Mental Models, Constraints and Essentialities LO25418

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/06/00

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to you all.

I will try to make a connection between Senge's LO-discipline Mental
Models and Goldratt's Theory of Constraints, using my "art of deep
creativity". I will present a case study which involves an organisation as
immense as a nation. I will then bury a dream of mine as a creative

The case study will involve some chemistry too. Several chemical
industries have hit the dust because of the Mental Model that the
management echelon of such an industry need to know only management
science -- leave the chemistry to the lower echelons. At what level of
complexity does sureness end, or goes it right to the CEO as "where the
buck stops". Hopefully, the chemistry which you will now be following, may
help you to advance on what you have learned in school. If not, it may
help you to answer a serious question in the penultimate paragraph of this

In the recent topic "Work and Free Energy" (and you will later see why I
have left out the subtitle "The Dance of LEP on LEC") I wrote that an
equilbrium state in a system is identified by /_\F = 0. The equilbirum is
stable when for every form of energy both the entropic force [Y(2) -Y(1)]
= 0 and the entropic flux /_\X = 0.

Now let us become practical. We can buy in a hardware shop hydrochloric
acid with formula HCl. We think we buy pure HCl, but actually we buy "what
once had been" a saturated solution of HCl(g) in water H2O(l) -- where
the (g) means "gas" and the (l) means "liquid". In other words, we buy
"what once had been" HCl(aq) -- where the (aq) means "aquous" solution.

Why do I write "what once had been"?

Well, when HCl(g) dissolves in water H2O(l), some process happens
which we can write as
. HCl(g) + H2O(l) ==> HCl(aq)
The process happens spontaneously because of the lowering of
some "free energy " F, i.e /_\F < 0. This lowering of free energy drives
the "entropy production" /_\S needed for the formation of the more
complex HCl(aq) molecular cluster. It is a hydrochloric molecule
solvated (tightly surrounded) by about four water molecules. The
remainder of the "entropy production" becomes manifested as heat.
A student who knows his/her chemistry, will be able to calculate
/_\F and /_\S.

In the older days of chemistry it was said that the increase in entropy
was a result of the mixing of HCl and H2O into a more chaotic product. The
qualifications (g), (l) and (aq) warns us that there is more than that
which meets the eye. The gaseous molecule HCl(g) has two atoms. The
solvated molecule HCl(aq) has some 2 + 4 x (1 + 2) = 14 atoms arranged
into a cluster of five molecules. Entropy had to be produced to account
for this more complex organisation of molecules into a "solvated cluster".

So what a person buys in the store is not pure HCl(g) which is self
an obnoxious and poisonous gas. This gas has to be stored in a
cylinder under pressure with the inside protected by an inert coating
like teflon. The person indeed smells HCl(g) when turning off the lid
of the container because of a tiny reversal in the process
. HCl(g) + H2O(l) ==> HCl(aq)
Here we have the first indication of a Mental Model. The person
smells HCl(g), but the liquid inside the container is something
different, namely HCl(aq). The "identity" HCl occurs both in HCl(g)
and HCl(aq), but the (g) and (aq) makes this identity "categorical".
The essentiality impaired (constrained) here is sureness ("identity-

As soon as the HCl(aq) is formed, a next process also begins. The
HCl in the solvated HCl(aq) cluster reacts with one of the water
molecules in that cluster in a way which we can depict as
. HCl(aq) + H2O ==> H3O+(aq) + Cl-(aq)
The proton H+ (the + means positively charged) in HCl moves from
the HCl molecule to the oxygen O atom in the neutral H2O molecule
to form the positively charged hydroksonium ion H3O+. This ion
breaks away and get solvated too, i.e H3O+(aq). The solvated
chloride ion Cl-(aq) is left behind (the - means negatively charged).
Molecules are electrically neutral whereas ions are electrically

This process also needs a lowering /_\F of "free energy" F driving the
"entropy production" /_\S needed to shift the proton H+ from HCl to H2O to
form H3O+ and subsequently to form the more complex solvated H3O+(aq). The
remainder of /_\S is again liberated as heat. In other words, we begin
with cluster HCl(aq) and we end up with two clusters H3O+(aq) and
Cl-(aq). This indeed an increase in chemical organisation for which
"entropy production" is required.

So the person also does not buy a hydrochloric acid solution Cl(aq)
because of the spontaneous formation of H3O+(aq) and Cl-(aq). The person
actually buys a "solution of an equi-mixture of hydroxonium ions H30+(aq)
as the acid and choride ions Cl-(aq) as the complementary spectator".
Tell that to the shop keeper and see the stunned face ;-)

We have here the second indication of a Mental Model. The person thinks
he/she buys a concentrated solution HCl(aq), but actually the person buys
H3O+(aq) + Cl-(aq). The Mental Model here is thinking in terms fixed
objects rather than also processes. A lack of "becoming" was the
Constraint here. The "being" HCl(aq) could have "become" something else,
a possibility the person did not think of. The essentiality impaired
(constrained) here is liveness ("becoming-being").

But there is also a third Mental Model operating here. Perhaps we do not
observe that the H3O+(aq) + Cl-(aq) comes in an inert "chemical container"
(like glass or plastic), or if we did observe the "what", we do not ask
ourselves the "why"? Ignorance to this "chemical container" also function
as a constraint. The H3O+(aq) as acid does not react with the "chemical
container" or runs out through pores in it. So, what we have here, is for
the entropic flow /_\X = 0. It means no flow of H3O+(aq), either to react
with other substances or to seep through the walls of container. But the
entropic force [Y(2) - Y(1)] is definitely not zero. This is the very
reason why we buy the stuff!!! But what essentiality is involved in this
third Mental Model or Constraint? Will will have to travel some course to
understand it clearly.

Anyway, ahould the person ask the shop keeper for a for an "inert
container with a rheostasic labile equilibrium" of a "solution of an
equi-mixture of hydroxonium ions H30+(aq) as the acid and choride ions
Cl-(aq) as the complementary spectator", that shopkeeper will grab the
nearest phone and call for help.

We now go to our home to use that #hydrochloric acid#, perhaps to
neutralise a solution of #sodium hydroxide# which we have spilled. I use
the ## signs to indicate that there is more complexity than that which
meets the eye. With #hydrochloric acid# I actually mean that which made
the shopkeeper grabbing the nearest phone ;-) With #sodium hydroxide# I
mean a solution (mixture) of equal amounts of solvated sodium ions Na+(aq)
and solvated hydroxide ions OH-(aq). Here the OH-(aq) will act as the
base while the Na+(aq) is the complementary spectator ion. Just as the
complementary spectator ions Cl-(aq) are ESSENTIAL to the #hydrochloric
acid#, the complementary spectator ions Na+(aq) are ESSENTIAL to the
#sodium hydroxide#. The reason is the Law of Conservation of Electrical
Charge which is needed to maintain electrical neutrality.

When the two solutions finally react, we usually depict it as
. HCl(aq) + NaOH(aq) ==> NaCl(aq) + H2O(l)
. acid base salt
The salt NaCl here is sodium chloride, ordinary table salt. But
actually the following happens:
. H3O+(aq) + OH-(aq) ==> 2H2O(l)
A proton H+ moves from the H3O+(aq) as acid (leaving H2O
behind) to the OH-(aq) as base (forming another H2O). The
Na+(aq) and Cl-(aq) ions do not react at all -- they remain as
ESSENTIAL complementary spectator ions. Before the reaction
the Na+(aq) was essential to OH-(aq) and Cl-(aq) was essential
to H3O+(aq), but now they are essential to each other!

Again, for this neutralisation process to happen, the "free energy" F has
to decrease by /_\F < 0 so that entropy production /_\S > 0 can happen.
Once again, a student who knows his/her chemistry, will be able to
calculate /_\F and /_\S also for this process as well as how much of the
remainder of /_\S (after having transfered the H+ from H3O+ to OH-) will
be manifested as heat. We have now really reached the bottom of the free
energy. What is more stable than salt (NaCl) and water (H2O), especially
as a solution? The entire sea of all the oceans are filled with

Did you experienced a fourth Mental Model (Constraint) here? What makes
the effective connection in the neutralisation process -- the hydrochloric
acid HCl and sodium hydroxide NaOH, or the ions H3O+(aq) and OH-(aq)? The
essentiality possibly impaired (constrained) here is fruitfulness

The entire detailed description above was merely given to make you aware
of some Mental Models operating in a rather common household chemical
reaction -- the neutralisation of a basic sodium hydroxide solution with
an acidic hydrochloric solution. If this was all to it, then I would not
even have bothered to frustrate your minds with these details. But I now
want you to focus in the subsequent work on the "chemical container" which
I will in each case put between $$ signs, something which even most
chemists are oblivious to.

We mop up the neutralised spilt, squeese it into a $bucket$. Nothing
happens to the seemingly STABLE NaCl(aq) -- table salt solution. Then we
pour the NaCl(aq) of the $bucket$ into the $basin$ so that it runs into
the $drain pipe$ and subsequently the $sewage pipes$ where it becomes
diluted (hopefully if others do not the same also). It ends up in the
$concerete dams$ of the sewage works. Still nothing happens to the
seemingly STABLE NaCl(as). In these dams the many kinds of bacteria are
allowed to decompose all the undesired content of the sewage. Still
nothing happens to the seemingly STABLE NaCl(as). Eventually, purified
from all the unwanted stuff, clean water, except for some NaCl(aq) is
pumped into the $river$ which itself is outlined with rock or impermeable
clay. This clean water with some NaCl(aq) runs to the $sea$ where the
NaCl formed by our home operation joins al the other NaCl(aq) accumulated
through millions of years. Still nothing happens to the seemingly STABLE

However, along the river a farmer pumps some of this water with its
NaCl(aq) into an $irrigation system$. Still nothing happens to the
seemingly STABLE NaCl(as). This water is then irrigated over the crops
which have an $epidermic cell layer$. Still nothing happens to the
seemingly STABLE NaCl(as). Some of this water even reach the SOIL (note,
not $soil$). It is an OPEN SYSTEM (note, not $open system$) which took
millions of years and zillions of organisms in thousands of species to
form. Among other things, these organisms in COLLABORATION with RAIN (pure
water without any NaCl(aq) in it) were responsible for the gradual
leaching of salt (NaCl) from land to sea. This is why the ocean got salty
in the first place. The collective WORK of these organisms may seem to be
insignificant, but is it? Let us see.

The organisms (like bacteria, worms and moles) created holes according to
their size in the soil. These pores of various sizes allow the rain to
permeate and perculate through the porous part of the soil. Gradually some
NaCl (aq) gets leached out of the soil. What then happens? The soil
consists of two major components -- grains of inert $sand$ and microscopic
tiny plates of cative CLAY (note, not $clay$). The surface of every tiny
plate of clay is covered with negative charges. This is primarily so
because of silicate SiO4:: or aluminate AlO3.: units in their immense
complex structure. In the inside of the plate they get connected together
to form an immense lattice, but on the surface some of them remain
unbonded. It is by means of these unbonded electrons that the negative
charges are derived. The psotive sodium ions Na+ then bond
electrostatically to the negative charges on the surface of the clay

If I depict the clay plate as |_____| and the negative charges on it
as -|_____|- (showing two -ve charges), then we have for the Na+
adsorbed electrostatically on the surface
. Na+-|_____|-+Na
Note that the result is now electrically neutral. Thus, when two
such sodium saturated clay partical comes together as
. Na+-|_____|-+Na$ $Na+-|_____|-+Na
the $$ signs indicate that there is nothing which can keep them
together IN ANY SHAPE. They will simply fit close next to each
other and upon each other, leaving no pores between them. They
will fill every pore between the sand grains. The soil will lose its
ability to let water and oxygen through. We say the soil is "alkali
brack". The roots of plants as well as microbes in the soil will
die because of a lack of oxygen and water. Have you ever moved
around in your country side? Have you ever gazed upon the
desolation of an alkali brack soil?

Now when the Na+(aq) ions become leached out of the soil, we
might think that we will get is
. Na+-|_____|- -|_____|-+Na
But what we have forgot to think about, is positively charged ions
needed as ESSENTIAL complementary spectators to the clay
plates with their negative charges. We must have electrical neutrality.
So the opportunity now begins for the far less reactive multicharged
positive ions like Ca++ (calcium) and Fe+++ (iron) to show their
hand. Thus, when the Na+ gets leached out, some Ca++ gets in
between TWO plates to form
. Na+-|_____|-+Ca+-|_____|-+Na
Compare this with
. Na+-|_____|-+Na$ $Na+-|_____|-+Na
Because of ONE Ca ion having TWO positive charges rather than
TWO Na ions each having ONE positive charge, A BRIDGE is now
set up between the two clay plates. In other words, the
. Na+-|_____|-+Ca+-|_____|-+Na
is more than in
. Na+-|_____|-+Na$ $Na+-|_____|-+Na
This process is also spontaneous with /_\F < 0 and /_\S > 0. But
because of its immense complexity it requires the collaboration
WORKING weather and WORKING organisms to spead it up from
billions of years to some million years.

Now picture in terms of complexity terminology what happpens. The clay
particles (each complex) begin to set up even a more complexer structure
between them. They need not to lay flat against each other, but may now
take up all kinds of angles releative to each other. In other words, the
clay have changed from a LINEAR packaging to a FRACTAL packaging. This
opens up pores between the clay particles so that the soil becomes
permeable to water and oxygen. The soil becomes alive itself.

When the farmer pumps water with NaCl(aq) on the soil, the process
above is reversed. The FRACTAL packaging of
. ....+Ca+-|_____|-+Ca+-|_____|-+Ca....
gives way to the LINEAR packaging of
. $Na+-|_____|-+Na$ $Na+-|_____|-+Na$
as the clay complex is beginning to lose some of its commutation
because of 2Na+ ions displacing each Ca++ ion. Terrible, is it not?
What took millions of years to accomplish, becomes destroyed
within centuries, sometimes within decades and sometimes within
years. As a soil scientist more than thirty years ago I had to tell
this message of "keeping your soil alive" to farmers -- that soil is
an irreversible self-organising system just as a plant or an animal.
But it just did not work -- the complexity of it all went above their

I wish it would not be so with you fellow learners.

Are you becoming aware of the "dance of LEP on LEC"? Or is it a case of "I
am only interested in getting the work done"? What about the order
relation between WORK and FREE ENERGY?

The most important point which I now want to make is that when
the FRACTAL packaging of
. ....+Ca+-|_____|-+Ca+-|_____|-+Ca....
gives way to the LINEAR packaging of
. $Na+-|_____|-+Na$ $Na+-|_____|-+Na$
it is AGAIN a spontaneous with /_\F < 0 and /_\S > 0. The seemingly
STABLE NaCl(aq) have suddenly began to react once again because
finally it has come into contact with the soil (note, not $soil$) as
an OPEN system. The soil has no "chemical container" (closed
system boundary) to protect itself.

Both the "coming alive of the soil" and the "dying of the soil" are
spontaneous. But the former is constructive whereas the latter is
destructive. Why? Because we humans are ignorant to, in this case,
especially the essentiality openness. We throw salt into our $basins$ so
that it can move to the sewage $dams$ from where purified water (except
for the NaCl(aq) in it) are pumped into our $rivers$ so as to flow to the
$ocean$. ALMOST everywhere there seems to be $closures$. But SOMEWHERE
along the Chain of Processes (notice the TOC terminology here) some
innocent farmer irrigates with this water, polluted with NaCl(aq), so as
to supply more efficciently the hungry masses with food.

This seemingly STABLE NaCl(aq) suddenly comes into contact with an open
soil system (not $soil system$) and breaks up in it the homeostasic labile
equilbrium which took million of years to set up. Suddenly the STABLE
NaCl(aq) with /_\F = 0 all the $way$, triggers the change /_\F < 0 when
the way (not $way$) connects with a living soil (not $soil$). Death sets
in. Why? We did something against the way which nature had been following.
We polluted soil with ordinary table salt whereas nature has been moving
this salt from the soil to the sea for millions of years. What was STABLE
is not STABLE any more.

I have a dream -- how to provide tens of millions of peoples in Southern
Africa with jobs by teaching them marine culture. Southern Africa has a
protein famine like nowhere else in the world. Marine culture is the most
efficient way of producing protein. The land is there -- millions of
hectares of flat, desolated desert next to the sea. (These deserts on the
west side of a continent is a well known geographical feature haing a good
physical explanation.) But even for a desert, it has low enough salt to
sustain the lives of thousands of desert species. They are not abundant,
but they are dazzling diverse. Nature has done its job well of removing
salt from land to sea, even in the desert.

Will humans respect this process which took a million years to make live
soils (and even desert sands) on mother earth -- Gaia? When I wander along
the Skeleton Coast, the one thing which strikes me more than anything
else, is the openness of nature. The vast, grey Atlantic-ocean to the
west, the vast, cream sandy-flats to the east and the clear azurean blue
sky above. But because of the Mental Models which humans invariably have,
constraining their thinking and thus their deeds, they will (???)
transform these living deserts not into a human Utopia, but into a
desolated wasteland in which nothing will live. They will (???) not
respect the essentiality openness ("paradigm-open"), but will (???) think
that they can put the whole of nature into some mental container of theirs
as they will physically be doing with their marine culture in dams,
leaking and spilling all along.

Dear fellow learner, think about yourself. Did the two symbolic
. ....+Ca+-|_____|-+Ca+-|_____|-+Ca....
    $Na+-|_____|-+Na$ $Na+-|_____|-+Na$
not horrify you? Did they not drive you into mental dispair? The
top one tells about the essentiality openness. The bottom one
tells about a Mental Model and a Constraint. Perhaps, if the
concept of a LO does become common knowledge, it will take
some centuries to get spiritually rid of this Mental Model. But seen
as a Constraint, there is a spiritual and physical side to it. The
spiritual side of the Constraint may take some centuries to resolve.
But the physical side of the Constraint will take thousands of years
to correct. What better evidence do we not have than the once fertile
land in ancient Mesopotamia some five millenia ago.

Let us face it. We are not born with complete understanding of the seven
essentialities. We have to grow in the understanding of each by way of
experiences which will then emerge into tacit knowledge. We have to act
upon incomplete understanding of them. Should we regard the incomplete
understanding of them as of little importance, we will be bound to develop
Mental Models which Constrains our thinking and doing. But should we begin
to transform our organisations by way of an emergence into LOs, we will
have a brighter future.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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