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Systems for Technologists

Nonlinear Thinking

A workshop for thinking well, together, about building intelligent systems.

Why this workshop matters

We are conditioned to think linearly. Linear thinking is so ubiquitous, many of us don’t recognize it as one type of thinking. We think of it as, simply, thinking. 

Linear thinking enables us to design, build and deploy software. But what happens as complexity increases – as we move from software to systems (of software)? Linear approaches can’t deliver systems. For systems, we need to think (and act) nonlinearly.

Nonlinear thinking is also called systems thinking, strategic thinking, pattern thinking, parallel thinking, systemic reasoning and other names. Though we may be brilliant software developers, architects or strategic leaders, when it comes to nonlinear thinking, we are blocked by two obstacles:

One: We are spectacularly terrible at nonlinear thinking.
Two: We don’t know that we are terrible at it. In fact, the worse we are at nonlinear thinking, the more believe we are good at it!

In this workshop, we explore practices for skillfully and consistently cultivating nonlinear thinking and approaches. These are the key to creating conceptual integrity.

Conceptual integrity is the most important consideration in systems design.
Fred Brooks
Agenda

What You’ll Do

Hands-on exercises to think better, together, in the midst of uncertainty

Change your own mind

We can not improve our thinking if we aren’t aware of our thinking (and experience.) All changes in production begin with our thinking. Why is self awareness a core skill professionally?

How do we practice “conceptual integrity”? What are the skills we need to practice it?

Respond rather than react

Decades of systems science has shown that there’s a lot of blind panic involved in systems challenges. (Adopting Kubernetes will not resolve them.) 

Change involves rewiring how we think, communicate and behave. Fortunately, there are relatively painless practices we can rely on.

Practice Systems Thinking

Take a nonlinear approach to a real-world systems change. Find leverage points – places to intervene where a small change will have big impact. Consider domain logic, patterns and relationships, as well as blockers and helpful/harmful feedback loops. Make a recommendation: where do we begin?

Construct Systemic Reasoning

Nonlinear thinking is a practice … and something we practice together. Systemic reasoning moves us out of politics and opinion-giving into creating the best possible recommendations, under the circumstances, despite uncertainty. Spoiler: there is always uncertainty. Spoiler.2: We need to model together.

This course is not yet scheduled for 2023

We will be at events this year! Leave your contact info and we’ll let you know where and when. You’ll also get a discount to the first online class.

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