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Transition to the use of thinking

Reading the course material is not enough - it's like reading a textbook on riding a bicycle, without actually practicing riding a physical bicycle won't help much. Having answers to quiz questions is not enough - it's like riding a bike only in a straight line on a specially prepared track. You need to start practicing solving tasks in your work projects and develop system thinking in real life (riding a bike off-road in the mountains) - and only then the complex challenges in your work projects start to fade away and yield to a brain trained in system thinking.

First of all, you need to engage in meta-modeling, that is, "making tables" and modeling, that is, "filling tables." Beautiful diagrams with squares and arrows - this is a populist/common understanding of systems modeling. Tables and even texts are more adequate here. This is system thinking, and it's "thinking with writing," "thinking through modeling." Modeling tasks (filling tables) in our course - these are the first steps in system thinking.

Reading the textbook from the course, reading a book (which does not include modeling while the course does) - you are not taking "first steps," you are just reading about them. Answers to questions - these are answers about steps, not actually taking those first steps! But when you start making and filling tables similar to those in our modeling assignments based on your projects - that's it, that's "thinking systemically," you are not just reading about the first steps, you are actually taking them, walking on the endless road of system thinking!

During our course, you will already benefit from modeling in your work projects, so confidently engage in this modeling during work hours, not separately for study time! You can still read the "textbook" and answer quiz questions in separate study time, but working on modeling tasks related to your projects should be done during work hours. If you postpone the modeling tasks in our course for later, it's procrastination to the square: both in learning and in applying strong thinking in your work project.

There are a few key ideas of the system approach, each of these ideas is quite quickly understood. If we express system approach in one paragraph, it will be something like "for the system's success, that is, satisfying the interests of external project roles, you need to understand the functions of the working system in its environment (to create a usage concept), then understand how the system functions internally and propose a system design, aligning with spatial layout and cost ownership estimates (to create a system concept). Make architectural decisions (principles of module separation and organization of connections between modules, a combination of such decisions is the 'system architecture'), assess the many conflicts between system levels and choose the least bad solutions, since there won't be good solutions (no stability, only chaos). Achieve system description detailing accuracy sufficient for manufacturing on the selected production platform - and manufacture. Obtain evidence-based justification that the system is successful. Operate the system, repeatedly doing everything done to improve some parts of the system, or even for a complete system overhaul. And for all this, you need a system creator(usually an organization) that does all this, performing a variety of tasks using the best known methods. Thinking about the creator is arranged in a similar way - functional parts are project roles, and constructive parts are organizational units. This thinking and the associated project actions to change the physical world proceed recursively at many levels of system consideration as parts of supra systems and reflections on them as consisting of subsystem parts, as well as building chains of creation from creator systems"."

We will reword this chain of reasoning about the system several more times, a bit more structured, in our course also called the "system mantra."

The issue is not just that the sentences in the previous paragraph are full of terms (like "usage concept," "architectural decisions," "production platform"), the meanings of which need to be known. All these provisions are deeply interconnected and are extremely rarely used individually. So a certain fluency in their simultaneous and joint application is required - roughly in the same sense as finger fluency in playing the piano or typing on a keyboard, fluency in speaking a foreign language. Each key on the piano or keyboard is easy to press, even a kitten can press a key! There are not so many keys. The problem lies in pressing different keys at the right time, quickly, and the right ones to produce music, sometimes pressing several keys simultaneously (chord). It takes a few days to master a computer keyboard, but it takes several years to master the piano keys. Mastering system (and any other) thinking, like playing the piano, has no royal path, other than repeating many operations of thinking during modeling in different situations, gaining experience in thinking using system concepts in life. Mental operations are trained primarily in compiling and completing tables just like this, as it happens when completing course tasks.

Each table involves a minimum of three ontological levels of modeling:

  1. the type of the column name indicated in the table, not represented in the table, is held in the head of the table composer
  2. type name in the table column
  3. object in the cell of the table of the type indicated in the table column.

Usually in work projects, the type of the types in the table column is a type from the meta-meta-model (a set of concepts of transdisciplinary methods of thinking of the intelligence stack, provided in our courses to enhance intelligence, including our system thinking course), the type in the table column is a type from the meta-model (a model from the applied subject area of the work project), and objects in the cells are objects of the subject area. In our course, there are many tables with such type layouts, but since we also teach how to compile tables, there may be other variations in the tasks.

Unfortunately, training thinking using types of the meta-meta-model of thinking methods takes time. Therefore, it is advisable to enhance intelligence: not only to read fiction that appeals to fast S1 thinking but also literature with strict/formal typification to develop slow strict S2 thinking and also get used to writing texts using types coherently, not only "thinking in the mind" but also documenting strict models.

Let's repeat this again, it is important: if you don't write - you don't think, including system thinking! Compiling and filling tables for a work project is system thinking, which involves working with a three-level ontology (a three-level type hierarchy, a classification), and this is the form in which system thinking takes place. Of course, there can be many variations, but the most typical variant looks like this:

In this example:

  • types of the meta-meta-model (concepts from our intelligence stack courses) as types for the table column, retained "in the head" and not represented in the table, not discussed with colleagues in the project if they are not familiar with system thinking. But you use them yourself for thinking! System thinking is exactly this: it will be invisible in the table but will be present; it is necessary to assign types to objects "table column"!
  • types of the meta-model (textbook on methods of working in some applied project domain as a metaU-model/"model from the Textbook for Everyone," types of any corporate regulations/instructions, or even standards as a metaS-model/"Situational model - as ours," only the type of the metaS-model is shown in the picture) as the type of cells indicated in the table column, thereby assigning a type to all objects in the cells of this column.
  • values of the model (no "meta") for some objects in the cell from the rows of this table. It is also necessary to consider the representation relationship between the description in the cell and some described project object, it is not in the table, like the type of the meta-meta-model. But the object being described is in the cell only its description !

All this requires fluent work not with concepts of system thinking but with types - fluent handling of "theoretical theory" (theory theory in the theory of concepts), as well as type hierarchies (ontology). Learning such type and ontology work is provided in our educational program in the course "Modeling and Consistency," its completion is a prerequisite for our system thinking course.

Fluency in thinking is important. If it is difficult for you to fill tables, and each table is expected to take three days as an adventure, then you will not think systemically. If filling tables takes you just five minutes for each table, then you will have system thinking. The difference? In the first case - there is no fluency, in the second - there is fluency, as the difference in speed between "the first time you do something" and "the hundredth time you do something" can easily be an order of magnitude, or even more. It is like learning a foreign language: if you constantly look up every word in the dictionary, it may take several days to translate one page, but if you already know the language, you simply read the text attentively and write in the foreign language within a few minutes. System thinking is somewhat similar to a foreign language, you need to be able to translate from "systemic to subject-specific, and back" (from conversations in types of the meta-meta-model/transdisciplinary concepts to conversations in types of the meta-model/applied disciplines of working methods in the subject area of the project, and back).

Here are materials from the Viewpoint Research Institute, where they refer to the concept of hard fun (previously mentioned by Seymour Papert), system thinking is also hard fun:

"We want to help children develop real fluency in many areas of education, including thinking, mathematics, and sciences. Each of these subjects is not amenable to "natural learning" (how to walk and talk). Quite a lot of time and energy needs to be spent to achieve fluency above the threshold. There is an interesting similarity with art, music, and sports - each of them requires quite a lot of time and energy to achieve fluency. These arts might well be called "hard fun." Mathematicians and scientists know that they are dealing with art, as well as hard fun - you have to enjoy struggles, the difficulties, the mystery - you have to enjoy hard fun. "Thinking" is a higher category than just mathematics, science, and arts. It represents a synthesis of intuitive and analytical approaches to understanding the world and behaving in it.

Peter Senge in his book "The Fifth Discipline" (1990) wrote:

*"Recently, during a five-day introductory course conducted by the MIT Learning Center, a woman manager from the design department of Ford company succinctly summarized the situation: "*After a couple of days," she said, "I begin to understand what all this system thinking and intellectual modeling is about. It reminds me of the time when I just started to learn advanced mathematics. At first, I felt completely lost. All this was completely alien to me. But then I began to 'grasp' the essence. Within a year, I fully grasped the basics. In five years, it became the foundation of my profession." *Then she added: "If advanced mathematics were invented today, none of our corporations would be able to master it. We would send everyone to three-day courses. Then everyone would have three months to see if 'all these things work.' And when it turns out that they don't work, we would start trying something else."

You can achieve English fluency at a level C1 (sufficient for admission to a European university) within a year if you intensively study - for a language without inflections (English, Spanish) you need to spend 600 hours, with inflections (Russian, German) 1100 hours, for languages of a completely different structure (Chinese, Japanese) 2200 hours. If you study for a year, you need to spend approximately 1.6, 3, and 6 hours a day, respectively, and there are plenty of examples on the internet of motivated individuals who dedicated such time in their schedules and achieved success. To achieve mastery in a language, you need to spend around 10,000 hours (this is a highly debatable statement, but the order of magnitude is correct) - that is, studying a language for several years. And in the case of a foreign language, it's not just about "thinking" or learning about new things and their connections, it's about simply "renaming known things with different words"! System thinking falls into the same category of methods: you need to practice it to achieve fluency in using it in life, not to "think with a dictionary" in situations where "you decided that system thinking is needed in this case." And remember that besides system thinking, you also need to achieve fluency in other methods of quality fundamental thinking. For example, understanding the content of systems engineering methods and just being collected enough to maintain focus during long reflections and conquer a book of 200 pages in three (not thirty-three) sessions of several hours each, not to get distracted by social media every fifteen minutes, and to be able to handle only a TV series with five seasons in three sessions.

The situation where system thinking is present at the conscious competence level ("understood") but, unfortunately, is not present in fluency in mastery ("mastered"), and at the same time is not applied in work projects, despite understanding it, we will not consider at all. The question "where to apply system thinking in projects?" is roughly the same as "in which projects do you need to think?" Managing attention using a set of system thinking concepts is used in all projects, after all, there are no projects that are better executed with randomly chosen objects from the surrounding world, carelessly forgetting the various important methods for implementing projects - to forget about checking system realization for functionality (perform works of engineering substantiation - testing, trials, interpretation of test results), or forget about the need to gather and organize a team for project execution (amazingly, but it happens quite often: a project seems open, but no one is concerned about the project team, no resources are allocated for it, it is expected to be completed by agents already 100% loaded with other work).

Though yes, the morning teeth cleaning project can be carried out without system thinking. But such projects are available even to children in kindergartens, these projects do not require strong intelligence at all. But where intelligence is required, system thinking should be meaningfully activated. There is no division in life between projects where you should deliberately use your brain and where you should not. And when several people are involved in a project, even minimal doses of system thinking will help.