Problem solving and systems thinking LO20388

Leo Minnigh (
Fri, 15 Jan 1999 15:34:44 +0100 (MET)

Replying to LO20344 --

Dear LO'ers,

The answer of At puzzled me. Let me try to clarify this by adding my own
thoughts to his words.

> I think that your example is very important because it once again
> illustrates the difference between "study of form -- mechanics" and "study
> of content -- dynamics". This "form-content" or "mechanics-dynamics"
> complementary dual can be found in all walks of life, from physical
> phenomena (microscopical to macroscopical like the Reynolds example) to
> spiritual phenomena.
> Here is an example, taken from John Gunkler's recent contribution
> "Knowledge Management in Academia LO20324". It concerns the birthday cake.
> Its mechanical description would include things like its color, flavour,
> the amount of icing, how it's decorated, its size and weight, etc. Its
> dynamical description would be the recipe for baking and decorating it.

I have the feeling that I understand what you try to explain by giving
this example. In my words: one needs a description of the being + a
description of the result, together they form the mechanical description
AND the dynamical description of the way of how this result is realised.

In your second example this explanation holds too:

> Another example, taken from religion. A mechanical description of a
> religious life would include something like the Ten Commandments. A
> dynamical description would include something like living by the power of
> love.

But in your third example I became mystified:

> The third example is from languages. The mechanics of a language concerns
> its syntaxis with topics like morphology and grammer. The dynamics
> concerns its semantics with topics like etymology and metaphors.

Here I thought that the semantics (words and meaning of words) were the
ingredients, hence the mechanical description. Whereas the syntaxis (how
to organise the ingredients to get the result) is the dynamical

What is the reason of my misunderstanding?

In your last example:

> A last example is the Law of Entropy Production. Its dynamics concerns
> topics such as entropic force-flux pairs, chaos, edge of chaos,
> bifurcations, emergences or immergences, digestions, stability and
> baggage. Its mechanics concerns the seven essentialities of creativity,
> learning and self-organisation in general.

This is clear again. Apparantly the Reynoldsnumber is the mechanical
description; the Law of Entropy Production describes how to get
turbulences - the dynamical description.
I am glad with reading the following:

> In all problems concerning the incomplete, the "form-content" duality is
> essential to obtaining the solution. The problem is either an incomplete
> form or an incomplete content. The solution is to generate a complete form
> (by using the dynamics of the content) or to generate a complete content
> (by using the mechanics of the form). Thus the "form-content" duality is
> very important to systems thinking.

At least it means that my own thinking on turbulences in the tube of
Reynolds was not that bad.
The implications of this paragraph are imense and I must digest (dynamics)
this further to see and feel its full consequences.
Surprisingly, you use the word EITHER.

> In your example fo the flow of a liquid through a tube, the Reynolds
> number is typical of the mechanics of flow. (Traditional "hermitian"
> quantum mechanics is also like this.) This number describes a criterium
> for WHEN (mechanics) a turbulent flow will happen, but not HOW (dynamics)
> it will happen.

I think that in the above sentence the word WHEN should be replaced by IF.
The Reynolds number describes the conditions requiered. The word 'when'
could also have the meaning of the moment that turbulences will
occur. And in the present discussion, this confusion may lead to
misinterpretations. This mixing of words is completely understandable, if
you know that in At's and my language (Afrikaans, Dutch) there is a common
word for both, when and if. (A matter of semantics :-))

At continues:

> As you have noticed, the tube must be of sufficient length
> before the turbulences will show up. The how tells us why. Entropy has to
> be produced. Some of this extra entropy will be dispersed away as chaos.
> This diversity of becoming is controlled by transmibility factors. The
> rest of the entropy will lead to a local build up, pushing it to the edge
> of chaos where stability factors become important. In other words, when
> the force-flux pairs begin to operate, producing entropy, there will not
> be instaneous edge of chaos with bifucations. There must be a lcoal build
> up of entropy.

But I am still very curious about the WHEN. At what time and at what
distance from the beginning of the tube, these turbulences start? Is this
predictable from the Reynolds number (a dimensionless number that could
indicate distance and time; velocity of flow is one of the factors that
the Reynolds number contains)? Or in other words is the mechanical
description (Reynolds number) complete?

Please, dear follow readers, I hope that some of you will see that this
question is not philosophical, neither abstract. Keep in mind that if the
same principles of the physical world are valid in the world of mind,
these principles will give also some clues on the development of Learning
Organizations. I think that I am not the only one that like to visualise
the abstract world of mind in physical phenomena which are associated with

> This time lapse between the beginning of entropy production and when the
> edge of chaos has finally been reached, is very important to systems
> thinking. During this time there is much stress on the system. This
> stress put the stability of sub-structures to the test. Some may
> disintegrate before the edge of chaos has been reached. Obviously, if
> these unstable sub structures are crucial to the expected emergences,
> immergences rather than emergences may happen. The sub structures may be
> unstable in two major ways. They may be gradually be worn away by so
> called ablative immergences. But they may also crumble away by explosion
> or implosion. Consequently, if we decide to proceed to any edge of chaos,
> it must be done in a bold and sure manner to minimise the time spent for
> reaching the edge of chaos.

Is this last sentence not a contradiction to the favoured patience?

Why do I hammer so much on in this question of time? In the rich history
of this very list, I discovered in its archives (To our host Rick: this
archive is a tresury! and we could enjoy this jewel because you shaped it
in marvelous facets) each month again some quotes on the relevance of

At de Lange stated once (in a mail to Sherri Malouf LO11285; 13 Dec.
>Our present industrial civilisation, based on the paradigm 'the engineer
>and his machine', runs more than 95% on so-called nonrenewable energy and
>chemical resources (petroleum and coal). These sources are rich in 'being
>entropy' which thus makes it easy to mine them from nature in
>concentrated supplies and put them into containers to transport them to
>specific destinations. These resources are nonrenewable because it took
>nature billions of years through uncountably many emergences to provide
>them rich in 'being entropy'.

In that mail At continues with renewable energy resources (sun, wind; I
will add to these also water).
But what is important: time will lead to entropy-richness, if the acting
forces during the process will not be too 'pushy'.

Maybe it is not yet said, but good readers may have made the conclusion:
we, human beings, at the end of the evolotionary ladder of life must be
very rich in 'being entropy'. Developed after bilions of years, through an
uncountable number of emergences. So, the richness is in ourselves.

The question is now: how could we coalesce into a learning organization
which could emerge to an even higher degree of richness in 'being
entropy'? So we contain together a high amount of free energy to produce
a high amount of entropy.
How long does it take from the start of the coalescence to be a learning
Are we able to decipher the clues of the TOOLO number, which may give us
this answer.

> Furthermore, we must pay attention to the source (origin) of free energy
> which is actually used to drive the system to the edge of chaos If the
> bulk of it comes from outside the system, the changes are very good that
> the system will bifurcate into an immergence rather than an emergence. But
> if the system draws on its own sources and control its own dissipation, it
> is the opposite.
> But as you have noticed, leaving too little time or too short a path to
> reach the edge of chaos is perhaps the worst error of them all. Thus we
> have to excercise patience coupled with strong actions.

Let me just try to give some of the factors which could be part of the
TOOLO number (The number which indicates the conditions requiered to
transform a Ordinary Organization into a Learning Organization). I will do
this in analogy with the Reynolds number.

1. number of humans in the organization;

2.the sum of their individual amount of knowledge. Maybe this amount could
be destilated from the salaries (in comparison to the avarage salary in
that branche)

1 + 2 compose the 'mass' of the organization (1 = comparable with number
of atoms and 2 = atomic weights)

3. 'size' of the organization. Possibly the total value on the balance
might be suitable.

(1+2)/3 is a measure of density.

4. Velocity, this is a difficult one. It is the time between
the moment of ingoing of goods and the moment that the final products
leave the organization. So this is also a measure of efficiency.

5. Radius (in the Reynolds number). Also this is a difficult one. I am
thinking of the openness of the organization in respect with its
environment. I have no idea how to measure this. Maybe the avarage of
total amount of ingoing and outgoing goods (including information) in
respect to the total size of the organization.

6. Viscosity. This is a measure of flexibility. The more flexible, the
lower the viscosity. The more rigid the internal organization, the larger
the viscosity. So here, the organizational structure, its communication
channels job rotations and so on will play a role.

The total formula will now be: ((1+2)/3 * 4 * 5)/6. Since 6 is the only
factor in the denominator, it is an important one.

Well, we may think further on these factors. Which finally will generate a
dimensionless number. The TOOLO number. We may find the critical value
of the emergence of a Ordinary Organization into a Learning
Organization. I have given some probable factors. But remember the words
of At in another message (LO20274):

> For example, assume that we have
>determined the value of the TOOLO number and that it shows that the
>Ordinary Organisation cannot emerge into a Learning Organisation. How
>much will its value help us in transforming the OO into a LO?

And what do we really have in our hands if we know all of the mechanical
description? All of the IF-conditions.
If we don't know HOW the mechanisms of a emergence work, our free energy
is not yet used.

> Thank you very much for your most interesting contribution to our
> dialogue.

Thank you too. We must keep patient, but we do flow.

dr. Leo D. Minnigh
Library Technical University Delft
PO BOX 98, 2600 MG Delft, The Netherlands
Tel.: 31 15 2782226
Let your thoughts meander towards a sea of ideas.


Leo Minnigh <>

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