Posts tagged ‘ladder of inference’

How the Ladder of Inference, the Semiotic Ladder and the Abstraction Ladder are related, and can be used for your benefit

The Abstraction Ladder is a good representation of the way our minds often seem to make abstraction “errors” by leaving out certain details. By doing this, we can better cater our message to our stakeholders, or at least we think we can. But by leaving out details you only tell a partial story. And a partial story is only a partial truth. So how do you know if you’re not hiding essential information? After all, if you look at something from a “large altitude”, the “world” below you will seem flat. You left out the dirty details. But in reality you and I know the world isn’t that flat at all. So what is then really the point in abstracting? What added value is there in abstracting or oversimplifying anything? To leave out the dirty details? Or just simply to share knowledge about certain details to those who don’t  want to know about the details? So far for the abstraction ladder.  The Semiotic Ladder is also a nice one. It is a guide to help you determinining the abstraction of the message you are conveying. It is geared towards stakeholders. If you are on a “low” abstraction level and fully into the dirty details, you probably want to convey a message on morphological level. If you climb higher on the semiotic ladder, you probably want to convey a different kind of message, for example geared towards stakeholders where you want to explain the “meaning” of a certain abstraction. So here we see a kinda connection between abstraction used in “object meaning” way (the semiotic ladder) and abstraction used in “value meaning” way (the abstraction ladder). And then ofcourse we also have the Ladder of Inference. So how does this ladder relate to the other two? Well, infact, I think the ladder of inference is helping us making abstraction errors (abstraction ladder) or meaning errors (semiotic ladder) if we encounter something where we have certain fear to dive deeper into detail. Ofcourse this is all just my interpretation of these three ladders and by no means theory or science of any kind…Decide for yourself if you find these valuable viewpoints or not.

Inspirational Thoughts of Great and Good Thinkers, Thought Leaders, Trendwatchers, Futurists and Others Combined

There are a lot of great thinkers out there. You can tell by reading their books, studying their theories, looking at the articles they publish, seeing how their viewpoints find their way into our world etc. I wonder what would happen if one could combine, integrate or otherwise bring together the expressions and thoughts from these Great Thinkers, Thought Leaders, Trendwatchers, Futurists, Authors, Humanists, Rationalists, Satirists, Moralists, Essayists, Masters, Inspirators (just to name a few “categories”)? Here’s a trial overview with in alfabetical order their names, and in between brackets the statements, thoughts, expressions or ideas which for several reasons personally inspired me to combine them into this list. They represent thoughts or values or ideas or concepts I personally believe in very much. Ofcourse this list will never be complete, please feel free to tip me for additions. If time allows, maybe I’ll combine this list into some kind of integrated mindmap or other oversight viewpoint. This post is updated each time I find a new statement I think should be added to the list.

  • Maya Angelou (1: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel; 2: The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart; 3: If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities; 4: Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option)
  • Jurgen Appelo (Agile Management, Management 3.0)
  • Aristoteles (Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom)
  • Chris Argyris (Defensive Routines, Double Loop Learning)
  • William Rosh Ashby (The Law of Requisite Variety, The Darkness Principle)
  • Martijn Aslander (Easycratie)
  • Paul Baran† (Internet pioneer, mesh-designing the Internet with distributed topology style)
  • Stafford Beer (Designing Freedom, Cybernetics)
  • Edward de Bono (There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns)
  • Charles Brower (Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions)
  • Winston Churchill (The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty)
  • Paulo Coelho (People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves)
  • Leonard Cohen (Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in)
  • Stephen Covey (The way we see the problem is the problem, 7 habits)
  • Johan Cruyff (Je gaat het pas zien als je het door hebt – You won’t start seeing it before you understand it)
  • W Edwards Deming (No one can enjoy learning if he must constantly be concerned about being graded for his performance)
  • Steve Denning (The most important story is not the one we tell, it is the one we generate in the mind of the listener)
  • Peter Drucker (Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast)
  • Eric Duquette (Do not allow yourself or others to be defined by your limitations, but rather, abilities)
  • Albert Einstein (1: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler; 2: We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them, 3: The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant; 4: Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.  The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary; Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere)
  • Doug Floyd (You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note)
  • Benjamin Franklin (Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn)
  • Gabor (If you want to achieve greatness stop asking for permission)
  • Galileo Galilei (You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself)
  • Luc Galoppin (If you can’t explain it to your grandmother, forget it!)
  • Mahatma Gandhi (1: You must be the change you want to see in the world; 2: Freedom isn’t worth having if it doesn’t include the freedom to make mistakes)
  • Antoni Gaudi (But man does not create…he discovers)
  • William Gibson (The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet)
  • Seth Godin (1: Small is the new big only when the person running the small thinks big. Don’t wait. Get small. Think big, 2:I wanna be the guy who fails the most)
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister)
  • Erving Goffman (Interaction Rituals)
  • Dany Gokey (Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity)
  • Josephine Green (Pancake Society)
  • Garrett Hardin (Tragedy of the Commons)
  • Samuel Ichiye Hawakaya (Ladder of Abstraction)
  • Dee Hock (The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.)
  • Eric Hoffer (Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature)
  • Grace Hopper (It’s always been done that way)
  • Victor Hugo (to love beauty is to see light)
  • David K. Hurst (Renewal requires destruction)
  • Steve Jobs (The art of leaving things out)
  • Joseph Joubert (Never cut what you can untie, the mind can tell us what not to do or avoid, the heart can tell us what to do)
  • Helen Keller (Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows)
  • Kevin Kelly (Make customers as smart as you are, Connect customer to customers, All things being equal choose technology that connects, Imagine your customers as employees)
  • John F. Kennedy (we go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult)
  • Thomas Kuhn (Ladder of Inference, You don’t see something until you have the right metafor to let you perceive it)
  • Dalai Lama ( 1: If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito; 2: Don’t try to invent everything yourself, you just don’t have the time for it; 3: Strive for modesty but it’s ok if it can’t be reached)
  • Niccolo Machiavelli (1: I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it, 2: It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved’3: Since it is difficult to join them together, it is safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking; 4: There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things)
  • William L. McKnight (If you put fences around people, you get sheep)
  • Margaret Mead (Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has)
  • Robert Metcalfe (the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system)
  • Geoffrey O. Moore (Dealing with Darwin, Universe of Innovation Types)
  • Willie Nelson (Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results)
  • Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (Give me courage to change things which must be changed;And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other)
  • Joseph Chilton Pearce (To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong)
  • Laurence J. Peter (The Peter Principle, “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”)
  • Jaap Peters (Het Rijnland Boekje)
  • Katasai Rakshasa (Those who fear the darkness have no idea what the light can do)
  • Joshua Cooper Ramo (Conformity to old ideas is lethal; it is rebellion that is going to change the planet)
  • Ayn Rand (The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me)
  • Kurt A. Richardson (If each element ‘knew’ what was happening to the system as a whole, all of the complexity would have to be present in that element)
  • Jeremy Rifkin (Third Industrial Revolution and the 5 pillars that will support it’s success)
  • Will Rogers (If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams)
  • Jim Rohn (Unless you change how you are, you will always have what you’ve got)
  • Betrand Russel (To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom)
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it)
  • Adi Da Samray (Relax. Nothing is under control.)
  • John Scully (The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious)
  • Peter Senge (Learning Organization)
  • George Bernard Shaw (1: Lack of money is the root of all evil, 2: You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?” 3:Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything)
  • Clay Shirki (Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution)
  • Herbert Simon (Bounded Rationality)
  • Simon Sinek? (Real collaboration is when the idea can no longer be traced to one person. It is legitimately ours.)
  • Ulbo De Sitter (founder of the sociotechnique in the Netherlands: “complex tasks in a simple organization instead of simple tasks in a complex organization”)
  • Dave Snowden (Cynefin Sensemaking Framework)
  • Henry David Thoreau (It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know)
  • Mark Twain (Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain)
  • Lao-Tzu (Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication)
  • Voltaire (Common Sense is not so Common)
  • Mathieu Weggeman (The faster you get smarter, the sooner you will be dumber)
  • Margaret Wheatley (It’s lonely to be in the future… first)
  • Stuart Wilde (Everything is out there waiting for you. All you have to do is walk up and declare yourself in. No need for permission. You just need courage to say, “Include me”. Providing you have the energy to pull it off you can do what you like. And the Universal Law, being impartial, will be only too delighted to deliver.)
  • Frank Zappa (Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible)

Finally, Albert Einstein once quoted: great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds. Given this quote, I sincerely hope this post will be read by others (be it great spirits/visionairs just like the ones listed here or anybody else) so that an even more combined vision can be created together with all of you who read this and like to extend the list.

Of Metaphores, Modeling, Thomas Kuhn, the Ladder of Inference and Loose Coupling

I have been wondering many times why it seems so difficult for certain people to change some of their old habits in favor of new (better) ones. Even if you provide numerous rational arguments why a new habit could be beneficial, people just don’t seem to be able to dislearn the old habit. This has a lot to do with the inner workings of the human brain and is documented behavior called the Ladder of Inference. The Ladder shows how most people often tend to fallback to single-loop learning instead of double or even triple-loop learning and thus are not open to new realities, however valid these are. People’s assumptions and beliefs filter any new experience and are one of the main reasons why it is sometimes so difficult to convince someone. So it would be nice if we could influence people to climb down the inference ladder, learn them some NEW insights, and let them reclimb the ladder again with new insights. I have the hypothesis that delicately choosen metaphors can help in conveying a new meaning or a new message to a theme under consideration. If supported by the right kind of visualization, metaphors are worth their value in gold and should stimulate to abandon single-loop learning practices. Or to speak with Thomas Kuhn: you don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it. So we need to have some kind of metaphor management here: not only carefully selecting the metaphor that needs to be explained, but also the supporting visualisation that helps people convey new meaning. A good metaphor is then nothing more than a model of some new reality you want to explain to someone else. A good metaphor should leave behind some permanent trace in the receivers brain. In that case it will not only be remembered very good but can also be re-visualised in new contexts.

Lets say you want to explain the difference between interoperability and integration. A metaphor that can help visualizing this example topic could be according to the figure below. I like to refer to this figure as “Interoperability eats Integration” and will write about this in another post.

Suppose you explained that the small fishes on the left represent Interoperability (let’s call this the Interop fish) and that the big fish on the right represents Integration (let’s call this the Integration fish). Now you can easily start explaining differences and commonalities. For instance, the Interop fish could be used to explain that it has a high redundancy (it doesn’t matter if one or a few small fishes get lost, because the others still “interop” together to form a big fish). The integrated fish however represents a single point of failure and is more vulnerable in that sense. The interop fish is highly modular, loosely coupled by the integrate fish is only one tightly coupled module. The interop fish is highly adaptive to it’s environment and can quickly change direction. The integrated fish, because it’s big and slow, will not be able to adapt as quickly. So especially for larger organizations, having a (small) collection of highly effective metaphors should be able to help achieving better collective mental models, especially around complex themes.

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