(P1): Weak Signals

A network diagram with a large hub (strong links) and many smaller hubs (weak links)

One way to think about weak signals is through network modeling.

It is intuitive to view strong links in a network as the important ones and the weak links as unnecessary details or random defects in the network that don’t contribute to the purpose or function of the network. But in complex adaptive systems, strong links generate volatile unpredictable behavior. Weak links buffer the volatility of the activity of these strong links and are largely responsible for the stability of the network, even as the CAS goes about its merry way.

Interestingly, there are two communities that deliberately eliminate weak links from their social lives:

  • People who are homeless and desperate, I suppose because they believe that persons they don’t know very well are persons they can’t trust.
  • Very rich people, I suppose because they believe that those who aren’t their peers can’t be trusted and are after their money.

Both of these communities are largely right in their loss of trust for weak links, which says something about their location in the current CAS and their personal futures in the CAS.

Note that authoritarian regimes and cults both eliminate weak links in the belief that their survival only depends on the strong links that produce (in their view) their power and wealth. These kinds of “strong” CAS are notoriously volatile and readily suffer collapse if any insurgency can disturb the control.

This framework maps to the basic CAS change concept that powerful system trends are very difficult to control for positive change (even if they might support our change). The best opportunity for change lies in the weak links, because they are small now, but can grow to have much greater influence.

But identifying the weak links that might be the best support for CAS change efforts remains difficult because those links aren’t poking us in the face.

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Author: disabilitynorm

hubby2jill, 2dogs, advocate45+yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, pa2Loree, gndpa2Nevin

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