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Modeling large scale, complex human problems

We model complex, multi connected nodes as a network of symptoms, forces, and entities. Recognizing decades of science in network theory, we refrain from taking a direct approach in the usual, obvious problem domain described by this network.

Instead, we recognize that a network description of large scale, complex human systems can be restated in way that is much easier to deal with, rather than seeking solutions directly in the problem domain. We devise a transform on large scale, complex human systems that will make it easier to work with them—one that lends itself to both practical steps and practical outcomes.

Making complex problems complicated instead of complex

A complex problem with interconnected moving pieces—even with moderately few moving pieces—is much more difficult to solve than a complicated but non-complex problem, even if the non-complex approximation of the problem is large.

We aspire to transform a network of finite actors interconnected in a complex way by choosing an orthogonal direction to move them—outside of the problem definition space.

This transforms the problem into a very large number of smaller problems, interconnected by design in a logical fashion.

The Superordinate Goal

No matter how complex and interconnected the network model of a challenge may be, a goal statement can be used to articulate where the stakeholders want the system to be once the challenge is “solved,” even if that statement must be simplified before all stakeholders will agree to it. The aim is that all the problem stakeholders be facilitated to construct a statement they all agree on that articulates “where we want our system to be.” The goal statement need not be completely practical; the constraints of being doable can be sacrificed in order to obtain agreement. To obtain such a goal statement requires facilitation, as groups of stakeholders tend to get held up by what they think is doable. The facilitator will let them know, “We’ll get to questions of practicality in a later step. First let’s discover what common ground exists in the understanding of where we want our system to go, so that you all, the stakeholders, can declare agreement in a short, concise statement on your superordinate goal. I invite all of you to participate in the construction of the superordinate goal statement.”

Stakeholders come to the table already with these steps done from within their own fragment: How do we want this to look when we’ve solved it, what are the problems that are keeping us from getting there, and what are the solutions we are going to employ to solve these problems?

Each stakeholder’s perspective has to be unpacked, and each of the parts needs to be extracted separately so that they can form a part of the larger understanding. During the facilitated conversation with any particular stakeholder, when trying to unpack just one component, all the other components will inevitably spill out at the same time, often without the stakeholder understanding the distinction between them. And trying to do this in a meeting of all stakeholders requires strong facilitation to manage this unpacking. The strong facilitation requires a graphical visualization, so that all stakeholders can follow along and trust their point of view is being taken into account. This is one of the technology tools proposed by Team Earth.

The meeting facilitation in steps is key, as there is a logical progression in this process which must be followed, without skipping steps, to make it successful.

The transformation we are undertaking here is from “massively complex problem components in limited number” to “a massive number of simpler problem components.” These are aligned to where we want the needle to move. “Complicated”—even at large scale—is much more manageable than “complex.”

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