Open- vs Closed-Loopedness: On Tightness & Leakiness of Systems

It's been refreshing to hear more and more folks talking about Linear versus Non-Linear thinking. But at times, I wonder if they are confusing this with Closed- versus Open-Loop thinking.

I certainly see relationships between the Linear/Non-Linear and Closed-/Open-Loop descriptors. But I do not see them as interchangeable. Instead of playing the role as kool-aid drinking Word Police (where one's definitions and category labels matter and others' do not!), I will attempt to explain how *I* see them. Maybe you'll agree. If you disagree, just don't hit me over the head with your dictionary!

In a September 2015 blog The Routine Traffic Stop: Why There Is Such a Thing and Why Cops Should Embrace the Term, I included a section on environments, italicized here:
Understanding EnvironmentsStick with me for some scientific and systems-thinking terms. There are several sorts of environments we need to discuss:
Linear: Events unfold in a step-by-step manner. Imagine a checklist…

How I Got My Start In Systems & Complexity Thinking

I must have been about six (6) years old. My dad stuffed me into the clothes washing machine.

No, no. Not in the way you're probably imagining. 

It was broken, and my dad was fixing it. Except his hands wouldn't fit where he needed them. So into the belly of the beast I went.

During the process, my dad explained to me how the washing machine worked: motors; water hoses; valves; dirty water discharge. He took something rather complicated for a kindergartner and translated it into language and concepts that I understood. 

In retrospect, that moment was my introduction to systems thinking. 

Growing up, I never saw a repairman in our home. My dad fixed everything - from power tools, to busted lamps, to kitchen appliances, to bathroom plumbing fixtures, to cars. My dad was a cop, but he certainly had (& still has!) some killer skills in his workshop. Alongside my brothers, I grew my confidence around woodworker's and machinist's tools.

When I was fifteen (15) years old, my …

Presentation Hack: Giving Your Audience Digital Links

Imagine you're giving a presentation to a large group. During it, you referenced a few blog posts that dig a bit deeper into a particular topic. Or maybe you showed a video. Or quoted from a book. Or offered the entire slide deck to members of the audience. Or willing to give out a digital handout.

And now audience members want that link. Or that file. Or a copy of that research.

How do you handle the logistics of distributing these things?

I remember back a decade ago when audience members would line up after my presentations (flash drives in hand!) so I could plug them in, one (1) at a time, and copy digital files of my slides or other promised resource materials. Inevitably, at least one (1) of the flash drives would run out of memory before all the files were copied over. If you've attended conferences between, oh let's say 2005-2015, you know the drill!

Or maybe you posted your email address on the screen so attendees could reach out over the next week requesting the f…

Practical Implementation of Abstract Theory

Thom Dworak and I have been partnered up for a few years with our Growing Adaptive Thinking workshops for police command, supervisors, and trainers. One of our biggest struggles has been in balancing abstract theory with practical implementation. 

Take a quick look at one (1) of the topic lists we compiled during such a 3-day workshop:

I've long believed that the future of human development (ie: "training") is in concept- or principle-based learning strategies. This means that classrooms discuss a limited set of overarching or universal theories that apply to the broadest set of circumstances as possible, rather than a long list of narrowly applied "if-then" types of rules. 

With that, I also believe that our students and learners have been conditioned through formal schooling, sports team practices, and workplace training to ignore much of the abstract and underlying theory for the efficiency of simply learning the standardized procedures or methods.

Simon Sinek…

"Growing Adaptive Thinking" 3-day workshop - October 2018 in Chicago area

Thom Dworak and I have the following Growing Adaptive Thinking workshop scheduled:
Oct 09-11, 2018, North suburban Chicago; registration link. Registration is open to any and all law enforcement agency employees - both sworn officers and civilian staff. 

What's the philosophy of the program? Here's some background: 

Law enforcement culture tends to utilize a linear, technical mindset for training, intelligence, policy, operations, and supervision.  At the same time, police officers, supervisors, and command staff continue to struggle with complications from poor decision-making and leadership.  This antiquated framework is a carry over from an industrial education model primarily designed for efficiency via cost savings and the maximization of time...for training factory workers!  The unpredictable modern law enforcement environment is far from that of an assembly line.
Why should we consider adopting a new cultural philosophy in our training, intelligence, policy, operations, and…

Picky Eaters, Mil-Spec Weapons, & Amputees

I assume the above photo of a deer being butchered by its killer (hunter) offends some of you. To others, it's just something we'd rather not see. That's exactly why I chose it.  Not everyone wants to know how the sausage gets made...or from where the steak originated.

Taking it one (1) step higher -- not everyone wants to eat the sausage or the steak.


A huge frustration for me is socializing with other people who are picky eaters. My wife and I will eat about anything under the sun (we draw the line at animal brains and digestive systems, however!).   Picky eaters lack a curiosity or sense of adventure that excites my wife and me. Let's face it: They're boring and a pain in the the same time.

The thing about picky eaters is that no one will ever call themselves "a picky eater." They refute the seemingly negative connotation by rationalizing: 
"I'm not a picky eater. I just don't like a lot of different types of food." {…

Presentation Hack: Invitation to Debate

Do you ever invite your audience or students into debate? 
For some teachers, trainers, or public speakers, a passionate disagreement between audience members or students is something to be avoided and prevented at any cost. It might be seen as disruptive, a loss of control, abrasive, or uncivilized, or disrespectful. But for me, I embrace my role as a moderator of both deliberate and spontaneous debate in the classroom. 
Now I realize not every circumstance or setup is ideal for audience participation. Large conference style presentations do not always lend themselves well to open, organic discussion or debate. But for crowds under one-hundred in number [1], sparking a debate might be among the best methods to learn about complex topics.
Let's first define a complex topic. Complexity, in this context, is when a situation, challenge, opportunity, or circumstance: has no firm right or wrong answers or process;has unpredictable second- or third-order effects;has multiple perspective…

Blowing $#!t Up with Liminal Cynefin

Being Human podcast host Richard Atherton interviewed Dave Snowden for an episode (<-- link) titled Managing in Complexity.
I've written a bit on Cynefin and how it's positively impacted my perspective on policing -- tactical, community relations, investigative, intelligence, supervision, training, and policy to name a few aspects. Cynefin and Snowden's more generalized work continues to be helpful in understanding complex adaptive systems, various environments, and the functions within them. (If you're new to Cynefin, I recommend reading up on it, and maybe starting with this video. Otherwise, you'll be lost!)     
Cynefin is one of several frameworks or depictions that resonate with me. (OODA and of course The Illinois Model are a couple of the others.) I still have trouble wrapping my head around some of the stuff that Dave talks about, despite his excellent use of metaphors and examples from a wide selection of fields and subjects.  One of the hard-to-chew …