Knotty problems

A good knot: Solves a problem Is easy to remember Is easy to tie Is easy to check Is strong (causes as little reduction in the strength of the rope as possible) Is secure (doesn’t come undone when you don’t want it to) Doesn’t jam (doesn’t become extremely difficult to untie after being put under strain) Is easy to undo…

The onion strikes back: Maggie Koerth on the nested problems of Covid-19 testing

Covid-19 testing has been a mixed bag: Singapore and Korea seem to have been able to get on top of things quickly, while the UK and US (to pick too) have – at least in comparison – seemed barely able to get their act together at all. Maggie Koerth‘s discussion of the issue with Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder points…

Gordon Brown: All for one

An ideology of “everyone for himself” will not work when the health of each of us depends so unavoidably on the health of all of us. Gordon Brown in The Guardian: In the coronavirus crisis, our leaders are failing us Gordon Brown’s timely reminder about health applies equally to… General economic prosperity; The quality of our education systems; The civility…

Bill Gates’ onion

This is a nice illustration of a set of nested problems (a.k.a. “The Onion“) in development from Bill and Melinda Gates’ philanthropic work. Often – most of the time? – the technical solution is only a small part of a whole system needed to bring about change. See also The Wrapper. … In the case of global health, I thought…

On Jean Valjean’s carriage, technological progress and interchangeable parts

Jean Valjean – in a desperate hurry to save an innocent man from being condemned – has stopped to rest his horse and discovered that his carriage has a broken wheel: This excellent beast had covered twelve and a half miles in two hours and had not a drop of sweat on its rump. … “Can you repair the wheel…

Maximising components vs maximising systems

Some examples to illustrate what it means to maximise components rather than systems – and why it’s best avoided: Sports teams with star players that don’t gel as a team – maximising individual talent at the cost of collaboration, team spirit and collective hunger. (See Leicester City’s 2016 Premiership win as an example of the opposite). This applies to all…

More from Seth Godin on slack in systems and resilience

A friend was talking about building resilient systems today, something Seth covered at length in Akimbo (S4 Ep 20)… and also in this blog post: Systems with slack are more resilient. The few extra minutes of time aren’t wasted, the same way that a bike helmet isn’t wasted if you don’t have a crash today. That buffer will save the…

Seth Godin on slack in systems

If you ask most people who run a factory, or an organisation or a sports team, what they’re looking for is a taut, firm connection between and among everybody: everybody busy all the time. The reason that a bucket brigade is so much more efficient than people running back and forth and back and forth to the source of water…

Resource: Seth Godin on Systems Thinking

Akimbo Season 4 Episode 20 (July 10, 2019) – Systems Thinking This is a great episode of riffs on how systems create – and constrain – possibilities, and the opportunities that open up when systems change. Featuring Mr Heinz and the fictional (!) Betty Crocker. Akimbo Season 4 Episode 18 (June 26, 2019) – Find the others: Apollo 11 and…

Podcast Recommendation: Econtalk with Alain Bertaud on Cities, Planning, and Order Without Design

This is a great episode of Econtalk. Bertaud uses labour markets as a lens for thinking about cities. Helpful examples of emergent order and the challenges (impossibility?) of planning in complex adaptive systems. Highlights (coming up) include: Discussion of the importance of culture and context in how cities develop; Bertaud’s explanation of his broader-than-usual understanding of labour markets; When planning…