- Assessing Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems: Workbook for Practitioners
- How Complex Systems Fail
- A Systems Perspective on Chronic Pain
- Strategy as a Wicked Problem
We usually approach change by focusing on the most apparent problem in our environmental horizon (what is called a pain point in customer service). Note that the slide image is a gerrymandering cartoon from 1812, and, in my mind, gives pause to the idea that we can deal with current gerrymandering through normal problem-solving (voting, passing laws, constitutional amendments, getting the right people into office, and so on).
The most obvious problems for us are usually the ones best supported by the operation of the current CAS. There are more diverse forces supporting our obvious problems, and mechanically organized problem solving will miss most of the supporting forces in its quest for changing the obvious. So our problem solving will fail, often in the short run, but eventually in any case. This can be true even when there are powerful forces supporting change.
Often, our most obvious problems in a complex adaptive system are the core of its strength as a system and support its resilience to meaningful change efforts.
At the same time, the CAS is constantly generating new and sometimes old trends that have been gone for a while. These variations of process are small scale, and we almost never pay any attention to them. No one ever says, “Let’s stop ignoring the flea in the room”.
But the potential for long term change in a CAS lies precisely in these small variations, or in systems theory, “weak signals”. The weak signals are the indicators (not guarantors) of where to look for levers of change.