Artefact 234 – Your Letters

I sent out the latest edition of the Artefacts newsletter earlier this week, 3000+ words on a variety of things. Interestingly, various people got in touch with contributions, thoughts, questions, and more, but all via different platforms. There was no one place to share responses which other people might see and get something from too.

something something platform fragmentation…

Anyway, as a possible one-off, here’s the Artefacts Letter Page – a response to some of the correspondence which might be useful for others.

Nick writes

Having been in a set of Wardley Mapping sessions for the last couple of weeks – the point about the process of mapping being potentially of more value then the maps that come out of the process really hit home. 

The pointer to Jeet Kune Do was both useful and fascinating, and something I can mine for metaphors. If I wanted to go one level deeper than Wikipedia in understanding the thinking behind it, do you have any recommended books before I start asking around?

I’m no expert in Wardley Mapping, though the quote from Dr Roser Pujadas in the newsletter (“Mapping is a social practice of sensemaking that shifts from individual cognition to shared understanding”.) was taken from her talk at one of the Map Camp conferences (2019 I think..?).

And not long after that, I tried some for a client, rather than with a client, as circumstances dictated, and it didn’t take. I walked through the stages of the mapping, and implicit recommendations… yet would have been better to stick to just the latter.

Maybe maps in general, and Wardley Maps in particular, are an artefact of a much deeper, richer conversation between people in this wort of work context, and hopeless if you just show people the map afterwards.

Good question on the Jeet Kune Do stuff, I think most of my learning about it was just internet reading rather than specific books. I’ve found an old talk I gave in Norway here, where I’m talking about it specifically as an approach to learn from, and uses the famous ‘Be Water’ clip to illustrate the deeper idea.

But another reader has something related…

Andy writes…

I find myself wondering if (system) mapping is a zeitgeisty symptom of dominance and/or control issues (ergo also an acknowledgement of the increasing loss/lack of it in our late-stage civilisational entropy). Designers will presumably continue to make bigger, more complex maps to compensate?

Bruce Lee / methods and process fetishisation also reminds me of shuharu (follow/break/transcend the rules). A concept I think I’m adopting as the new Universal Theory of Everything (Pace Layers 2.0?)

Firstly, I agree in a roundabout way about some of the underpinning symptoms (dominance/control/existential dread etc). I also wonder if it’s in part because Designers (note the capital D) are furnished with the skill-sets and tools to, and the heart of make, make pretty visualisations of things. And the prettier something looks, the less people feel as if it’s an emerging invitation to question, rather than a final, declarative vision (and to be accepted or rejected wholesale).

Secondly, I love the shuhari and will fall down that rabbit hole a little more I think. On first glance, it makes me also think of the story of the apprentice / journeyman / guildmaster progress as told in The Craftsman by Richard Sennett; start just by copying the form (the rules), then travel to see how the rules are applied in different contexts, and then finally present to a local guild your own version of how the rules would be constituted in your own house.

Kirsten writes…

I was also intrigued by the idea of how frameworks come and go – that they have a lifespan and that no one has really come up with one for the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world we find ourselves in. A colleague and I have talked at length about how frameworks in these times might just be true artifacts – a snippet, a map, a place to take notes – but certainly not a way to make decisions when the minute after you fill in the framework, the world has changed.

Instead, we need tools to help us recognize the upcoming pivots we need to make. Take the decision….there are no wrong ones….and be watching for the signals that you need to adjust. How do we recognize these signals? What are the signals? Can we see them fast enough? Are we agile enough to change at the pace we need to? Can we make the initial decision fast enough and make the next one fast enough, etc?

A way, or even a ‘place’, to make these decisions, is maybe a good way to think about these artefacts/artifacts (choose whichever you wish, transatlantic friends). And then they can be discarded, as the decision is agreed. They’re more tools in that respect than maps, and support collective exploration and agreed direction. I’ve not used Cynefin nearly enough to properly understand it’s usefulness in different circumstances, but from what I do think I know is that it helps you see what sort of system you’re in, and what decision you might take next.

On finding those upcoming pivots and the like, one of the ways we’ve used Zenko Mapping as a framework in this case is to ask people to describe projects by identifying ‘5 key moments where a project changed’. Over time, you can start collecting these together across projects, and start to spot patterns around what needs to change and where.

Louis writes…

I completely agree on the triad-ness of Unsustainability, Sustainability, Regenerative. There’s lots of people looking to reach closed-loop production systems first, then regenerative. Regenerative is going to have a completely different manifestation/impact than a closed-loop system, which can at times feel like a material version of the minor efficiency gains cars are chasing.

This is my gut feeling too, though lots more reading and thinking to be done. Just ‘making a sustainable version of X’ does not naturally led to ‘making Y which replaces the extractive nature of X in the first place, PLUS starts to regenerate some of etc damage done’.

Mark writes…

I like the anti fragile and regenerative approach/idea. Are you aware of Frijof Capra and his Web of Life book?

I recently read it and what you wrote reminded me of the chaos and velocity of metabolism of cells and how that whole process is quite chaotic but also regenerative. I think this concept also links into entropy but I wouldn’t know how to combine all those ideas and make it fun and interactive in a workshop for a purpose.

I am not aware of The Web of Life, but it’s now added to the list. You pick up on a really good point too about how do you take these ideas, and embed them practically in formats (workshops, frameworks, even talks) that gives people more reason to do them than to not. I like to think that’s what I’m fairly good at after doing it for a while, but grappling something this complex is making me think very hard about it indeed.