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
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
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
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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