The idea is a simple one…

…We build what we are, whether the system is technical, political, familial, organizational – the systems mirror their designers.  The only way, therefore, to dramatically transform those systems is to transform the people/organizations that build and maintain them.

The impact, however, can be profound.  Like the youngster who views an optical illusion and is unable to distinguish the alternate image until a parent asks, “Do you see the mouse’s tail?” at which point, the youngster not only recognizes the image, but gains an alternate knowledge about it.  In the future, they will see the mouse (tree, pattern, idea) whenever they view the image that once confused them.

So it is with our information systems or our transportation systems or our political systems.  We have more than simply “an important role.”  We are a component of that system at the architectural level – to view the system without those components is to view only a partial schematic.

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2 Comments on “The idea is a simple one…”

  1. Alec Kercsó Says:

    While I agree that we build what we are, what we build is often immutable or otherwise static, and so we remain “stuck” as what we built. Seeing past or through or around the traditionally accepted view and recognizing something better is a significant challenge.

    We all remember Oscar Wilde: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Replacing “technology” or more generically “systems” for “art,” lends another voice to the notion that we more often reinforce our thinking by what we’ve built.

    This isn’t all bad, of course, because in many instances it provides us with necessary efficiencies of scale; if we did nothing but think up new ways of doing things, we’d never actually do the things we think up. On the other end of the scale, if we get too “stuck” in traditional ways, we can no longer compete.

    The easy part is saying this is simple economics, that marginal cost (of seeing things in a new way) should equal marginal return (from acting on that new sight). The hard part, of course, is recognizing and evaluating both cost and return.

  2. Stuart Says:

    Ah, therein lies the problem with mirrors. We make them, we buy them. They show us exactly what we appear to be. When we don’t like what we see, we buy a new mirror (or a new CRM system, a new psychoanalyst, etc.) The hard part, as you say, is to make the changes in ourselves (the ones we say we want). And therein lies the allure of the Alice fable, the fantasy/wish that we could (with enough force of imagination or will) reach through the surface of the mirror to the otherside.

    And your comment about “cost and return” is excellent, too. It raises the issue of rationalizing the cost of change. In our business, as you know, we resort to variations of “Return on Investment” as if such things are ever accurately projected. My inclination, after too much “research” in the area, is to suggest that all (or nearly all) of our corporate errors – the costly ones like Enron and WorldCom and the less costly but no less real errors in quality so pervasive in our industry – all of those errors lead to millions/billions of dollars of rework/rebuild/repair that quite possibly could be eliminated if we attended to the single largest cause of our difficulties as an industry (not the technology, it is the people). The “return” would be the absence of massive but hidden cost that we’re unwilling to confront.


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