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Re: [ba-ohs-talk] Solving complex problems - Requirements and Constraints

Perhaps these papers by Robert E. Horn will help?

< http://www.stanford.edu/~rhorn/artclTrapsOfFormalLogic.html >

(A presentation to the “Foundations in the Knowledge Economy” at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, July 16, 2001)
.< http://www.stanford.edu/~rhorn/images/SpchPackard/spchKnwldgPACKARD.pdf >
Social Messes
"They’ve been called “wicked problems.” (by Horst Rittle) They’ve been called “ill-structured problems.” (by Ian Mitroff) I call them “social messes.” (after Russell Ackoff, who simply refers to them as “messes”) What they are not is merely problems. Problems have solutions. Messes do not have straightforward solutions. Social messes

• are more than complicated and complex. They are ambiguous.

• contain considerable uncertainty – even as to what the conditions are, let alone what the appropriate actions might be

• are bounded by great constraints and are tightly interconnected, economically, socially, politically, technologically

• are seen differently from different points of view, and quite different worldviews

• contain many value conflicts

• are often a-logical or illogical

They are the messes of drugs and gangs and ethnic conflict and international crime syndicates, messes that have strong links to civil wars in Columbia and the international small arms trade and globalization and the rapid advance of technology. They are also the more local messes, such as a couple I have been working on."

They will be visual. Here are some examples.
< http://www.macrovu.com/CCTHowItWork1.html >
How knowledge maps can improve public policy discussions
"Very preliminary evaluations show that knowledge maps can contribute significantly to better knowledge management in complex policy discussion and decisions. They:

• show the logical and visual structure of the emerging arguments, viewpoints, empirical data, scenarios, trends, policy options (making communication more effective) and help keep the big picture from being obscured by the details.

• enable presuppositions to surface and be carried along with the debate or made a subject of the debate (enabling a richer discourse to take place without getting off track).

• allow more rapid analysis of the subject matter by committees and policy makers

• help structure the flow of complex discussions (so that meetings are more productive and less time consuming), enabling rapid integration of diverse points of view.

• increase an appreciation for the complexity of the issues the group is addressing, permitting faster learning by experts and the general public.

• are visually appealing, colorful, and incorporate useful metaphors and images that encapsulate values and attitudes.

• enable participants who have missed meetings to catch up quickly.

• increase the chance of participants talking to each other, not past each other, bringing faster consensus in meetings.

• help participants to keep working on the problems using the Web while separated by geographical distance."


"I am convinced that the knowledge maps I’ve described can make a substantial contribution to a worrying condition of present day America -- the fact that more and more people feel left out of democratic public debate to the point of giving up on it. Too many people lack the ability to follow what are often highly arcane and complex discussions.

The life of our republic would be very different if, for the next generation, some foundations use the knowledge map methodology to make informed deliberation available to all Americans."

"Dennis E. Hamilton" wrote:


Thank you.  It is amazing how rich some of the exchanges have been lately.
Also, in some sense it is inspired as the result of someone taking an
apparently strong fixed position!  It seems to have some others look at what
is the unrecognized fixed position that is latent in our easy acceptance of
some viewpoints and not others.  One valuable quality of participants here
is that they are willing to look when asked what has them accept something

I have a request.  Working in a different and more narrowly-technical
setting, I recently used "requirements and constraints" in a note designed
to bring another discussion back from conflicting proposed solutions to
agreement on requirements and constraints.  I have used that pairing in the
past, but my latest effort showed me that I am not very accomplished at
getting to the requirements (stripped of commitments to particular
solutions) and distinguishing them from constraints.

Do you know somewhere that has "requirements and constraints" laid out in
more detail?  I want to raise my competence in that area.

-- Dennis

Dennis E. Hamilton
AIIM DMware Technical Coordinator
mailto:dennis.hamilton@acm.org  tel. +1-206-932-6970
http://DMware.info/             cel. +1-206-779-9430
     ODMA Support http://ODMA.info/

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-ba-ohs-talk@bootstrap.org
[mailto:owner-ba-ohs-talk@bootstrap.org]On Behalf Of Garold (Gary) L.
Sent: Thursday, September 12, 2002 16:30
To: Ba-Ohs-Talk
Subject: [ba-ohs-talk] Solving complex problems

[ ... ]

Note that this is dramatically different from obtaining everyone’s view of
how to solve the problem. Views of solutions may give a handle to the
concerns, the proposed solutions are not requirements or constraints, and
tends to promote the polarization that can stall fruitful discussion.

Let’s take a crack at some definitions.

Situation – the actual state of affairs. This has nearly been corrupted to
mean “an undesirable state of affairs”, but I intend this in its emotionally
neutral form. Note that statements of the situation are impacted by
individual perception, amount of information, viewpoint, etc.
Here is an area where open discussion and large-scale participation can be
extremely useful.

Problem – an undesirable state of affairs, a departure from the ideal scene,
a situation that needs to be changed. This must e stated in terms of
outcomes, not proposed solutions.

Proposal or Solution – some change in the existing situation that claims to
be workable and to move the situation in the direction of meeting more of
the concerns that cause the situation to be seen as a problem.

[ ... ]

As the set of concerns develops, it reaches a point where we can attempt to
design a solution that takes the requirements and constraints into account.
Each proposed solution needs to be evaluated as to the extent to which it
addresses each concern, and how the solution can be improved. Designing such
solutions is not easy, but until we know what the requirements and
constraints really are, starting polarized arguments over proposed solutions
that were never designed, validated as workable, and reviewed for impact is
counter productive.

There are system development technologies that attempt to do some of this
that may serve as models.

[ ... ]