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Meta-Systemic Cognition and Coaching

6 min read

By John Stewart and Victoria Wilding

Editors Note:
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.

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