Dru Sellers

Machine Age vs System Age

391 words · 2 minute read

The following represents notes transcribed while reading the book "Creating the Corporate Future"

During the industrial revolution (the time period our schools taught us about) was characterised by and championed the process of analysis. Analysis is the process of taking a problem, breaking it down into its component parts, and thereby finding greater understanding through the breakdown. The "Greats" of the time were the ones who could do this and extract novel efficiencies of the larger system. This worked out well for a long time, a lot of progress was made however it has its limits.

One, we don't - as a group/culture/society - know where the "universe" ends. We thought atoms were the smallest unit, then we found sub-atomic particles, and then most recently we have discovered quarks. How long will that continue to go on? Can we truely understand anything if we can't account for each unit's behavior?

Two, we don't know where the universe begins either. We know we exist on a planet, which is in a solar system, which is in a galaxy all the way up to our current maximum container the "universe" but what is beyond that? We don't know.

The author argues that the next age from the industrial age is the "systems" age. This is when we start to look at problems not just from the perspective of the system we are studying and breaking it apart - but also looking at the containing system itself. This form of study he refers to as synthesis.

My take away from this part of the reading is that we can't just stare at our problems devoid of context. Not only must we understand the complexity of the system we with the change, but we have to understand the "context" that the system exists within. This is similar to working with humans when, during any performance modifcation, we must ask - "What are your goals?". If we don't align a person's goals with our desired corrections - then no amount of stick whacking or carrot offering will have the long term desired effect. People have to want to change.