Monday, April 16, 2012

System Archetypes

I really like systems, and of all the courses I took to get my Master's in Studies of the Future from UHCL and Dr. Peter Bishop, the study of systems was my favorite. What Dr. Bishop said at the beginning of class was prophetic. "Once you learn about systems, you start seeing them everywhere."
I do see them everywhere. I even did a study, my very favorite paper for class, to see if they were everywhere! Okay, they aren't, but they sure feel like it. (Do you get the sense that I run my life by feelings?)
There exists a collection of System Archetypes which help show patterns of behavior that occur frequently in life. An archetype is defined as an original model you can use as the basis for an analysis. (That's a little clunky - go look it up here.)
The ten standard System Archetypes are (in my own order):
Tragedy of the Commons
Success to the Successful
Accidental Adversaries
Shifting the Burden
Limits to Growth (aka Limits to Success)
Eroding Goals
Fixes that Fail
Growth and Underinvestment

Each archetype is characterized by its distinctive causal loop diagram and a behavior over time chart. Find the right archetypical pattern for your problem and you can apply known solutions to the problem.
There are hundreds or thousands of web sites dedicated to explaining systems and system archetypes, but I plan to tackle these ten also, in an upcoming series on Ten System Archetypes. The preliminary order is shown above, with my favorites displayed first. I'll grab the causal loop diagrams from Wikipedia when I put it all together. I don't have any tools right now to do nice loops.
As I add these pages, I'll come back here and link them to the list above.
I'll add my own distinctive touch, of course. I'll try to find a joke that displays the archetype characteristics. I also plan to do a poem for each. Here's a preview, the poem for the Escalation archetype:

Escalation Archetype
You know you did it. Yes, you do.
You hit me hard. I hit you too.
Then you hit me with your fist.
I almost laughed, since you almost missed.

I cracked your head with a brick.
You smacked me hard with a stick.
There wasn't much that I could do.
I found a branch and hit you too.

Then you hit me with your car.
I limped away but not too far.
I found a truck and went for you.
But you were gone, and we were through.

I'm excited about them.

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