Self-organised criticality is the mechanism by which networks diversify their internal structure maximally. The more diverse the structure, the richer is the information that can be stored and manipulated. The network has to walk the tightrope between solid structure, on the one hand, and disorder, on the other.
Paul Cilliers, Complexity and Postmodernism — understanding complex systems, 1998
A few years ago, I was studying the work of Paul Cilliers on complexity theory, to apply it to arts practice and societal structuring. The ideas I encountered on day two of the INCOSE South Africa, 2015, conference resonated for me with some of the ideas, regarding complex systems and postmodern society, developed by Cilliers. Specifically aspects of self-organisation, competition for resources and between discourses, the boundaries of representation of society as a complex system and that an element, here an individual or person, can indirectly influence themselves. The ideas I encountered on day two of the conference and the papers that I have subsequently read address issues of leadership, management, knowledge creation and proliferation within a working community. Not forgetting the challenges of representation or definition in an environment that, at the end of the day, is created by the intersubjective interaction of people.
Half-formed allusions to Derrida's concept of the supplement also seemed to hover in the background of my associative response. As I understand it, the supplement is something that exists as part of a system, that is generated by or as part of a system to fill an original lack, but usually described or defined as being outside of, supplementary to the system. Not quite as a multi-vitamin is to your diet, but maybe as a multi-vitamin is to the diet of contemporary society. But, as I said, half formed, maybe some individuals better versed in philosophical debate can take this further?
Back to the conference proceedings.
Keynote - The Role of Black Holes in Cosmic Evolution — The Universe's User Requirements for Black Holes
Dr. Roger Dean
So, as I understand it, black holes have implications for how galaxies evolve. Closely orbiting black hole systems are sources of gravitational waves in the Universe. Gravitational waves are actually ripples in space time. Black holes have as their nature, or create internally, extreme distortions of local space time. They also somehow work as gatekeepers limiting and expelling the energy forces that form the universe.
I will not pretend that I understand how this knowledge has been gained or is being processed, but it remains oddly beautiful.
Closing Plenary - Orchestrating Change in the Workplace;
Richard Cock with members of the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra
It is all about leadership, but leadership seems to happen all over the place. Richard Cock and his ensemble staged an amusing and enlightening skit about leadership. Their performance was an illustration of what happens; argumentation, falling behind schedule, confusion and ultimately terrible product delivery, or in this case music, when there is no conductor or good leadership in a group.
The ensemble take to the stage and group work chaos ensues, after a while the conductor shows up, reorganises them, physically and psychologically and a succesful performance follows. The skit is a great example of the group work goblins: lack of task management, avoidance of confrontation, requirements creep of an individual in a team, miscommunication, passing blame and then acceptance of low quality deliverables.
After the performance the audience was enlisted to sing together as a choir, Beethoven's Ode to Joy. The experience instilled the lessons learned. Singing as part of the group requires that you modulate your own voice, pitch and volume, using your neighbours as a measuring guide and the conductor as check point. In doing this, to a degree, you are responsible for where your neighbours place their pitch and volume, and so the mutual waves of influence determine the final product, the music, something that you as part of the choir cannot hear when you are busy producing it.
I did not attend this tutorial on the day, but have been spending some time on the paper since the conference. In the paper Dr. Erasmus derives a basic structure for a formal system engineering management theory, called system engineering management base theory.
SEMBASE = Systems Engineering Management Base Model
In one of the slides Dr Erasmus states that systems engineering has two disciplines. One, the technical knowledge domain and two, system[s] engineering management consequentially systems engineering is, treated as part of engineering as well as management sciences.
In both the technical performance of the System of Interest and in the human interaction that develops and uses the Systems of Interest, emergent behaviour, as I understand it, plays the seminal role in determining quality. The systems engineer, observes, analyses and guides the mechanisms and interactions that give rise to this behaviour through a fractal approach, the systems engineering process is applied at levels of greater and greater detail. This process however is both guided and mapped by systems engineering management. Dr Erasmus raises possibilities to develop formalised theories of this process.
Dr Erasmus also draws attention to the value that a theoretical framework for systems engineering management can bring to life-long learning in the systems engineering environment.
The most of day two I spent in track one, Applied Systems Thinking, chaired by Aadil Valli Essop.
Ippel and Du Toit approach knowledge creation in an organisation. They offer a knowledge creation model that can serve as a structure for managers or leaders to intensify knowledge creation and in turn innovation in the work place.
Key take-aways are:
knowledge creation is a learning process that is triggered by problems
knowledge creation depends on knowledge resources to be available
knowledge creation may lead to innovation
Although the research and survey data took place in a specific organization the findings where not acted upon in that environment. I am curious to see further study where the domains identified by the model are actioned and further measurement takes place.
Johannes Baumbach, Andre Marais and Dr Duarte Gonçalves
How would you model intersubjectivity? Baumbach, Marais and Gonçalves raise questions that I, possibly because of some disciplinary prejudice, did not expect.
The paper argues for an interdisciplinary approach to gain insight and understanding of complexity. What really knocked me off my chair was the call for the inclusion of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, which in itself immediately calls objectivity into doubt, into a Systems Engineering approach.
Tools through which to integrate the human element, I guess, would have to be complex in themselves, allowing for the environment to affect emergent behaviour?
I am very interested to see how this line of inquiry unfolds.
Training Work Group Standards Work Group Reliability Work Group
Personal development tutorials
Throughout the three-day conference, track four was dedicated to personal development tutorials, these where chaired by Cobus van Rooy.
On day one Lynn Vermaak was helping delegates to Jumpstart your Creativity with Popcorn Thinking, the delegates I spied emerging from the talk looked inspired and the smell of fresh popcorn was especially alluring as lunchtime approached.
Day two saw the continuation of the nature vs nurture debate with Jaco Kriek and Nature or Nurture- The Common denominators in Today's Leaders. Followed by Jeremy Wallis who gave guidance on Taking Control in a Busy World by Managing Time to Get Things Done.
On day four, track four was dedicated to a panel discussion: The Fine Line Between Prison and Prosperity — A Story of Ethical Dilemmas
One Mokgatle, Helgard Raubenheimer, Carel de Beer, Alida Kok Engelbrecht.
Please read the other posts in the series, INCOSE recapped, curated and illustrated Day 1 and INCOSE recapped, curated and illustrated Day 3.