start a war, then this is an ideal approach. If I wanted to improve communication then Systemic Modelling would suggest

  • Framing using Outcomes
  • Using Evidence and owning and clarifying Inference
  • Understanding everyone’s potential brain state
  • Fostering curiosity rather than contempt
  • Using others metaphors respectfully, and not introducing negative metaphors.
  • Keeping ‘your stuff’ out of it

Systemic Modelling is of course the opposite of Evil Facilitation™.

Complexity, Hard Hats and BMX.

Governing to Enabling Constraint is a continuum. Keiran sends it.

This post makes a link between the theory and practice of Cynefin® and complexity science. I’m using video examples from BMX so it’s a fun stretch of the OODA ‘Observe’ muscles, that may not immediately be applicable to work, politics or ‘real life’ decision making.

If you can’t observe the theory in practice, you’re not going to get to act, unless as a response to other peoples actions. So this post may be useful to people who are looking to apply concepts to the real world. If you know the concepts I’ll present some examples of where they appear to me.

I’ll be spotting enabling and governing constraints, repurposing of everyday stuff, changing identities and how most situations are a mix of the clear, complicated and complex domains.

I realised at a Cynefin® Basecamp course that large parts of one of my previous lives I’d been actively looking at my environment in a way described through the Complexity Science ideas of Governing and Enabling constraints, adjacent possibles, safe-to-fail and not-so-safe-to-fail experiments. I said I’d write about it…

I’d used links to videos that show where I think these ideas show up. Click the videos to start at the relevant bits. I hope this gives the examples I show evidence in context. I’ve tagged this post as #Learning-In-Public as I may have got some of this wrong. Let me know if that’s the case.

Before I begin…

I’m going to add a content warning here. Alongside some wholesome enterprise there is lawbreaking, disrespect and belligerence for authority figures and subjectively pointless risk taking on display . Many riders are not wearing crash helmets and are trespassing. The police and security are called. I’m presenting this as it is. I’m not offering a judgement. Just an analysis.

From the Department for Content Warnings, 2020.

Firstly, A bit about riding bikes

Riding BMX bikes can help you see and act in your environment in creative ways. Riders are always looking to progress and push their skills and boundaries. Skateboarders will know this feeling too. You never see a city the same again, and the 6th sense you get when is a riding spot nearby never goes away.

Progressing and novelty is (or at least was) the most important part of BMX, the things described here need to be understood as happening in an environment that rewards progression above all. Personal progression, doing things you couldn’t do yesterday, doing things that you’ve not done at this place, and more global progression, doing things no one else had done, and doing things no one else had even thought of doing. The last example in this post involving Bas Keep jumping off the Croyden Flyover is an example here.

Bikes and Physics as Constraints

We ride bikes with some non-negotiable Governing Constraints. Gravity and physics are not negotiable, and provide rules that everyone needs to obey. Concrete is hard, bones break.

Low quality bikes that bent and broke were a constraint in the mid 90’s, a decade after BMX’s 80’s boom. This was a showstopper for progression since riders needed to trust their bikes to be able to commit to tricks, and there was no money to be made in the tiny 1990’s bmx scene by big companies. Bikes that broke stopped progression.

Riders themselves moved this constraint by creating their own manufacturing companies building high quality bikes in the USA, many raising funding selling t-shirts and stickers and using it to start metal fabrication businesses. The bikes might still break, but at much higher stress levels. S&M Bikes, Hoffman Bikes, FBM, T1 were all rider owned companies who pushed the boundaries of manufacturing.

Riders learned to work in and manage machine shops, knowing and care how things were sourced and made. When you trust your bike, you remove a constraint to progress.

The last comment on this video, Josh Corts is fabricating frames for FBM (Fat Bald Men) Bikes, and he rides an FBM after work. “And you ride?” “Yeah, we’re getting ready to go down to Bingham to ride some street today.” Skin in the Game. Click the video to jump to the right part.

”And you Ride?” “Yeah…”

The obsession with strong bikes, often weighing 35lbs then constrained riders who needed lighter bikes for more complex tricks. Newer bikes (I’m told) are much lighter and stronger. Manufacturing in the Far East has improved although FBM bikes continues making bike in New York State. Riders surfed constraints and ratcheting up what’s possible with their available equipment and money, and ending up creating a whole scene.

Constraints that help

Unlike gravity and Physics, many obstacles are enabling, and finding out how they go from stopping you to being a necessary part of the trick is all part of the fun.

Do you think that’s going to constrain me?

A fence around a children’s park is designed to keep kids in. Fences and barriers are put around skateparks to keep bikes and skateparks in, and other things out. A fence or barrier around a skatepark is also going to get ridden on, jumped over, and integrated into riding.

In the video above at 4:50 Keiran jumps the fence out of the skatepark. I’m fairly certain that the fence wasn’t designed as part of the park, but without it this trick doesn’t exist.

The video below features skater Andrew Anderson, using the fence around the skatepark as part of the park itself. The video itself has lots of examples of fences and rails – Things designed and made as boundaries and constraints enable skating. They don’t necessarily make it easy, these things are non obvious. Things that are not supposed to be ridded can be awkward to ride. Click the picture for the part of the video showing the fence as part of the park.

The fence keeps cars and motorbikes out…. Click for the part of the video where it enables stuff…

Knowing what has just been done, changes what’s possible

In BMX there is a ever moving boundary of things that have been done. Not only by you, but by anyone. Once you know something has been done it opens possibilities. What’s possible from here, in complexity is called adjacent possible. Just knowing someone has done something similar changes what you think can be done.

Justin Gautreau, looking at jumping his bike down the 20 step monster at El Toro

The first few seconds of the video below, Justin Gautreau is talking about adjacent possible. (Content warning – the full video contains ‘belligerence’ and disrespect of authority, no helmets and balls of steel etc).

Click to see the first few seconds of this show Justin discussing adjacent possibles.

In normal language Justins words mean “if someone can 360 the bike, while letting go of the handlebars and spinning them 360, while jumping down 20 concrete steps, then I can keep hold of the bars, and kick the rest of the bike under me 360 and catch the pedals before I land.” What’s adjacent and possible changes when new things are done.

A security guard and a golf cart. Not cool circumstances, but enabling constraints in action.

Rodney Mullen says

In the TED talk, on getting up again:

There are a few ways we see it. As you can see we film and send it around the world. Then in a few months, maybe weeks so called friends show a video of some rotten kid in Madagascar, doing it better than you do.

Rodney Mullen

Knowing what has been done, and so what can be done, changes what we can do here and now. Even if we’ve only seen what’s been done on video from the other side of the world.

What was needed to get this done was an enabling constraint. BMX rider George Marshall, now a photographer for Rapha, Vans & Red Bull says

it‘s amazing how much stuff gets done when security turn up.

George Marshall, Photographer.

You can be riding at a spot for hours, but when you’re about to get kicked out of a riding spot, the thing you’re trying gets done. Knowing there is one last go enables crazy focus. From the evidence, Security showing up is an enabling constraint of one last go.

The 20 stairs at El Toro have now been removed and replaced with something that’s not rideable or skate-able, possibly because of the behaviour of Justin and the video team and their treatment of security.

Of course this is the challenge – riding things that are not supposed to be ridden is part of the fun, so don’t hold your breath that someone won’t be back.

One last go

Another examples of Security showings up and ‘One Last Go’ as an enabling constraint happened in Japan at a condemned skatepark called ‘Death Bowl’. When the security guard shows up for work at 8.30am precisely, Greg Illingworth knows he has one last chance to get the trick that he travelled for days halfway around the world to get. He’s unlikely to get back to Death Bowl, ever.

With 7 days to find the skatepark and get this shot, it happened at the last moment before they got kicked out. The enabling constraint of getting kicked out…

People who employ the security guards to do their job are thinking they are setting up governing constraints. But often these become enabling constraints, creating the pressure to get things done.

I’m imagining that those creating laws think the same. Lawyers see laws as enabling constraints, not governing constraints….

Introducing the Croyden Flyover

Seeing novel new uses for things in the world is a skill, and is something that enables new ideas and ways of doing things.

Sebastian Keep’s ”Project walls” was an idea to put his bikes wheels as high up unlikely walls as he could find.

We set out to put tyre prints where no one would dream of riding a bike.

Sebastian Keep

Bas used google earth to find suitable spots, and built mockups of the spots out of wood in a warehouse to practice. He then constructed wooden ramps, and got his friends in Hi Vis Vests to stop traffic while jumping off motorway flyovers and out of multi-storey car parks.

Hard hats and High Viz. Change of Identity through change of clothing photo

To solve problem of how to jump off the Croyden Flyover, Cynefin would tell us to use appropriate methods, and work out what type of problem we have. Sebastian does this, mainly taking an incremental scientific approach, by practicing on a mock up. This is “Complicated” in Cynefin domains.

Sebastian build mock ups of the riding spots in a warehouse, and moved them further apart at foot at a time to simulate the real spot. This in in the complicated domain – measuring distances and speed and using science. There isn’t much crash footage from this project. That’s to do with the scientific approach and Bas’s skills knowing what he’s capable of.

The video below shows this in action.

A mock up of the real riding spot, with the gap to the wall extended from 8ft to 17ft.
Click for video of systematically practising the jump in a warehouse

The project could have ended when at 7am on a Sunday Morning the Police drove by and slowed down to see what was going on.

Blokes in High Viz Jackets with hard hats and traffic cone at 7am on a Sunday” helped. Hi Viz and and unnecessary hard hats are sucessfully worn at many of the spots Bas rides at to deflect and avoid suspicion.

Hi Viz changes their identity

Cynefin says we take on different identities based on what we wear in both our, and other people eyes. It can’t be know for sure that the High Viz and hard hats was why the police decide not to stop and investigate. The same people on a Friday night dressed in hoodies and baseball caps it may have been investigated and moved on.

Jumping off the Croydon Flyover.

Jumping off the bridge was made possible by using a mix of complex, complicated and simple approaches were required, and crucially using the right approach in the right place.

Getting the skills and practice to attempt this used planning and science, as did building the ramps and making sure everyone knew what to do and when.

Getting to the spot, setting up and jumping off the bridge required coning off part of the road, taking down a sign and building a ramp in plain sigh may have been helped by apparent identity of those doing the work.

In this post I’ve tried to show where complexity science shows up in real life, and how we can deliberately and intuitively approach problems with different methods to get the outcome we want.

Some of the other approaches I use can be seen here.

Lumberjacks, Bars and Shopping, an introduction to the Viable Systems Model.

A friend who is interested in People and Organsiations asked for a description of the Viable Systems Model that wasn’t Too-Long/Didn’t-Read. I’ve applied the Viable Systems Model (VSM) to Michael Palin’s Lumberjack Sketch in Monty Python. Applying the VSM to Monty Pythons Cheese Shop sketch is left to the reader.

I like looking at things through different perspectives. What one perspective may miss another may make obvious, and I like interesting ideas as much as ‘correct’ ones. While it’s important to make sure you know which context your theory works in, I find checking out things with a few models can be illuminating.

If you’re interested in how what some does fits in with how they organise themselves, manage their time and what it says about who they are this article will be of interest. The approach was designed for understanding big organisations, this into is simplified and a bit silly.

What is the Viable Systems Model?

The VSM describes how organisations work and fit together. I know a little about the VSM, so I’ll be looking at the way Monty Pythons lumberjack fits the VSM.

Through a VSM lens, organisations are like Russian dolls with Viable Organisations within Viable Organisations. I don’t include the company the lumberjack will work for, or the organisations that need to exist to supply lumberjacking tools. We can infer that our lumberjack needs to be within a larger organisation that needs wood, and there will be other Viable Organisations to provide lavatories and buttered scones.

The Viable Systems Model is a lens to look at a situation. I like to look at things through more than one lens. I find the VSM has a perspective other lenses don’t.

I’m applying the VSM to lumberjacks in a simple introductory way that is hopefully not Too Long; Didn’t Read, or Too Wrong; Didn’t Read.

He’s a Lumberjack and he’s OK

You can watch and sing along with the Monty Python sketch on the link below.

The Viable Systems Model is often applied to organisations and their financially viability in their environment. This is the case for our lumberjack too, but I’ll be focusing on him having his life together, being congruent in what he does, who he wants to be and what his values and aspirations are.

Aspiring to be a Lumberjack.

VSM can be used to see if you have your life together for your own needs, and in the opinion of others you care about.

How I’ll apply the VSM to Lumberjacks

Rather than try to show the model up front, I’m going to describe the Lumberjack, and point out the bits where the model can be seen.

The VSM model has 5 parts, numbered 1 to 5. It uses numbers as the names can change when applying to different sorts of organisations or businesses. I’ll refer to how these show up for our Lumberjack and use VSM1, VSM2 in brackets. If you have the parts of the model to hand you can quickly apply to new situation.

I’m a Viable Lumberjack: Applying the VSM.

Cutting down tree = Lumberjack

Our Lumberjack has an identity, a lifestyle. ’I cut Down Trees’ is enough to be a Lumberjack. And we can see that the Canadian Mounties agree.

Sleeping all night and Working all day is also an appropriate allocation of time the Mounties agree with.

We’ve just covered three parts of a VSM model. Firstly there is the stuff you do, and the identity you have.
The Identity of a Lumberjack (VSM 5) means Cut Down Trees (VSM1). You need to manage the allocation of your Resources (VMS3) and you do all this in an environment of Canadian Mounties. Our Mounties seem to approve of this allocation of time to activities.

What you do (& what is done by an organisation) is VSM System1

It’s also worth pointing out that being a Lumberjack requires Lumberjacking

There are other things that are done by our Lumberjack. Eating lunch and going to the Lavatory need to be done to stay alive.

Eating your lunch and going to lavatory is a resourcing (S3) issue. Anyone spending too long on a lunch break or at the loo in a factory job will be well aware of this.

VSM System 3 allocates resources
VSM System 5 is concerned with Identity

To recap, 2 verses in and we have

  • What you do (S1). Cut Down Trees
  • Allocation of Resources (S3) – between Sleep and Work
  • An Identity (S5) – Lumberjack
  • An Environment, Mounties, and his Girlfriend.

Your identity isn’t entirely yours.

We can see the approval of our mounties as they sing along.

The Mounties are not sure…

Our Mounties are not too happy with ‘buttered scones for tea’ especially as we already have ’eat my lunch’, and they start to question our lumberjacks Identity (S5).

If the opinion of Mounties is important to lumberjacks it’s possible that them saying “Hey, you’re no lumberjack” could be fairly devastating. And maybe there is another environment where there are different ideas of what a lumberjack can do.

In the next verse, putting on women’s clothing to hang around in bars. Mounties pull faces here, and nearly give up singing, but cutting down trees, sleeping all night and working all day is a strong enough signal that everything is OK again.

The things you do (S1) contribute to your identity (S5). Being seen to do things that appear to others to be incongruent with your identity can be a problem. Like a cheese shop that doesn’t sell cheese.

We allocate resources (S3) on what we do (S1) affecting our Identity(S5).

The rest of the model

There are other bits of a viable system we can infer need to exist. If they don’t exist we can infer there may be trouble. In a nutshell, that’s how the VSM diagnoses issues.

All our lumberjacking activities requires planning and co-ordination:

  • Cutting down Trees
  • Eating Lunch
  • Going to the Lavatory
  • Going Shopping on Wednesdays
  • Having buttered scones for tea
  • Putting on women’s clothing
  • Hanging around in bars

All need co-ordinating (S2).

Many of my Lumberjack friends organise what they do on a whiteboard. They have “Go shopping” filled in on Wednesdays, ‘Cut down trees’ on the other days apart from Wednesdays, and often contain a reminder to change clothes between Lumberjacking and hanging around in bars.

Depending if there are toilets on site, going to the lavatory may also need to be co-ordinated to when a lavatory is nearby.

A lumberjacks whiteboard

When can we start pressing flowers?

Allocating time & resources (S3) for ‘buttered scones’ and ‘pressing wild flowers’ implies less time for cutting down trees (S1)

Getting our resourcing wrong can also affect our identity (S5) and our ability to function. Too little time spent cutting down trees will mean the lumberjack identity (S5) is hard to keep.

We also need to look to the future (in fact, the entire sketch is looking to the future, I’ll come back to that at the end). We need to look at the future environment for changes that we need to make like learning a new kind of way to cut down trees, to keep the lumberjack identity.

We can also change our environment. If this environment does not support us, we can find or create another.

Looking for changes required in the future is VSM System4

So when our lumberjack looks to the future (Future-S4) to spend time (Resourcing- S3) to put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars (S1 activities), it will be co-ordinated by the same mechanism (co-ordination S2) that has shopping on Wednesdays, and ideally keeps shopping and bars separate, ideally not arriving at the bar with shopping bags as the other people (environment) may look at you a bit funny.

I only WANT to be a Lumberjack…

The start of the Monty Python shows our lumberjack as a barber who is looking to the future to see if being a lumberjack is a viable fulfilling job that fits in with what he want outside of lumberjacking.

He gets some useful feedback from the Mounties and his girlfriend that maybe it isn’t. He doesn’t seem bothered. He hasn’t had to move and retrain to find this out. Maybe he’s going to try out imagining a few other jobs to see if they work out better?

Overview of the VSM

Your identity emerges from what you do. If you put on women’s clothing, hang around in bars your environment may decide that you no longer have the identity of a lumberjack. Like the Lumberjacks girlfriend.

To be viable you need to find an environment to be viable in, and you need to do things that get you what you need.

In use the VSM is a bit like a Business Model Canvas – you need to make sure all the boxes are filled in correctly and all work together, and connections between the boxes and the environment are all working as expected.

The full VSM has a few more parts, but they are not required to have a ‘wrong but useful’ model.

I’ve took some liberties with the VSM here to keep this short, there are a lot of connections between the systems I’ve not covered.

To apply the VSM to a current situation look at which bits are missing, and if they are working together OK.