Saturday, 20 April 2013

Whole greater than the sum of the parts!

Realised I've been living a new word over the past few weeks and didn't even know it!

The word is 'equifinality' - what - well here is the Wikipedia definition:

"Equifinality is the principle that in open systems a given end state can be reached by many potential means. The term is due to Ludwig von Bertalanffy, the founder of General Systems Theory. He prefers this term, in contrast to "goal", in describing complex systems' similar or convergent behavior. It emphasizes that the same end state may be achieved via many different paths or trajectories. In closed systems, a direct cause-and-effect relationship exists between the initial condition and the final state of the system: When a computer's 'on' switch is pushed, the system powers up. Open systems (such as biological and social systems), however, operate quite differently. The idea of equifinality suggests that similar results may be achieved with different initial conditions and in many different ways. This phenomenon has also been referred to as isotelesis (Greek: ἴσος /isos/ "equal", τέλεσις /telesis/ "the intelligent direction of effort toward the achievement of an end.") when in games involving superrationality.

The previous post raised the issue of how to you start to define the requirements and projects for a complex system - essentially how can you make sure you have captured them all?

What you need of course is a very large dose of equifinality - you need to travel as many different paths through whatever it is the system is being designed to do as possible. These paths, of course, need to be both top-down and bottom-up and cover as many viewpoints of the system as possible.

So what sort of viewpoints are we talking about?

What about;

  • Physical architecture
  • Data - Information architecture
  • Business Process architecture
  • Security architecture
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Functional architecture 
  • User architecture

However, you may therefore need a degree in architecture to fully complete ;)

Final thought from the complexity course I'm doing is that even if you take all these paths you will still have some emergent property that will take you by surprise!

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