The other day I was responding
to the ideas of Steve DeAngelis
and as a parenthetical aside I listed the meta-principles
that have globally systemic application in the age of Globalization. One of those principles was Modularity
. Meta-principles, as I conceive the term, are rules that govern the system of systems that we call the world. We see applicability on all levels and domains. I will offer the caveat that I may be overly enthusiastic here - niche experts probably can point to exceptions that I am unaware of - but at a minumum the parameters of influence of those concepts I have designated "meta-principles" are exceptionally
broad even when not universalistic. I'm personally more interested in human-scale, temporal events than in the non-human, theoretical, nano- or cosmological physical extremes.
The essence of modularity in a complex network system is getting to have your cake and eat it too. As effective, flexible and adaptive as scale free networks might be compared with traditional, hierarchical, 20th century systems or randomly distributed networks, modular ones are better- at least in terms of human networks. I can't speak for non-human systems ( go ask Dr. Von
Therefore, I was delighted
to discover today that in this post
by strategic thinking guru Art Hutchinson
had covered Modularity in some detail last August
:"To use another analogy, scenarios are also too often vertically integrated, e.g., in the way that the computer industry was until the mid/late 1980's, or the steel and automotive industries were in the early part of the 20th century. One either buys the final product from company A or one buys the final product from company B. One does not have the option of buying and assembling smaller components from a variety of more specialized suppliers. It is difficult to see how scenario A intersects or diverges from scenario B. They are simply different.
One drawback of this monolithic approach is that strategic discussions can become more binary than insightful. As we discussed last week, comparing scenarios can be a subjective and labor-intensive chore.
What is the antidote to all this? Modularity. Lego blocks. Tinker Toys. Mad Libs. The computer industry after the mid 1990's. The automotive industry of today. Jazz.
We approach scenarios with an assumption that a library of discrete but hypothetical future milestones (aka, 'events' or ''headlines') must be separate from a set of visions or 'endstates' for how the future might turn out. The endstates provide broad guidance to anchor 'big vision' thinking in several different directions but, (and this is key), without spelling out a particular way that any of those visions might be achieved. Modular. Putting endstates together with events is the scenario-building process. It is anything but monolithic. It may happen in multiple ways depending upon who's thinking about it and what new information is brought to the table, (e.g., real newspaper headlines as the emerge over time). But like jazz, there are certain patterns and commonalities of logic that start to emerge no matter who is building them. E.g., these events tend to precede these others; these are precursors to these, which are present in multiple scenarios, and these over here are forks in the road between two particular scenarios. These are interesting but largely irrelevant to two scenarios, critical to one, and moderately important but not essential to another.
The piece parts of modular scenarios may be assembled in different ways, but with clear points for comparison (in the form of the discrete events). Points of intersection and divergence between scenarios become much clearer. Reassembly becomes possible as new visions/endstates emerge, or as the relationships between scenarios morph and change. Monolithic scenarios can be useful at a single point in time, for thinking about a particular business problem. Modular scenarios are critical to thinking about modular business architecture and its open-ended possibilities. I.e., how might the value components, business units, and functions of an industry or an enterprise be recombined - acquired, divested, re-organized, re-aligned - to better fulfill a mission, be more efficient, etc.?"
Well said Art.
I like it when smart people save me blogging time.