by Bartley Madden
Last annotated on December 28, 2014
The first core belief is that past experiences shape our current assumptions. Through our assumptions about how the world works, we participate in creating what we perceive as our reality.
The second core belief is that language is perception’s silent partner—silent in the sense that we are mostly unaware of the powerful influence of language.
The third core belief is concerned with systems thinking: how to improve system performance by identifying and fixing a system’s key constraints.
The fourth core belief is that human behavior is purposeful, and that it can be productively analyzed as a living control system. Instead of viewing behavior as a response to an external stimulus, an alternative perspective is that we compare our actual experiences to our preferred experiences and take actions in an attempt to create new experiences closer to what is preferred. The control-system perspective explains, among other things, why compensation/incentive systems often do not work well.
CHAPTER 1 SHAPING THE WORLD YOU SEE
So what exactly is a worldview? Basically, it’s a part of, and a result of, one’s process of building knowledge. It represents the ideas and beliefs with which one sees, interprets, and interacts with the world. But if we don’t know a person’s goal, we can mistakenly believe that we understand his or her behavior. The impact of worldviews on our performance when dealing with problems is subtle, yet profoundly important. We participate in shaping the world that each of us sees as real.
CHAPTER 2 WORLDVIEWS
Core Belief 1: Past experiences shape assumptions
Core Belief 1: Our perceptions are rooted in assumptions that are based on what has proved useful in the past and are typically based on an application of linear cause-and-effect analysis (if X, then Y). However, an automatic reliance on our assumptions can inadvertently lead to bad decisions, especially so whenever a significant change in context occurs.
The hidden assumptions revolve around the definition of “a store.” In Sam Walton’s worldview, each store was an integrated part of a networked system. For Kmart management, each store was viewed as a stand-alone operation in which the store manager controlled product selection, ordering, pricing, and the like.
scientific mindset and three main approaches used by economists to build knowledge.
The first approach is to analyze the historical record in order to make sense of the major economic experiences of societies over long periods of time. The second approach involves computerized lab experiments in order to isolate the impact of key variables that are not easily, if at all, measurable in the everyday world. The third approach focuses on designing innovative ways to run field experiments that can provide compelling evidence to support or reject the validity of an assumption.
Without our conscious awareness, our brains utilize past experiences when shaping our perceptions of the external environment—the world “out there”—as well as when making assumptions about how events and experiences will occur in the future.
The process of knowledge-building often requires identifying strongly held, and perhaps subconscious, assumptions—some of which may be faulty.
Studies pertaining to past events are likely to reflect the preconceived beliefs of the researcher. To counteract this tendency, the researcher needs to practice the scientific mindset of subjecting data to alternative explanations.
Laboratory experiments and field experiments are valuable tools to help us better understand cause and effect, which in turn can strengthen our decision-making abilities.
CHAPTER 3 REALITY IS LANGUAGE-BASED
Core belief 2: Language is perception’s silent partner
English, like most Western languages, is rooted in linear cause-and-effect, noun-verb-noun sentence construction.
Core Belief 2: Our perceptions, our thinking, and our use of language are intertwined to such a degree that unraveling the assumptions behind the words can be a useful step in building knowledge. This also facilitates a creative use of language to generate new opportunities for a future unshackled from obsolete assumptions.
Language subtly shapes the world we see and its use can easily oversimplify complex relationships to a degree that interferes with developing innovative solutions to problems.
How we use language in developing and communicating ideas is crucial to overcoming preconceived faulty beliefs as well as testing new assumptions.
The prototyping process used by designers has a far wider use to all of us: the process utilizes a specific kind of language to express ideas and generate fast feedback.
A better future is more readily achieved by discarding language that cements us to a status-quo past environment and, instead, using language attuned to new possibilities.
CHAPTER 4 SYSTEMS THINKING
Core Belief 3: Improve performance by identifying and fixing a system’s key constraints
Core Belief 3: Systems thinking is invaluable as a means to complement linear cause-and-effect analysis applied to isolated components of a system, to address the tendency toward an excessive focus on local efficiencies that can easily degrade overall system performance, and to powerfully identify and focus on fixing the key constraints to achieving the system goal.
A system is a group of interdependent components, typically having complex feedback loops, that form a unified whole with a common purpose, such as the human body or a business firm.
Systems thinking is a way to understand and communicate about the dynamic complexities and interdependencies involved.1 In many complex systems (such as ecological ones like rainforests), when you have nonlinear cause-and-effect relationships with varying time lags and multiple feedback loops, a simplified, linear cause-and-effect analysis is insufficient for predicting a system’s behavior. The whole system behaves in ways that cannot be reduced to just an analysis of isolated system components.
five key lean principles as follows: “precisely specify value by specific product, identify the value stream for each product, make value flow without interruptions, let the customer pull value from the producer, and pursue perfection.”
TOC thinking processes. In the most fundamental terms, the primary TOC objective is to answer three questions: (1) What to change? (2) Change to what? (3) How to cause the change?
This is a departure from standard approaches to problem-solving, especially those seen in economics and finance that set up a problem as one of maximizing some variable given existing constraints. Goldratt was adamant that such compromises, based on accepting constraints, should be avoided. Instead, one should devise logical maps to help generate insights, enabling one to dissolve conflicts and any related compromises.
Because simplified, linear cause-and-effect analysis has proved so useful in our lives, we tend to apply it to components of a complex system while automatically assuming that improvement in a component will translate into improvement in the performance of the overall system. This may not be true—especially so when system components are highly dependent upon each other and when the improvement is made to a component that is not the key constraint impeding the system’s performance.
An overall systems view that focuses attention on relationships among components can reveal insights for potential changes that would not be discovered if one focused only on improving the local efficiencies of a system’s individual components.
The worldwide adoption of lean/theory-of-constraints thinking by manufacturing firms and, increasingly, by service firms is a testament to the usefulness of a systems-oriented worldview.
CHAPTER 5 HUMAN CONTROL SYSTEMS
Core Belief 4: Behavior is control of perception
Core Belief 4: Human behavior is purposeful, so it can be productively analyzed as a living control system that acts to maintain the perceptions of important variables as close as possible to preferred levels. In short, behavior is control of perception. A control perspective reveals the underlying weakness in viewing the world primarily as stimulus-response experiences.
Simple linear cause-and-effect analysis masks the fundamental operation of a control system; when applied to human behavior, it can easily result in illusory research findings.
Perception is the way our brain experiences the world. What you perceive is not the object “out there”; instead, you’re receiving a set of neural signals that your brain utilizes to “serve up” a representation of the object.
Living organisms have purposes: to control the variables that are important to them. They behave so that their perception of a controlled variable moves closer to their reference setting for that variable.
In the 1800s, the French physiologist Claude Bernard noted that the stability of an organism’s internal environment is the means for living in an environment of varying conditions.
His conceptual insight later evolved into the understanding of homeostatic control systems, which use a sensor, a comparator that includes a desired range for the sensed variable, and an effector to act on the environment.
A control system controls what it senses—what it perceives. Controlling means producing repeatable consequences through variable actions.
we vary our behavior in order to control perceptions that matter to us: behavior is control of perception.
Perception is how our mind experiences the world. What we perceive affects what we do and what we do affects what we perceive.
In contrast to non-living things, living organisms have purposes. We behave in ways to keep our perceptions of important variables—our goals—close to where we want them to be. Behavior is control of perception.
If we disregard control variables, we can falsely conclude that we know what a person is doing by simply observing his or her actions.
Negative feedback control is pervasive in living organisms, and is a means by which to efficiently orchestrate actions to achieve desired perceptions.
Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) helps us as humans—with our “bundled” body and brain—to understand how we function as hierarchically organized control systems. Higher levels set goals for lower levels by sending reference signals, perceptual goals.
When people working together have sharply different high-level goals, conflict is to be expected. When their high-level goals are similar, expect cooperation.
We improve our worldviews by understanding human behavior from the inside out: by acknowledging that people have goals and take actions in order to control their environment in ways that enable them to achieve their goals. This way of thinking avoids seemingly plausible but perhaps flat-out misleading conclusions that the cause of what a person is doing is merely a response to a stimulus in the external environment.
CHAPTER 6 A CASE STUDY: FREE TO CHOOSE MEDICINE
Our current drugs-to-patients system, developed over the last fifty years, has been guided by the FDA’s demands for more and more extensive clinical testing. Historically, changes to the system have been incremental and always implemented by the FDA itself. If we continue down this path, we will most assuredly not achieve order-of-magnitude improvement in the drugs-to-patients system.
However, once information about the benefits of Free To Choose Medicine is more widely disseminated, perhaps the many groups fighting for incremental change within the current FDA environment will raise their sights and back Free To Choose Medicine.
CHAPTER 7 WORLDVIEWS AND EDUCATION
Increasingly, emphasis is shifting to the notion that it is ideas, not objects, that poor countries lack.
Core Belief 1: Past experiences shape assumptions. Our perceptions are rooted in assumptions that are based on what has proved useful in the past and are typically based on an application of linear cause-and-effect analysis (if X, then Y). However, an automatic reliance on our assumptions can inadvertently lead to bad decisions, especially so whenever a significant change in context occurs.
Core Belief 2: Language is perception’s silent partner. Our perceptions, our thinking, and our use of language are intertwined to such a degree that unraveling the assumptions “behind the words” can be a useful step in building knowledge. This also facilitates a creative use of language to generate new opportunities for a future unshackled from obsolete assumptions.
Core Belief 3: Improve performance by identifying and fixing a system’s key constraints. Systems thinking is invaluable as a means to complement linear cause-and-effect analysis applied to isolated components of a system, to address the tendency toward an excessive focus on local efficiencies that can easily degrade overall system performance, and to powerfully identify and focus on fixing the key constraints to achieving the system goal.
Core Belief 4: Behavior is control of perception. Human behavior is purposeful, so it can be productively analyzed as a living control system that acts to maintain the perceptions of important variables as close as possible to preferred levels. In short, behavior is control of perception. A control perspective reveals the underlying weakness in viewing the world primarily as stimulus-response experiences.
In my opinion, the more each of a society’s members incorporates these core beliefs into his or her worldview, the greater the resulting dynamism, economic growth, and sustained job creation.
focusing on how each of us participates in creating what we perceive as reality. Such a subtle, seemingly philosophical point has, as I’ve discussed, huge practical implications.