Background and Explanation of the Modeling Language

October 30, 1996

Over the past 20 years, we have built a visual language consisting of diagrams annotated with labels and glyphs and supported by accompanying text. The models collectively form a loose grammar and lexicon for people to use when talking about the qualitative dynamics of enterprises undergoing the transition from mechanistic bureaucracies to organic, collaborative networks.

The models may be used in a diagnostic fashion to help enterprises figure out where they are, what's happening and why, and what possible paths may be taken.

The models may also be used as templates and design tools for creating collaborative processes.

Although the models can be studied and applied individually, their full power is only unleashed when considered in an interconnected and collective manner. We've borrowed the subtitle of Hermann Hesse's masterwork Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game as a metaphor for describing how to use the models together. Our own Facilitators and Knowledge Workers play Glass Bead Games by translating current conditions into design solutions by using the models as catalysts and filters.

Modeling language speakers must develop an easy familiarity with the language for it to be of most value. Just like learning a foreign language, at some point they lay aside the dictionaries, grammar books and begin to think in the new language and use the language itself as a vehicle for learning more of it.

The terms that describe the models and their components are purposefully general. Many people begin working through the modeling language with a study of the etymology, or linguistic roots, of the terms. Then, when the terms are linked together within and across models, powerful insights become available.

If you develop a web page that illustrates your insights into a particular MG Taylor® model, we'll link it to the appropriate page in this web site. Please remember to add the appropriate copyright information on the models and glyphs.


Journal Assignment: Before moving on, take a few minutes to consider just what a model is. Or think about it over several days. What is a model? What are some characteristics of models? What is NOT a model and what are the criteria for distinguishing between model and not model? What do people use models for? How are models used by other living systems in Nature? How do models use people?

The "What is a Model" module is employed frequently in our DesignShops and if you've been through that exercise, think about the question from a new angle.

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