Prior Quotes of the Week
April 6, 1997
(books may be ordered through our online knOwhere store)
The Pattern of the Network
"Having appreciated the importance of
pattern for the understanding of life, we can now ask: Is there a
common pattern of organization that can be identified in all
living systems? We shall see that this is indeed the case.... Its
most important property is that it is a network pattern. Whenever
we encounter living systems--organisms, parts of organisms, or
communities of organisms--we can observe that their components
are arranged in network fashion. Whenever we look at life, we
look at networks....
"The first and most obvious property of any
network is its non-linearity--it goes in all directions. Thus the
relationships in a network pattern are nonlinear relationships.
In particular, an influence, or message, may travel along a
cyclical path, which may become a feedback loop. The concept of
feedback is intimately connected with the network pattern.
"Because networks of communication may
generate feedback loops, they may acquire the ability to regulate
themselves. For example, a community that maintains an active
network of communication will learn from its mistakes, because
the consequences of a mistake will spread through the network and
return to the source along feedback loops. Thus the community can
correct its mistakes, regulate itself, and organize itself.
Indeed, self-organization has emerged as perhaps the
central concept in the systems view of life, and like the
concepts of feedback and self-regulation, it is linked closely to
networks. The pattern of life, we might say, is a network pattern
capable of self-organization. This is a simple definition, yet it
is based on recent discoveries at the very forefront of
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living
pp. 82, Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1996
The Invisible College
"But beyond formal
organizational structures there are "invisible
colleges"the loose aggregates of individuals scattered
throughout the nation and the world who periodically communicate
with one another. They are sociologists, architects, lawyers,
doctors, teachers, and others whose avocation is
"change" and how it might be effected. All are
intimately involved in realitysome participate quite
actively in the affairs of an organization; others have removed
themselves from decision-making by becoming advisers,
consultants, or assistants.
"Their communications are via the
telephone, the Xerox machine, and the jet. They meet, exchange
information, ideas, theories, and concepts. Tied neither to time,
place, nor position, they operate on many different levels at the
same time. They are a link between industry and government,
between the public and private sectors, between the federal,
state, and city governments, between the governments and
neighbor-hoods, between the money receivers, between the
theorists and activists. Their value lies both in their access to
information from many sources and their rapid dissemination and
utilization of that data. Differing combinations of these agents
of change may assemble for many purposes: to explore the
possibilities of and to launch a New Town, to discuss a Watts and
its implications for planning, or even to weigh the impact of
systems technology upon forecasting. The long-range planner must
connect informally with one or another level of these
"invisible colleges" for the information developed and
passed on in them is not of the typical census type, but part and
parcel of the day-by-day reality of social systems and the people
functioning within them.
"These planners are not dreamers. They
have cultivated what Sir Geoffrey Vickers has called "the
art of judgment"the process of making decisions in the
present that dramatically affect the future. They are experts in
combining and reforming data and information, in redefining the
problem, and, most importantly, in causing others to feel they
must do likewise. They achieve this by presenting additional
information relative to the issues at hand in a way that
convinces others. They are experienced in working imaginatively
with performance standards that are not potentially
multi-applicable. They have the ability to "feel" data.
They have an appreciation of the implications of decisions and
how they might affect a staff as well as tangential activities."
Leonard J. Duhl
General Systems Theory and Psychiatry
The Creative Moment
"The creative moment is when we know that we
know and what it is that we have to do. In many cultures of all
ages the appearance of that moment is described in terms of light
and of energy linked to light...
"The characteristics of this moment are the
different ordering of consciousness apparent through enhanced
awareness of the present, a sense of unity and, very often, the
experience of impersonal joy, together with an alteration in the
experience of time...
"What is that different time world, that set
of other dimensions out of which we receive instructions and help
in a way that coordinates our minds and emotions into an
experience of unity? One of its characteristics is that it is a
state of great simplicity: the problem that seemed so confused
and so chaotic, so immalleable to reason or form, is resolved
into clarity. We know what to do. Another
characteristic is that the state brings together parts of our
memories and experience that never to that moment we would have
dreamed of putting together and associating. In other words, it
brings about the leaps of thought that create metaphor and the
discovery of new forms of knowledge."
The Face of Glory:
Creativity, Consciousness and Civilization
University Press of New England, 1996
Navigating Rapid Change
"Transitions are tough--predictably so. You
need good vision and sharp intelligence to navigate rapid change.
You also need good models. Here are some 21st-century trends that
appear when you tune in to the frequencies of the future using
the network model, grouped according to the five teamnet
principles [three shown here]:
"SHIFTS IN PURPOSE
- Radical change will prevail for the foreseeable future.
Organizations will either create their own futures or
find themselves reacting to the future that is
- Emphasis is shifting from managing 'costs' to focusing on
real business growth.
- Creating breakthrough products, entering new markets, and
achieving high-performance operations will be tougher
- As organizations reach optimal size, they will seek
qualitative development rather than quantitative growth.
- Organizations will regard purpose as their richest
natural resource. They will mine it with new tools,
techniques, methods, and models.
A NEW LOOK
- Team implementations will continue to fail at alarming
- Companies will need to reinstill loyalty and motivate
their people anew to do extremely innovative work.
- Individuals will rebel against the unending,
ever-increasing demand for higher levels of performance.
- Independence will spread as cooperation increases.
- Physical links will continue to explode--from one to one
to many to many--into digital convergence in the year
- Companies will have to learn how to share important
information with all employees.
- Just catching up to the learning organization? Rev it up;
we'll be moving on to the 'fast learning' organization.
- The backlash will mushroom against purely high-tech
approaches to resolving problems and meeting challenges.
- Social capital will be seen as a new source of wealth.
This recognition will develop slowly, then suddenly catch
on as success stories accumulate, reaching critical mass
at the century's turn.
Jessica Lipnack & Jeffrey
The Age of the Network:
Organizing Principles for the 21st Century
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994
A Post Transition
"Mars is free now. We're on our own. No one
tells us what to do.
"Ann stood at the front of the train as she
"But it's so easy to backslide into old
patterns of behavior. Break one hierarchy and another springs up
to take its place. We will have to be on guard for that, because
there will always be people trying to make another Earth. The
areophany will have to be ceaseless, an eternal struggle. We will
have to think harder than ever before what it means to be
"Her listeners sat slumped in chairs,
looking out the windows at the terrain flowing by. They were
tired, their eyes were scoured. Red-eyed Reds. In the harsh dawn
light everything looked new, the windswept land outside bare
except for a khaki scree of lichen and scrub. They had kicked all
Earthly power off Mars, it had been a long campaign,... and they
"We came from Earth to Mars, and in that
passage there was a certain purification. Things were easier to
see, there was a freedom of action that we had not had before. A
chance to express the best part of ourselves. So we acted. We are
making a better way to live."
Kim Stanley Robinson
Bantam Books, 1996
Control in Project Management and Process Facilitation
"The centralized mindset is deeply
entrenched. When people see patterns and structures, they
instinctively assume centralized causes or centralized control.
They often see leaders and seeds where none exist. When something
happens, they assume that one individual agent must be
"But the centralized mindset is neither
unchanging nor unchangeable. As decentralized ideas infiltrate
the culture--through new technologies, new organizational
structures, new scientific ideas--people will undoubtedly begin
to think in new ways. People will become familiar with new models
and new metaphors of decentralization. They will begin to see the
world through new eyes. They will gradually recraft and expand
their ways of thinking about causality. At times, they will still
appeal to the traditional centralized explanations. But when
those explanations don't work, they will have other models and
metaphors to draw upon....
"Through those struggles, certain ideas
emerged as very useful in making sense of decentralized
phenomena. They served as 'guiding heuristics' for thinking about
- "Positive Feedback Isn't Always
Negative. Positive feedback often plays an
important role in creating and extending patterns and
- "Randomness Can Help Create
Order. Most people view randomness as
destructive, but in some cases it actually helps make
systems more orderly.
- "A Flock Isn't a Big Bird.
It is important not to confuse levels. Often, people
confuse the behaviors of individuals and the behaviors of
- "A Traffic Jam Isn't Just a
Collection of Cars. It is important to
realize that some objects ('emergent objects') have an
- "The Hills Are Alive.
People often focus on the behaviors of individual
objects, overlooking the environment that surrounds the
Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in
Massively Parallel Microworlds
The MIT Press, 1995
Domain Four: "All
Great Architecture is true to its Architects' immediate
present"-- Rameses the
"The difference, to the Architect and his
fellow Artists, between our era and others, lies simply enough in
the substitution of automatic machinery for tools, and (more
confusing), instead of hereditary aristocracy for patron, the
Artist now relies upon automatic industrialism, conditioned upon
the automatic acquiescence of Men, and conditioned not at all
upon their individual handicraftsmanship....
"There is not thrift in any craft until the
tools are mastered; nor will there be a worthy social order in
America until the elements by which America does its work are
mastered by American society. Nor can there be an Art worth the
man or the name until these elements are grasped and truthfully
idealized in whatever we as a people try to make. Although these
elemental truths should be commonplace enough by now, as a people
we do not understand them nor do we see the way to apply them. We
are probably richer in raw materials for our use as workmen,
citizens or artists than any other nation,--but outside
mechanical genius for mere contrivance we are not good workmen,
nor, beyond adventitious or propitious respect for property, are
we as good citizens as we should be, nor are we artists at all.
We are one and all, consciously or unconsciously, mastered by our
fascinating automatic 'implements,' using them as substitutes for
"Aside from your sense of quantitative
ownership, do you perceive in them [suburban houses and their
contents] some fine fitness in form, line and color to the
purposes which they serve? Are the chairs to sit in, the tables
to use, the couch comfortable, and are all harmoniously related
to each other and to your own life? Do many of the furnishings...
serve any purpose at all of which you can think? Do you enjoy in
'things' the least appreciation of truth in beautiful guise? If
not, you are a victim of habit, a habit evidence enough of the
stagnation of an outgrown Art....
"Of all conditions, this one at home is most
deplorable, for to the homes of this country we must look for any
beginning of the awakening of an artistic conscience which will
change this parasitic condition to independent growth. The homes
of the people will change before public buildings can possibly
Frank Lloyd Wright
Modern Architecture: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930
Princeton University Press, 1931
Domain Two: Process
Facilitation in Transition Management
"It was just as [Vannevar] Bush had feared:
merely coming up with a... technology did not ensure its
effective application. The engineer was an astute observer of
people, power, and processes. He knew that a period of
ineffective use always accompanied the introduction of a new
device; it took time to overcome training difficulties and
superstitions. But he also knew that the problems ran much
deeper. The quagmire of military conservatism, interservice
rivalry, and lack of political leadership on both sides of the
Atlantic had so gummed up the works that even the deployment of
microwave radar for purely defensive purposes was being
"Bush could do little about Britain. Similar
divisions, however, permeated the U.S. command... The Navy
remained a formidable stumbling block. Not only did Admiral King
view [submarine] hunter-killer groups with disdain, he also did
not rank the Battle of the Atlantic on a par with the Pacific
campaign... Vannevar Bush decided he might be able to do
something about King."
What unfolds next is too long to print here,
but if you choose to read the rest of the story, do so with a
copy of Sun Tzu's Art of Strategy (R.L Wing translation).
The Invention That Changed the World: How a small group of
radar pioneers won the Second World War and launched a
Simon & Schuster, 1996
Domain Six: A
Collaborative Approach to Project Management
"Specifically, we believe that the process
of building and planning in a community will create an
environment which meets human needs only if it follows six
principles of implementation:...
"1. The principle of organic order.
Planning and construction will be guided by a process which
allows the whole to emerge gradually from local acts.
"2. The principle of participation.
All decisions about what to build, and how to build it, will be
in the hands of the users.
"3. The principle of piecemeal growth.
The construction undertaken in each budgetary period will be
weighed overwhelmingly towards small projects.
"4. The principle of patterns.
All design and construction will be guided by a collection of
communally adopted planning principles called patterns.
"5. The principle of diagnosis.
The well being of the whole will be protected by an annual
diagnosis which explains, in detail, which spaces are alive and
which ones dead, at any given moment in the history of the
"6. The principle of coordination.
Finally, the slow emergence of organic order in the whole will be
assured by a funding process which regulates the stream of
individual projects put forward by users."
Christopher Alexander, et.al
The Oregon Experiment
Oxford University Press, 1975
A Weak Signal for
"The designers of the first electronic
computers deliberately designed them to carry out the same
numerocentric operations of algebra and calculus that had been
developed back when all computers were people and when available
computing capacity was minuscule. These equational maths came to
prominence in the Renaissance, replacing the circles and diagrams
of geometry. Their entry into the schools almost three hundred
years ago was the last substantial change in the secondary
"In an age when computing power is abundant,
these maths are obsolete. At a minimum, it is time to transfer
responsibility for teaching geometry to the history department.
If students should be introduced to the maths of the ancient
Greeks, it should be in the same way they are introduced to the
political theories and the art of the Greeks. The problems for
which geometry originally entered the schools have been either
solved or taken over by other methods.
"Reassigning responsibility for geometry
opens up room in the curriculum for new evolutionary intermaths,
maths with still-unfamiliar names like cellular automata,
genetic algorithms, artificial life, classifier systems, and
neural networks. These are maths that would have made no
sense in previous centuries because they are maths that no people
in their right minds would ever try to carry out 'by hand' They
are maths that flourish in an environment where all information
is uniformly encoded as bits. These are the maths with which
electronic computers will evolve their own versions of scientific
theories and formulations."
After Thought: The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence
Assembling Weak Signal
"It is these boundary regions of science
which offer the richest opportunities to the qualified
investigator. They are at the same time the most refractory to
the accepted techniques of mass attack and the division of labor.
If the difficulty of a physiological problem is mathematical in
essence, ten physiologists ignorant of mathematics will get
precisely as far as one physiologist ignorant of mathematics and
"...a proper exploration of these blank
spaces on the map of science could only be made by a team of
scientists, each a specialist in his own field but each
possessing a thoroughly sound and trained acquaintance with the
fields of his neighbors; all in the habit of working together, of
knowing one another's intellectual customs, and of recognizing
the significance of a colleague's new suggestion before it has
taken on a full formal expression. The mathematician need not
have the skill to conduct a physiological experiment, but he must
have the skill to understand one, to criticize one, and to
"We had dreamed for years of an institution
of independent scientists, working together in one of these
backwoods of science, not as subordinates of some great executive
officer, but joined by the desire, indeed by the spiritual
necessity, to understand the region as a whole, and to lend one
another the strength of that understanding."
Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and
The M.I.T. Press, 1994
Creating and Solving
"The more we study the major problems of our
time, the more we come to realize that they cannot be understood
in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they
are interconnected and interdependent.
"...Ultimately these problems must be seen
as just different facets of one single crisis, which is largely a
crisis of perception. It derives from the fact that most of us,
and especially our large social institutions, subscribe to the
concepts of an outdated worldview, a perception of reality for
dealing with our overpopulated, globally interconnected world.
...Not only do our leaders fail to see how
different problems are interrelated; they also refuse to
recognize how their so-called solutions affect future
generations. From the systemic point of view, the only viable
solutions are those that are 'sustainable'... This, in a
nutshell, is the great challenge of our time: to create
sustainable communities--that is to say, social and cultural
environments in which we can satisfy our needs and aspirations
without diminishing the chances of future generations."
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living
Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1996
The Creative Process
"...in the process of invention at least
four important moments arise, some of them early and some of them
late. Before any new idea can arise in theory or in practice,
some person or persons must have introduced it in their own
minds, and this change must have come to be preserved in
accessible records, thereby causing a change in the intellectual
"The second element favoring invention is
the existence of proper materials or techniques.
"However, before a new technique can pass
from the intellectual to the artisan, these two very different
types of men must have an adequate means of communication with
each other within the social system in which they live.
"After these three stages of intellectual
climate, technical climate, and social climate, there comes a
further stage in which invention depends upon economic climate.
Before inventions are made available to mankind at large, there
must be a way to promote them."
Invention: The Care and Feeding of Ideas
The MIT Press, 1993
Other Prior Quotes:
November 3, 1996--December 29, 1996
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