Observing Complexity

To me, observing real life systems is something like this:

A real life System comprises of a meaningful set of objects, diverse in form, state and function but inter-related through multiple network of interdependencies through mutual feedbacks enclosed by variable space, operating far from its equilibrium conditions not only exchanging energy and matter with its environment but also generating internal entropy to undergo discrete transformation triggered by the Arrow of Time forcing it to behave in a dissipative but self organizing manner to either self destruct itself in a wide variety of ways or create new possibilities in performance and/or behaviour owing to presence of ‘attractors’ and ‘bifurcations’; thereby making it impossible to predict the future behaviour of the system in the long term or trace the previous states of the system with any high degree of accuracy other than express it in terms of probabilities since only the present state of the system might be observable to a certain extent and only a probabilistic understanding may be formulated as to how it has arrived at its present state and what would keep it going, thus triggering creative human responses to manage, maintain and enhance the system conditions, function and purpose and create superior systems of the future for the benefit of the society at large.

Such a representation of an observation looks quite involved. Perhaps it might be stated in a much simpler way. Most real life systems behave in a complex manner creating multitude of problems of performance and failures. But how do we get rid of complexity and uncertainty as exhibited by systems? We may do so by deeply observing the complex behaviour of the system to improve our perception to gain insights about the essence of the system; find out the underlying ‘imperfection’ that causes the apparent complexity and uncertainty and then find ways to improve the existing system or create new system and maintain them in the simplest possible manner. We do this by applying the principles of chaos, reliability and design. Surprisingly, the same process might be used to troubleshoot and solve problems we face on a daily basis. If done, we are no longer dominated or dictated by the ‘special whims’ of the system.

The crux of the matter is how we observe reality and understand it so as to make meaningful choices as responses to life and living.

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Creativity in Solving Complex Problems

The other day, at the end of my seminar on “Solving Complex Engineering Problems” a delegate asked me as to whether the entire process of solving complex problems can be automated in some way by means of a software instead of relying on human creativity.

Such a response wasn’t unexpected. In the corporate world the word “creativity” is often looked at with suspicion. They would rather prefer structured and standard approaches like “brainstorming” at 10.00 am sharp or team work or collaborative effort, which in my opinion do little to help anyone solve complex problems or even address complex problems correctly.

That might be the single most important reason why “complex problems” remain unresolved for years affecting profitability and long term sustenance of an organization. Failing to resolve complex problems for years often earns such problems the sobriquet of “wicked problems”, which means that such problems are too tough for “any expert” to come to grips with.

What they sadly miss out is the role of creativity in solving complex problems, which no automation or technology can ever replicate. They miss this because most organizations systemically smother or mercilessly boot out any remnant of creativity in their people since they think that it is always easier to control and manage a regimented workforce devoid of even elementary traces of creativity.

So, is managing creativity and creative people a messy affair? On the surface it seems so. This is simply because we generally have a vague idea of what drives, inspires and really sustains creativity?

Creativity is not about wearing hair long or wearing weird clothes, singing strange tunes, coming to office late and being rude to bosses for no apparent reasons. These things hardly make anyone creative or help anyone become a more creative person.

Actually, things like “being attentive and aware”, “sensitive”, “passionate”, “concerned”, “committed” and above all “inventive” just might be the necessary ingredients to drive, inspire and sustain creativity.

Why?

Though there are many ways of describing and defining creativity what I like best is – “creativity is the expression of one’s understanding and expression of oneself” – deeper the understanding better the expression of creativity.

When we look at creativity in this manner it is obvious that we are all creative though the expression and its fidelity might vary to a great extent. Clearly, some are simply better than others.

Further, if creativity may be thought about as a process, then the inputs and the clarity of understanding of ourselves are more valuable elements of the system than the outputs that the process anyway consistently churns out (remember the uncountable hours we spent in organization meeting, discussing and brainstorming to solve complex problems).

In these days of economic depressions, organizations can really do themselves a huge favor if only they pay more attention to facilitating such inputs to people rather than get overtly worried about control and management by conformity.

From Emotion to Wisdom to Maturity

The other day, my long term collaborator, in the development of the Nemetics discipline, Michael Josefowicz remarked on Twitter –

“It is interesting that so many serious people have a blind spot for emotions.”

But how important is emotion in shaping our consciousness?

Let us examine the process of evolution or expansion of our embodied consciousness.

The starting premise of my argument is — every human being is a product of an infinite series of interactions, which are extremely diverse in nature.

In Nemetics we term each interaction as a “neme

With every neme, a feeling is generated, which quickly takes the shape of an emotion. Emotion is very qualitative in nature since an emotion can have different shades, like for instance – love. But soon emotions give rise to objective thoughts which gradually develop. In turn, objective thoughts switch on our thinking mind.

A thinking mind will invariably generate desire. More the mind thinks, more it desires.

As soon as a desire is born it would seek actualization. Therefore all desires lead to actions.

Provided we are open and willing, we learn from every action the beneficial and detrimental results of good and bad actions to become wiser. Hence action through learning leads to wisdom.

When wisdom finally matures we become satisfied and perhaps happy with things as they are and as they happen. We deeply realize that any phenomenon would change owing to its dynamic nature that is time, space and constraint dependent. We further realize that there seems to be little point in forcing change things “our” way, finding solutions without a problem to address or invent new problems just for the sake of it or not to address the reality as it emerges.

Maturity then leads us to accept phenomenon as it happens and interact with systems and people just as needed to ensure or enhance flow, harmony and balance of life. In Nemetic terms the phrase for maturity is — “make it ezpz – The Nemetic Way.”

If we now summarize the process of enhancing our embodied consciousness; the train of our reasoning would appear something like this:

Neme -> Feelings/Emotions -> Thoughts -> Desires -> Actions -> Learning/Wisdom -> Ezpz Maturity.

The question I would leave the reader with — How do we make this process really ezpz?

What is stronger — the Written or the Spoken Word?

While some take written word to be inherently superior to the spoken word others believe that what is communicated verbally is inherently stronger than the written word.

This conflict existed for thousands of years. And different civilizations took different stands on this. But the conflict assumes greater importance in the 21st century, especially when ‘transliteracy’ skill (ability to learn from different media and from diverse sources — not necessarily in the written form or within a limited space or limited time period) is now considered to be a vital skill to survive and thrive in the present age.

How to make sense of this conflict?

May be a good starting point might begin by considering what Thamus, the god-king of Egypt, spoke to god Thoth, when he was congratulating Thamus on having invented the alphabet to produce written documents:

“…. this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them.

The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory but to reminiscence and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth.”

(Source: as quoted in de Santillana, p 348)

Today, we learn not only from books but also from many other sources, which are essentially based on human interactions in varied forms of communication through spoken words – some of which are storytelling, dialogs, discussions, debates, global conferences, workshops, negotiations, narrations, collaboration, sharing ability and evidences, coaching, mentoring etc. The media through which such communication flourishes are varied like, emails, cell phones, various social media platforms, direct experience, teaching …. etc.

Surely the volume of spoken word outweighs the written word in our present bit (binary digit) world where often the spoken word is presented in a written format.

If we look back, even two decades earlier, the memory capacity of our computers were going up by the day facilitating storage of ever increasing volume of data (written words). But the trend is now being reversed. Now we are using smart phone, tablets, audio, video, podcasts and net books, which have just enough memory to work smoothly. Software development is giving way to sharing information over shared platforms through development of specific applications.

And perhaps, when faced with increasing complexity, we are all forced to learn on the go — meaning instantly — in the here and now, with the full awareness that what we learn now might be replaced by new learning in the very next moment. The reason for this is simple — all complex situations are so unique that learning from one complex situation may or may not be directly translated to another complex situation, however similar that might seem to be.

Though the learning environment has become more complex than ever before the simplicity in this situation lies in the fact that we are increasingly relying on learning directly from direct human interactions in the form of varied types of conversations in which we become an intrinsic part of our personal learning experience.

For instance, the open learning culture that is expanding very quickly, fundamentally relies on the spoken word (videos, audios and podcasts) on diverse subjects (e.g. MIT opencourseware, Khan Academy) for learning to take place. Such videos are usually supported by brief notes and not elaborate text books (written word).

As I see it, there would be an exponential increase in learning through conversations that would rely more on the spoken word whereas the size of elaborately written documents would continually decrease and be limited to issues where correct transmission might be endangered.

In today’s world, to learn we must become a part of the process that produces the knowledge applicable to our needs. For that to take place, conversations would occupy the center stage of learning. In that case, spoken word would gradually assume greater importance than sole reliance on written words in form of books and textbooks.

It means that the way we would develop and use our mind-body complex would assume utmost importance in the coming years.

Learning Quickly & Adapting Rapidly – A Simple View

If I were to make a very simplified understanding of our brain it would be this:

Our brain has three parts, which are: –

1. The Rear Brain

2. The Mid Brain

3. The Frontal Brain

The Rear Brain

The rear part of the brain is an alarm, which sets off as soon as it senses danger that can threaten survival and life. It works on the principle of ‘fear’ (the modern term is stress) that propels us to either fight or run away. When faced with anything new this part of the brain triggers first. Though for city dwellers, tigers and snakes are mostly not around to scare us to death, this ancient part of our brain sets off alarms by sensing anything which is unusual, uncommon, seemingly big for us to handle, new or doesn’t fit our regular routine or schedule. But isn’t learning all about embracing something new? So we have a big problem to learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

The Mid Brain

This part of the brain stores all our sensations and experiences as images including the lessons we learn. It is the memory section. It throws up information as and when we need those. So when faced with something new this part of the brain searches for something similar and prompts us to take note of what is already stored there for us to act. At times, it conjures up new images by combining existing images some of which can be illusory or false, which may create stress or delusion. Under stress, it communicates to the rear brain triggering fight or flight response. When deluded it induces us take actions without thinking of undesirable consequences. Now, these become big problems to learn anything new or different when faced with familiar objects or situations making it difficult for us to pick out something new or different from seemingly familiar patterns. The mid brain would say, “You know that. There is nothing new in the world.” This is because mid brain would force us recognize existing patterns only, which usually prompts routine or scripted behavior as a response. This then poses as a big impediment to learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

The Frontal Brain

This is the new part of the brain that is responsible for learning from any situation and under any condition enabling us to create new solutions and new actions. However, this part of the brain isn’t powered up fully so long the mid brain and the rear brain dominate the show. That appears to be a big problem too for learning quickly and adapting rapidly to changes.

So what is the way out?

The way out of the mess may be summed up in a neat mantra — 3S which stands for Slow, Small and Steady.

Slow:

Slowing down offers many benefits. The most important one is relaxation of the body and mind. Once the body and mind are relatively relaxed, the rear brain, which is usually very alert lets down its guard allowing other parts of the brain to act fully. This facilitates learning something new.

Small:

When we notice small and subtle things; think in small pieces and connect those; and take small actions – the rear brain doesn’t interfere since it doesn’t consider small things to pose any danger to survival. Likewise, when we see, think and do small things the mid brain doesn’t quite interfere with the new experience either since it usually fails to conjure up an existing pattern to match the small experiences other than trying to judge by giving it a name and form . So, once we suspend our judgement while experiencing something new the possibility of new learning grows exponentially. However, once the small things are done the mid brain would faithfully store the lessons for better adaptation and survival in the future.

Steady:

So what happens when, over a time, we steadily exchange value through small actions? Obviously, the small actions accumulate, coalesce, combine and recombine in self organizing way to produce new learning, which usually grows wide and deep enough to allow us learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

Go Slow. See Small. Engage Slowly, Think Small. Act Small. Go Steady.

That is perhaps the easiest way to learn new things quickly and adapt rapidly to changes promoting resilience and sustainability for organizations, groups, communities and individuals.

Note: This is a part of a forthcoming book — “Sleeping with a Stranger” — a new book belonging to the Nemetics series.

RGB waves in Real Life

The first pillar of Nemetics, as described in my earlier post 5 Pillars of Nemetics, is the RGB Waves, whose description is as follows:

“It helps us understand any phenomenon happening around us in the material world.

R wave represents ‘events’ that take place around us.

G wave represents the ‘behavior(s)’ of human beings and of systems that initiate any event.

B wave stands for ‘intentions’ and ‘beliefs’ that lead to particular behaviors which precipitate ‘events.'”

Here is an example of how the principle of RGB waves works in life. It is taken from an experimental work on psychology.

In this experiment, researchers examined the effect of two beliefs that run in society on personal behavior and results.

Belief 1: Women are not very good at math.

Belief 2: Asian students are good in math.

These social beliefs are the B waves that direct personal behavior to produce subsequent events or results. Let us see how.

In their experiment, psychologists Margaret Shih, Todd Pittinsky, and Nalini Ambady took two groups of female Asian students to take a math test.

But before taking the test the two groups of female students were primed differently to modulate their behaviors (G wave) to see whether holding on to beliefs produced different test scores (R wave).

For one group, the female students, who would be holding on to their identity of “Asians,” were primed by asking questions like — “Is there anyone in their extended families who spoke languages other than English?”

For the other group, who would be holding on to their identity as “woman,” the female students were primed by asking questions such as “whether they lived in a coed dorm?”

After being ‘primed’ both groups took the test. The primed B waves produced dramatically different results (R wave).

The scores (R wave) plunged for the group whose B wave was ‘Women are not very good at math.’

However, the scores (R wave) soared for the group whose B wave was “Asian students are good in math.”

I consider this as a good example, where a particular B wave directs behavior and performance (G wave) to produce different results (R wave).

It also informs me that if performance or results are to be improved it might simply be wise to pay attention to the B wave and modulate it to produce desired results. However, most often educator, leaders, politicians focus on results and behaviors and get busy changing or correcting those instead of paying attention to strongly held beliefs and intentions of individuals and groups, which generates complex behavior patterns and results.

Ref:

1. Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

2. Winning Anywhere – the Power of SEE

3. Workshops

Personal Transformation — A Nemetical Approach

We are always in the midst of changes.

That is the fundamental reality from which every other thing happens.

It has no fixed image. It has no fixed direction. It comes from ‘nowhere’. It goes ‘nowhere’.  It is always in a state of flux. So none can put a permanent meaning to it.

The whirlpool of changing phenomena is created through interactions of flux fields.

Such fields connect everything to everything to create an intricate web of relationships.

Interactions happen between all relationships.

Such interactions form the fundamental level of communication.

In this flux of continual changes we are both players and spectators of the changes.

Such changes manifest as events.

We create those events through our behavior and actions.

Our behavior is governed by our intentions.

Our Intentions are generated by our skills: Noticeornot, Engageornot, Mullornot, Exchangeornot (NEME) that give rise to either Skillful Actions or Unskillful Actions.

Quality of NEME is dictated by the quality of our four human faculties — Feeling, Imagination, Thinking,  Actions, where Feeling is the secret Key. Imagination is the Creator, Thoughts are Gifts and Actions form changing Reality.

The process of developing those faculties is: Love yoked to Respect and Reason.

The underlying mechanism of yoking Love, Respect and Reason is through the Power of See. The goal is to go beyond the present consciousness and see things anew to continually expand consciousness to its highest potential.

Power of See is developed through the knowledge in Arts, Science, Engineering, Technology, Mathematics, Communications and Design.

The undesirable or inauthentic constraints to ‘Seeing’ are formed from products of conditioned existence.

The method of eliminating such constraints of conditioning is through Memory, Discernment, Merger and Action.

The unconditioned self is the liberated self — empty of all conditioning, that constantly adapts and/or adjusts to changes.

When we adapt or adjust our selves to the environment; the environment also adjusts and adapts to our liberated consciousness.

Then higher levels of communication take place — inducing desirable flows.

It is creative. It is original. It delights. It is liberating.

One liberated self liberates many selves through sharing.

 

Ref: Winning Anywhere – the Power of See

Ben-hur, Flow & Enlightened Skillful Actions

Ben-hur, till this day, continues to remain one of my all time favorite films — a timeless classic.

Over the years, I have seen this movie over and over again – so many times that I have lost count of it. Not only that – I took care to show the movie to my sons when they were young. Lo behold! it captured their hearts too — just as it did when Dad showed me this film when I was a young boy.

However, for some reason, one scene stands out in this remarkable movie — the chariot race — unforgettable. Even now, I have goose-flesh recalling that scene. There was something mysterious that pulled me again and again to view it with riveted attention. It is said to be the greatest chariot race ever put on a film.

What draws us to this race? Was it the rare dash of brilliant cinematography? Was it the charisma of Judah Ben-hur played by an equally charismatic personality, Charlton Heston? Or was it the cruel, cunning but enigmatic character of Messala played by Stephen Boyd? May be everything was too good for anyone to miss. However, it took me years to get to the essence that made the ‘chariot race’ the ‘chariot race’. It was about ‘flow‘.

In recent years, much has been written and discussed about flow, forming various views, interpretations, re-interpretations and perspectives, the most famous of which came from Mihaly Csikszentmihalhi, —  informing researchers and practitioners alike.

To me, being in the flow, the source of greatest human happiness and creativity, is the other name of being enlightened and skillfully acting from an enlightened state, where attention, awareness, learning and creativity effortlessly merge altering experience of time and space.

An enlightened state of ‘flow’ may be characterized by the following:

1. It is without a preformed image of any kind — “image-less“.

2. In such a flow, a person is equipoised to take any direction at will but chooses a direction based on the context and not travel the path dictated by a pre-determined plan — “direction-less“.

3. Actions in a flow are born in empty space; carried out in an empty space and die out in emptiness — “emptiness“.

4. Meaning in a flow is only generated through interactions set against a rich backdrop of context; else there is no meaning — “meaninglessness“.

5. Dialectic movement in flow is created by the existence of intensely focused attention on specific details and defocused attention on general details.

Coming back to the chariot race we are privileged to witness all of those. The crowd roars with expectation. The elites, headed by the Roman Governor of Judea, is restless to see Messala, a Roman, win against Judah Ben-hur flouting all ethics. Individual participants, pitted against each other, are wary of each other’s guile and tactics. The outcome is uncertain. But within all that din and commotion Judah Ben-hur stays image-less, alert, equipoised to take the right step as the situation demands, doesn’t go ahead with a predetermined plan, respects the emptiness of uncertainty of the event yet forges ahead with the meaning created by years of bitter interactions between him and Messala reflected by Ben-hur saying — “this is the day, Messala,” before the start of the race. During the race, Ben-hur acts effortlessly – being one with his horses – without losing a moment’s focus, keeping the din of the crowd and the count of the laps in the distant horizon of his mind.

That is a fine example of enlightened action by an enlightened human being in flow — bringing happiness and rewards in its wake, without expecting any.

No doubt, Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor of Judea (played by Frank Thring), while crowing Judah Ben-hur as the winner of the game, tells the crowd, “I crown your God.”

God indeed — a human in ‘flow’.

A beauty to behold.

 

Related Posts:

1. Aroma of Darjeeling Tea

2. A Network of Fragmented Selves

3. Quantum Theory and Nemetics

4. Winning Anywhere – the Power of ‘SEE’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Networked Community of Fragmented ‘Selves’

Most of us are not one unitary self, as we think we are. Rather we are a networked bundle of ‘selves’ somehow getting by in the same body.

For example, Self 1, of a young lady might decide that she must lose some weight within the next six months or so. So, she goes to a gym that promises her to help her shed some specific weight within a specific time period. She then reads up a a lot on ‘diets’ and invests her time and energy in following those. That ‘self’ in her also buys a bathroom scale to keep a watch on her weight reduction program.

But ‘Self 2’, of the same young lady also likes to splurge on the latest ice-creams and chocolates and grilled ham sandwiches  and that ‘Self 2’ takes care to load her refrigerator with assorted kinds of ice-creams, chocolates and sandwiches, which her ‘Self 2’ would like to enjoy when ‘Self 2’ would be bored or happy for some reason.

Similarly, ‘Self 3’ wonders whether a little infidelity would make life worth living. But her ‘Self 4’, conditioned by years of conditioning at school and home would only let such a thing happen over her dead body.

While all these ‘selves’ are fighting with each other, Self 5 desires to do well in her post graduate exams so that she would be able to crack the tough test for getting a prestigious job in the Indian Administrative Service.

Likewise, there are so many ‘selves’ in a person clamoring for attention and action. These different ‘selves’ existing within each of us, have their specific intentions, specific behavior patterns that result in actions (mostly predictable and repeatable) that take up our time. She fills up the day with many activities that lend a comforting support to her different ‘selves’ nested within her body. She is in a constant race against time to fulfill the intention of each self. Therefore, she becomes too busy maintaining her different selves, which might wear her down by the end of the day. In fact, she through her effort creates too many inauthentic constraints that impedes normal flow of life. The constraints she creates, both authentic and inauthentic, shape her destiny.

The point is we are psychologically ‘fragmented’ but most often we might not be even aware of such internal fragmentation. We might be simply too preoccupied with a confused whirl of fleeting sensations, memories, intentions, feelings, thoughts, behavior, must-do-tasks and emotions. Caught in such a vortex we are certainly prevented from seeing and noticing what needs to be seen or noticed. We are lost in a haze of preoccupation and anxieties for different reasons or we are numbed by the sheer sensory overload that comes from modern living. It affects our health and living. There are always too many things to do, so many people to see (physically) or interact over social media, so many meetings to attend, so many things to be told to so many people, so much money to earn, just so many deadlines to meet. Years might pass before we finally stop and look at these different selves within ourselves before we decide to create a new course of life based on focused attention.

So, the questions are:

What happens if the ‘selves’ weren’t aware of each other?

What happens if the selves simply knew each other well enough to form a community of strongly networked selves that help each other grow?

What happens if a person tries to create or design synergy between different selves?

How does one become a better spectator and player in the networked community of human society that constantly interacts with nature – both within and without?

 

Ref:

1. Quantum Theory and Nemetics

2. Winning Anywhere – the Power of See

 

Quantum Theory & Nemetics

Bohr once remarked about old wisdom – “that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence, we are ourselves both players and spectators.”

That in essence, sums up Quantum Theory.

From this, it is rather obvious that complexity in our lives is only generated by the interactions of players and spectators.

Or in other words, it depends on the way we ‘see’ (spectator) and the way we play out on what we see. It is then about an individual and his or her relationship with oneself, the environment, other individuals and the world at large.

That is what the discipline of Nemetics is about – the individual as a player and spectator in search of harmony in life.

Therefore, it involves the stages of Notice (role of a spectator); Engage, Mull & Exchange (role of a player).

Hence a NEME is an energy packet that encapsulates an individual’s role in the overall scheme of interlinked and collective existence: both as a spectator and a player, influencing each other.

To elaborate further:

Notice is about ‘seeing’ beyond what our senses help us perceive.

Engage is about skillful handling of our emotions to interact with something of our choice.

Mull is about choosing skillful actions suitable for a given context or situation.

Exchange is about applying such skillful actions to design appropriate communication for interaction (player).

If this be so, then an individual is made up of a body that includes the mind, both individual and shared, where the two interact within and without to communicate with oneself and others through various creative expressions, actions and objects.

In short, a human life is all about personal transformation in a Quantum field where the self is only a linked shape moving through the field of flow and energy — learning, unlearning, transforming continually through ‘seeing’ and ‘communicating’ till one realizes the reality of becoming both a ‘spectator’ and a ‘player’ — where the entire universe is within one that allows one to act on the entire universe.

 

Ref: Winning Anywhere – the Power of ‘SEE’