Learning to See the Whole

Feedback from our Summer Institute in Boulder, CO led to a few changes in terminology that you will soon notice. One of those changes is the attribute of a Vigorous Learning Organization that we have called “Meta-Vision.” The term is too academic to grasp quickly, but the concept is crucial to progress.

Attendees voted to call it “Seeing the Whole” (not “Seeing the Hole”). The idea is for a company or any work organization to work toward collectively improving as big a system as they can grapple with, including the environment, rather than improve little pieces in hopes that the whole will improve. However, any term is ambiguous without illustrating what it may mean. Here are a couple of examples:

1. OS1 and the Simon Institute:

OS1 is a cleaning process for larger buildings. Practitioners of OS1 collectively learn how to improve cleaning processes in general. Each practitioner adapts the best methods discovered by OS1 to their circumstances. The Simon Institute is improving the science of cleaning, answering the question “What does clean mean?”

This is a fundamentally different way of thinking. Cleaning is related to a bigger picture of improving the built environment and the quality of life therein — and to the quality of the external environment as well. Anyone wanting to sell a product or process to an OS1 practitioner has to prove that it will make an improvement in the total system. Just appearing to be cheaper falls far short of this.

How OS1 works at a cleaning location was illustrated by a prior post on cleaning at the University of Texas-Austin. Another post, PortionPac Chemical, illustrated how it works for a company participating in the OS1 system.

2. Water District Groups:

These are in gestation, so there’s little to report so far. The Compression Institute is nudging these groups to address water problems of a community from a much bigger view.

The idea is to look at all aspects of water flow in a community, from water sources to water disposal, along with the ability to sustain quality of life there. The groups will review pumped water, sewage systems, run-off water, potential to use gray water, role of vegetation, community media outreach, effects of pricing methods, and many more facets of the situation. Then it will systematically explore how to take action, which may be a equally big challenge.

One idea of the potential is in Andrew Warrington’s prior post on the issues of pumped water supply — and that’s only part of the total water system of a district.

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