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Paula Thornton

Aren't there several fundamental principles at play here: synthesis, self-reference, grounding? The fact that the same thing that causes the problems is also the same thing that can undo the problems is simply an illustration of the dichotomy (paradox) that you so astutely identify.

The concept of 'middles' -- the dynamically moving 'optimal' between poles on a continuum (chaos and order, water and ice), is a fundamental principle that you provide yet another example to reinforce.

Chris Rodgers

Hi Paula,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

One of the concerns of those who argue against the use of management models and frameworks is that they can take on a life of their own. If attention is directed towards an abstract model, they would contend that this inevitably diverts attention away from what’s happening in the here-and-now of everyday experience. Many models also offer overly simplified views of a complex ‘reality’; lulling managers who use them mechanistically into a false sense of security about their level of understanding.

I broadly agree with these concerns, especially where the models prescribe solutions rather than facilitate further sense-making conversations. At the same time, if appropriate ‘tools’ are used insightfully and with a healthy degree of scepticism, they can help managers and others to make progress that might otherwise prove difficult.

I am reminded of the story told by Karl Weick, in his book "Sensemaking in Organisations", about a group of Hungarian soldiers who had been missing for a number of days in the Alps. When they eventually returned, they pointed to a map that one of their number had chanced upon. On closer inspection, it proved to be a map of the Pyrenees, not the Alps. Weick uses this story to suggest that, when sensemaking takes hold, ‘any map will do’. The fact that the map was not the right map was irrelevant. It was good enough. It spurred them into action, and gave them confidence that they could make progress. In particular, it enabled them to ask useful questions of themselves. They were then able to make sense of where they were, and make use of that understanding to get to where they needed to be.

Management models and frameworks can serve a similarly useful purpose; provided that managers use these to “ask useful questions of themselves” rather than relying on them to do their thinking for them.

Paula Thornton

All good. Here's a reality...in the many years I've been attending conferences, it bears out this thought: there are thinkers and doers. Business models reinforce behaviors of doers not thinkers.

The people at specialized practitioner conferences are often not 'specialists' in the field, but are simply the resource that the organization has 'tapped' to become a specialist in the field. They're facing insurmountable odds against issues they know nothing about. They come to the events to gorge on as much as they can about the topic so they can go back and 'do' the practice.

I'm a thinker. My presentations are models for 'thinking'. I always get feedback to the effect of 'that was nice...but it didn't tell me how to do it'.

Ground Control, we have a disconnect.

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