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December 19, 2022

Bread and systems


Sometimes the exploration of complex systems can take unexpected forms. During our last meeting, one of the first exercises was to provide a drawing, without using written instructions in verbal form, with instructions for making toast (more about this little exercise here). It may seem an unorthodox approach, but even in this way it is easy to discover many interesting things about systems and the way in which each of us deals with and perceives them.

We can start from the flour ...
... or from a loaf of bread, or from slices, it depends on how wide our horizon will be.

Above you can observe some of the results and it is easy to immediately notice how everyone first decided what the boundaries of the system under analysis were. Obviously it is different to start from flour or from a slice of bread. What are the aspects that we can take for granted, what does the choice of our horizon of observation depend on? What impact will it have on our understanding of the process, and on our eventual modifications or improvements?

In two of these 3 drawings we can see the attempt to include the human factor. In the first as part of the process "what do I put on toast?" in the second more as an expectation or consequence. In the third, however, the potential beneficiary of the process does not appear. Obviously there's no right or wrong way to go about it, but it's interesting to note how different we can be in the details and at the same time how much the general tendency is to focus within certain limits. In fact, no one has added the farmer who cultivated the wheat, the central station which supplies the energy for toasting or baking the bread, the sun which guarantees the growth of the plants, etc ...

However, everyone notices and focuses on different aspects of the observed system and this makes us understand that having different observers increases the ability to understand a system as a whole.

This is the recording of our small laboratory led by Giulio, feel free to test or reproduce the exercise within your working groups, associations, and offices.

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