System Cannot Understand Itself LO6025

Dr. Scott J. Simmerman (
07 Mar 96 08:52:09 EST

Responding to, System Cannot Understand Itself LO5973, Ron Davison

>W. Edwards Deming often said, "A system cannot know itself." He
>sometimes followed this up with a quote he attributed to Ed
>Baker, "You can know all about ice and not understand water."

My take on this is straightforward and simple, an approach that
has worked well for me in past years. All of us need to take an
objective, dissociated perspective of the world to see
opportunities for improvement, stepping back from the wagon, as it
were. When we are active / associated and seeing things through
our own eyes, our emotionality comes into play and we lose
perspective. We get trapped by old paradigms and blinded by our
ownership of "reality."

When one steps back and views one's own behavior or the behavior
of others, "stopping the world" in some frames of reference, we
are more likely to produce insight and creativity.

I come to this, in part, because of my Mom's *incredible* skill at
analyzing my behavior and the behavior of the systems around me
and her ability and willingness to offer a consistent stream of
corrective ideas and personal improvement initiatives to generate
my personal mastery. I believe she labeled this activity,
constructive criticism. (really!). And in actuality, my
unwillingness / resistance caused me to NEVER have the ability to
dissociate and even investigate whether any one of these thousands
of ideas have merit.

And today, I've developed the skill to let the ideas flow by
without the emotional hooks, but I am still unable to react
objectively to any of the ideas. But that's my problem. I
believe that the model of objectivity versus subjectivity gives us
a real advantage in improving systems.

(P.S. - I eventually obtained a doctorate in psychology. :-) )

Scott Simmerman

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