Saturday, July 25, 2015

How to Leverage Systems Thinking in Digital Paradigm Shift

Systems Thinking is the tool to leverage balance and flexibility across the spectrum of digital paradigm and digital paradox.

Just as the industrial revolution did a century and a half ago, the digital revolution is reshaping the way we live our lives and the way we work. It’s forcing a fundamental digital transformation of business and our society. Success in the digital world demands Systems thinking, the systematic approach to manage business and the multi-disciplinary understanding about the digital business ecosystem.

Converting from the mechanistic paradigm to the systems paradigm requires starting with new system oriented beliefs and thought processes. The mechanistic production metaphor is replaced with organic service metaphor, technology centrism becomes multi-disciplinary, the linear system perception is replaced by complex adaptive systems, a goal-seeking system becomes purposeful, and technical behavior is replaced by socio-technical behavior. The organizations that have hit the heights of success in the digital world aren’t those that have determinedly followed the old models and ways of thinking; it’s those that have forged a new path. Paradigms at a strategic level should be a fundamental area of ST. Paradigms make or break an organization. As a business, supporting multiple paradigmatics of demand means working with multi-sided forms of demand supported by correspondingly multi-sided platforms. What now has to be understood are the complex dynamics of the ecosystem within which the business is competing and with which the business is unavoidably entangled - dynamics driven more by horizontal linkages than by vertical (sovereign) accountabilities.

A collection of people who think innovatively can adapt instantly, who give the company a competitive edge. It also means managing people well and as technology develops, creating the right mix of automation and human creativity. The fire of innovation, adaptability and creativity are fuelled by cognitive diversity, when people with a wide range of perspectives work together; not just people of different ages and gender, but people who are different across every dimension with different backgrounds, physical characteristics, life experiences and personalities. It’s important to explore the "Systems thinking and cognition"spectrum. At digital ecosystem, there is an intimate interplay spectrum across the (1) living/actioning "systems[-of-systems]" out there, and the ST attempts for identification/abstraction/elaboration, and (2) living/actioning with "world-cognition" spectrum and respective "cognitive" processes and layers (across the aggregate levels of any kind of "actors").

The software engineering mind is shifted from an industrial mode to the digital mode: The software engineering mind is experiencing the agile shift from being reactive to proactive; from centralized to distributed; from monolithic to mosaic; from process driven to customer-centered. Now the systemic, critical thinking, distributed, objective selection, contextual, design, and strategic and tactical thinking associated with purposeful systems prevail. The technical structure expands to include all aspects of software realization, not just software development. The usually ignored nontechnical, human aspects of software engineering are deemed equally important as the technical or hard component. Now, large-scale software systems, much to the lament of the technologists, are as much or more human systems than technical systems.

Systems Thinking engenders new actions as part of the process of creating cross-disciplined understanding. What is powerful about Systems Thinking is that it’s concerned with wholes changes of the scope, thereby engendering new action systems as part of the process of creating understanding. From software management perspective, the next step is to identify the mindset, the technical and nontechnical strategies, and tactics needed to realize the new software engineering approach. This would include Systems Engineering, concurrent engineering, project design, quality engineering, strategic and tactical planning, joint optimization, systems ecology, and quality factors. Once the project machine with its disdain for human issues is dismantled, projects will become socio-technical systems that drive out of fears and create new cultures with positive attitudes, behaviors, and values. Leadership will prevail over technical management, generalists over specialists, open systems concepts will focus on meeting the needs of the environment, socialization will improve the collaboration, communication, cooperation, and coordination and software economics will increase customer value. No longer will partially closed projects react to budget and schedule pressure by implementing defect prone, poor quality, immature systems that provide minimal customer value.

ST is the tool to bring balance and flexibility across the spectrum of digital dynamic and digital paradox. It is true that technology grows exponentially even in the case of the paradigm shift. It is also true that the growth of technology may trigger a paradigm shift. ST is the tool to bring balance and flexibility across the spectrum of a "local"/"specific" to "global"/ "holistic"/ "systemic" (boundaryless /trans-epistemic)/ "whole-systems" elaboration:
- Society is forced to "grow out" of a paradigm because of changes in the physical world or other major shifts in daily reality.
- A new paradigm arises out of new knowledge, such as the age of enlightenment and customer-centricity.

The world becomes even more paradoxical, balance is a leverage for the problem-solving and in-depth understanding of economic and social systems. Paradox is also an attribute of thought and language, with this reality, the world we live in. But the strange thing is: every advance is science is about dealing with paradox (and maintaining that these are not real paradoxes). Even logic, our strongest language, itself is fundamentally paradoxical. The system thinking and views of the business world are more balance and it is sensitive to the emergent factors; it keeps the flow, from valley deep to mountain top; from the small river into the sea; it generates the variety of options to deal with complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty of the digital world.


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