Transition Management and
The Society of Mind

In his book, The Society of Mind, Marvin Minsky writes about four ways of learning:

Everyone uses all of them, of course, shifting back and forth between them. Thus an individual or organization can engage in any of them at any time, but some patterns of use can be observed in DesignShops.

Uniframing is the process of categorizing things, applying a general description to a number of things at once, identifying an over-arching relationship. A uniframe can be thought of as a mental model. For example, we each have a uniframe for those things known as fish. When uniframing, we essentially compare new information with what we already "know," and categorize it according to already developed frames of reference.

When we become aware of exceptions to a uniframe, we often move to accumulation as a way of learning, where we collect exceptions to the uniframe. For example, we may note that whales are not fish, they are mammals. Hmmm, so are porpoises. And tadpoles are reptiles. And so on.

Uniframing and accumulation are powerful ways to organize information, of course, but transition managers must move beyond them to:

Participants come to a DesignShop experience with already developed uniframes, models of the problem and how it can/should be solved. So transition managers design Scan experiences to help the participants make their uniframes explicit and generate so much new information that they will let go of uniframing and accumulating. Take-A-Panel often begins the process by making the uniframes explicit, then other Scan experiences, such as Share-A-Panel, Metaphors, and Author to Author, begin the process of creating constructive chaos by adding more detail, building greater context.

Reformulation involves changing frames by looking through the lenses of different vantage points, frames of reference, disciplines, future scenarios, etc. Transition managers design Focus experiences into the DesignShop to facilitate the participants in this way of learning. Take-Away and Future Challenge experiences allow the participants to test new and unusual ideas and explore the unthinkable. Gradually the participants become comfortable with new ways of thinking about the problem and the solution. New, more useful uniframes are discovered and shared and validated.

As this occurs, the participants are often find a number of models that can be useful and/or discover that seemingly mutually exclusive ideas are all true at the same time. They begin to use transframing, the process of bridging models, building a frame of reference in which the relationship between the various models can be articulated and used to create something new, generally another model that integrates the benefits of the original models. While transframing can occur at any time in a DesignShop, transition managers a specific opportunity for this to happen in a synthesis conversation, where the participants as a group come to understand and adopt new ways of thinking about their work.

copyright 1997 MG Taylor Corporation. All Rights Reserved