By John Stewart and Victoria Wilding
People are only now developing language for acting effectively on complex organizational and personal situations. Our mainstream models don’t let us see what is really going on. Metasystem Cognition is a relatively new field of study and a process for understanding and acting on what lies beneath. It offers a breakthrough in thinking and opportunities for coaches in helping invent the companies and government agencies that have so far been only a dream.
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How rational/analytical cognition works/tries to model aspects of the world:
Rational/analytical cognition attempts to reduce phenomena to the interaction of a collection of relatively unchanging objects that interact according to known rules.
To do this it:
• Analyses phenomena into objects (parts) that interact with each other;
• Treats these objects as if they change little through time (unless their parts change) and have relatively fixed attributes;
• Attempts to find rules or laws that govern the interactions between these objects; and
• Assumes the interacting objects comprise a relatively closed system that is largely unaffected by events outside it (its context).
Rational/analytical cognition attempts to understand systems and processes in the same way – it tries to reduce them to a collection of interacting parts; or to represent them by a set of variables that are related in specific ways.
Why is rational/analytical cognition limited?
• It fails to adequately model certain aspects of reality.
• It is quickly overwhelmed by increasing complexity.
• It gets bogged down easily trying to keep track of all the sequences of interactions.
• It tends not to see patterns, images, fluid processes, parts of the system that might be significant to outcomes, and how complex systems things might unfold.
• It tends to treat all entities/agents at all levels as fixed objects that are autonomous and free to choose whatever actions they want, uninfluenced and un-determined by their context and the systems in which they are embedded.
• It tends not to see fixed objects interacting as evolving systems.
• It fails to adequately represent a system that comprises objects that are not fixed and instead change through time (ie where the system is comprised of a flux of processes rather than fixed objects)
• It fails to adequately represent processes, the contexts in which processes and systems are embedded and the complex relationships between them all.