Vanderbuilt VCBH Innovation Center
What? Why? How to Make One
MG Taylor navCenters are neutral environments designed to facilitate and augment human collaboration and the production of knowledge work the result of which is personal and organizational transformation.
The increasing rate of the rate of change, the growth of complexity and the scale and scope of human activities, globally, has started a dynamic that threatens to overwhelm the very society that created it. This dynamic is impacting not only large institutions; it is equally challenging to enterprises of all sizes, even individuals. It is unnecessarily destroying the plant and animal population of the planet. Beyond these negative circumstances, which are largely the unintended consequenses of the industrial era successes, there are a number of opportunities within reach of humanity - on all levels of social organization - that if successfully met can propel us into a new area of possibilities, wealth and success.
Actions taken by individuals and organizations in response to this increasing change and complexity, themselves, increase the rate of change, the resulting complexity and the scale of human impact. We have created a giant positive feedback loop; a dynamic feeding on itself. This is likely to be either net out as an “increasing return” benefit or an ever accelerating negative decline; dynamic situations like this rarely stay in the middle. At some point, the system will achieve a new level; our task is to encourage the creation of a positive one.
Our society finds itself confronting a complex array of systemic problems. My metaphor of a systemic problem is a river running through 3 states, 10 counties and 32 cities. Who is responsible? Who pollutes, it cleans it up, employs it, manages it? The answer is no ONE. All the important, challenging and presently dangerous problems are systemic; the majority of our responses are incremental; this results in more problems; we are creating a huge economy-driven problem generating machine not a stable society. Often, when confronted with “problems,” we think we are facing, as example, a simple issue of economics, a political enemy or a shift in weather; more often than not, these are the symptom of a system level disorder that no parts level “fix” will solve, only make worse.
To be improved, a system has to be approached on its own level; as a system. This is a requisite variety issue. The variety of the response has to mach that of the challenge; otherwise, unintended consequences abound. To create variety equal to a large-scale complex system problem requires many resources and participants in the solution process who will “speak” with many voices from many vantage points in many languages representing many paradigms. Standard meeting, work and governance practices cannot deal with this circumstance. With too limited a tool-kit, people and organizations inevitably try to scale down the problem to fit the “solution-set” made possible by available processes and assumed resources. Instead, they must muster an Appropriate Response by scaling and facilitating necessary resources (accomplished by growing their ValueWeb) to fit the nature of the problem.
We created MG Taylor to address this dilemma. Our answer is the architecture of our System and Method. Presently, the best know expressions of this IP are DesignShops, NavCenters, ValueWebs and PatchWorks Designs. “Structure wins;” our approach is structural; it addresses the underlying nature of the issues in focus and brings key elements of the system itself to act upon itself. Only if the system is acting upon itself can there be requisite variety; V=V. Our System and Method is the trim-tap that moves the rudder that steers the ship. Structure in this context, includes the structure of paradigms, the assumptions of ideas, and the architecture of languages; the social/political/economic/organizational aspects of enterprises; the physical environments in which people work, the embedded biases of their technology and the often hidden tautological consequences of entrained work processes.
There are strict rules by which a new work architecture can be created and successfully employed as an OS in a complex organizational environment. Complex systems have to be free to emerge; to “escape to a higher level.” Direct intervention into a system is generally disastrous. We call this free space the Zone of Emergence; the Zone has to be bounded by time, place, circumstance, information and intention; it has to be supported by a rigorous design process that promotes Group Genius; this process has to function with minimal intrinsic structural bias of the outcome. Those conducting the process have to be true Transition Managers. These elements, properly employed, make up an Appropriate Response.
The Zone of Emergence is framed by multiple levels of recursion and cycles of iteration; this environment is a rule-based system individually designed and configured for each specific exercise.
The ENGINE that supports Taylor processes and environments is the 10 Step Process; practicing this process makes mind-like links between ValueWeb nodes and creates strong MEMORY in the system.
DesignShops, NavCenters, Valuewebs and PatchWorks designs are not the Taylor System and Method they are expressions of it. DesignShops (typically an event three to four days long, 10 to 12 hours each day, with 50 to 150 participants, Sponsors and Knowledgeworkers active in a fully functioning NavCenter or RDS) is the MINIMUM scale and scope that can represent and employ a complete application of the System and Method. A NavCenter, and the relevant embedded processes, is the physical PLACE of the System and Method (augmented with RemotePresence and RemoteCollaboration systems). A robust, self-sustaining ValueWeb is a far fuller expression of the System and Method. ValueWebs require the PatchWorks architecture process in order to operate. PatchWorks is the equivalent of the designShop on larger scales (levels) of recursion. The 10 Step process is essential on all levels of recursion of the System if the necessary processes are to be sustained.
Today, enterprises be they governments, businesses or non-profits are always trying to fix themselves to their eternal frustration. They should, instead, focus on the development and augmentation of their ValueWeb. It is the ValueWeb that creates and distributes value not the individual entities (except to the extent that they are ValueWebs, themselves). A NavCenter may be “owned” by a discrete organization but must focus on that organization’s ValueWeb in order to truly succeed.
This is both a resource issue and a factor of perspective. A ValueWeb is the immediate local ecology of any enterprise. It is both the environment of an enterprise and its source of resources. It is the ENTERPRISE, in the broadest sense, and the market. Creating a healthy sustainable ValueWeb is the first task; becoming a “fit” member is the second. The NavCenter is the neutral ground and facilitates the system integration function of an organization’s ValueWeb. As it reaches maturity and grows, a Web will have many centers and integration places as the system integration function become distributed. This aspect of its architecture changes as the enterprise moves through natural life cycles.
ValueWebs move through a life cycle as will the many entities that make them up. These will all be at different stages except at extreme times such a total start-up condition exists or the web is under massive external or internal threat as a whole. The NavCenter node (or nodes) has to be able to facilitate this colophony of stages, as well as, deal with its own stage condition. Just as a ValueWeb’s NavCenter can facilitate this aspect of its Web, a cross Web ValueWeb of NavCenters is essential for keeping the individual NavCenters healthy. This is why we emphasize this aspect of NavCenter creation and ongoing use. It takes a NavCenter to make a NavCenter and a ValueWeb of Centers to sustain one.
NavCenters are not created in the abstract nor in a vacuum; the are BUILT one day at a time by doing work. They are exercised into existence; they are the consequence of practice.
NavCenters are a new way of working. This way (dogu) is based on design as the major epistemology of the process. In this System and method, problems are not given - conditions are - problems are created as the first cycle of the creative process the solved (dissolved, actually) engineered and implemented in progressive iterations of work.
As NavCenters facilitate their client’s creative process they are being educated (to lead out) to their own development. As this process unfolds, the individualized aspects that make up each Center’s unique character evolve organically as a natural result of this activity. We have a saying: “there is no out there.” Because NavCenters are at the core of an organization and it’s ValueWeb, in facilitating the solution of the enterprise’s problems, the NavCenter is solving it’s own.

Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
August 28, 2002


SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted: August 28, 2002

revised: November 18, 2002

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(note: this document is about 60% finished)

Matt Taylor 650 814 1192

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2002

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