levels of understanding

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The levels of understanding framework is linked in with the systems thinking mindset that focuses on how things work.

Learning and levels of understanding --
For example, this framework provides further insight into the single and double loop learning processes. Levels of perspectives and actions are organized by the leverage they have to shape the future. The higher level perspectives and actions, which have a greater influence on the future, are associated with double loop learning and the lower ones single loop learning.

Leverage and actions in light of levels of understanding --
This framework also provides insight into the idea of where, or at what level, the most leverage can be gained to deal with events. There is not level better than the other, but choices to be made are framed by the levels of understanding. Some events must be reacted to. The event level of understanding is needed for that action. If the patterns of events are to be changed, the systemic structure causing the events must be changed. For greater change beyond that, to eliminate the events, the systemic system is replaced.

Levels of perspective and action from highest to lowest level --

  • Vision and Generative actions -- Vision is a desired future. A vision provides the impetus to go through the pain of questioning mental models and worldviews. Actions at this level are generative, bringing something into existence that did not exist before.
  • Mental Models and Reflective actions - Mental models reflect worldviews, the ideas and beliefs we use to guide our actions. We use them to explain cause and effect as we see them, and to give meaning to our experience. These ideas and beliefs form the assumptions upon which the design of the systemic structures are based. Reflective actions require the ability to surface, suspend, and question our own assumptions about how the world works and what is most important. They require a worldview shift.
  • Systemic Structures and Creative actions - Systemic structures are the ways in which the parts of a system are organized. These structures produce patterns and events. Actions at this level create new systemic structures, based on the mental model, which produce new patterns and events.
  • Patterns and Adaptive actions - Patterns form when a series of events are viewed over time, revealing trends and relationships between variables. Adaptive actions make the best use of the current system by adapting to the patterns.
  • Events and Reactive actions - Events are things that happen. Actions are reactive to the events as they occur, without recognition of the patterns.

Relation to strategy --
Strategy is about establishing and setting out to achieve a vision. The vision is compelling and inspiring. The achievement of well thought out visions require the development of new organizational capabilities, which require challenging and refining or redeveloping mental models. Short of this, simply recognizing and adapting to patterns is not strategy per se, but operating the existing business.