Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Shape of the Trap: DMC among other things

Top: from US Patent No. 6,655,077 titled “Trap for a mouse” Bottom: DMC Development Review Process

A trap is a trap only for creatures which cannot solve the problem that it sets. Man-traps are dangerous only in relation to the limitations on what men can see and value and do. The nature of the trap is a function of the nature of the trapped......With the shape of the trap in our minds, we shall be better able to see the relevance of our limitations and to question those assumptions about ourselves which are most inept to the activity and the experience of being human now. - Geoffrey Vickers, Freedom in a Rocking Boat

Again with the click bait and switch

So, ok. DMC is not a trap. At least not in the sense we usually understand traps. Vickers’ observation about the function of a trap is a reference to the central challenge posed by complex human systems. We are ensnared by our own limitations and assumptions. Importantly the “systemic” traps to which Vickers wants to alert us are not “things” that simply arise ex nihilo - out of nothing.

These traps are built by people. There is benefit to be derived by first recognizing them as such. One of DMC’s early attempts at sloganeering excitement was, “Let’s build this thing!” The slogan said more perhaps than it intended. It wasn’t “let’s build something” or “let’s build anything.” It was let's build “This Thing” - a Destination Medical Center.

What makes building This Thing even more complicated than just being the BIG idea and GRAND plan it is,  is that we must build "This Thing" right where we have already built something else - the city of Rochester, Minnesota. DMC will rise among other things. Among those many other things are the rules - codified or not - by which things get done or do not get done.

And that brings us back to complex human systems. These systems are of our own creation. Born out of our own best efforts to make something of and for ourselves. These systems do not occur naturally. They are constructed socially in our daily activities, our bureaucracies, our civic institutions, customs, mores, routines and shared beliefs; capabilities and competences; lifestyles and practices; institutional arrangements and regulations; associations, affinities, networks, affections, and legally binding contracts.

These systems inform how things get done in government, markets, and civil society. These systems determine what gets done. These systems define what is even possible to think about even being done. These systems decide what gets counted and thus what counts.

We create these systems and then work within the systems we have created. We create the rules, then live by the rules we create including rules for creating and changing the rules; and, rules for who gets to make the rules; and, the rules they use to make the rules that must in turn obey the rules that have been made to make them.

And it keeps going on. Often it passes without notice. Sometimes it gets noticed in a big way. But, noticed or not “the trap” is always there.

Regime changed: being DMC in the process of becoming DMC

Whatever it is DMC is in the process of becoming, it is becoming This Thing within the systems - most immediately, the city - that already exists. In doing so, it brings to bear rules of its own. Rules supported here - Rochester. Created there - St. Paul. Returning now to Rochester in ways that are finally being noticed. Noticed because rules get most noticed most when the rules are broken.

Recently, rules were broken. Rules that were overlooked. Rules that were there, but not yet written. Rules that existed strategically, but not yet tactically. Rules that change the rules. Rules that change the rules for making rules. Rules that change the ruling system of rules - which is another way of saying, the regime.

Sorting through the dualities of structure can make the brain hurt. So, we don't do it very often and never very completely. Also, it is probably not all that often we need to do so. We find that things generally work out, even if they don't last. Even when nothing is working out, it somehow keeps going on. So the days pass. Best not to think about it too much.

But: Vickers cautions us: "...[W]e the trapped tend to take our own state of mind for granted --- which is partly why we are trapped."

The moral:

The sound you heard back when the Holiday Inn deal collapsed was not - as some might imagine - a thunderous crack of doom. It was the sharp snap of a trap.

The second mouse will get that cheese.

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