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Jumpin’ Out

If you’re deeply embedded in a complex social system, it’s incredibly difficult to gain any insight into what the system you’re enmeshed in really does, or how it does what it does. Even though you’re an integral element of the system, your view is most likely obscured by your lack of interest in finding out or, more likely, by a lack of communication from the dudes in the penthouse. All you can see are trees. No forest, and no sun above the treetops.

A great way of “jumping out of the system” to get a better view and understanding is by modeling. By taking a stab at modeling the static structures and dynamic behaviors of the system you’re in, you can get a much better feel for what’s going on.

A formal language like UML or SysML paired with a good visual drawing tool like Visio can be a powerful tool set to help you gain perspective, but all you really need is a pencil and paper to start things off. Since your first few iterations will suck and be totally wrong, you’ll be throwing away lots of wood pulp if you don’t use an electronic tool. If you stick with it, you’ll acquire an understanding of what really happens in your system as opposed to what is espoused by those in charge.

All models are wrong, but some are useful. – George Box

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