The title of this post is from my all time favourite poem by Robert Frost, and the picture is of a wall created by my ancestors at Barbury Castle taken last weekend. The opening line of that poem is Something there is that doesn't love a wall but it concludes Good fences make good neighbors. I have often used this to illustrate what I see as a key need, namely the need to make distinctions between things. Now those distinctions can be between the authentic and inauthenitc, betwee true and falsehood or between good and evil. They can also be, as they are in Cynefin, between equally valid but different states. Sometimes boundaries are hard to make, the social pressure to accept anything is strong, but they are necessary. There is a school of thought that privileges consensus over debate, but down that path lies a failure to learn to gain meaning.
Now my thoughts on this were brought on by one of those interesting debates that arises from time to time on the internet. Chris Rogers of Informal Coalitions took issue with some of Jurgen's comments (I share those and can add some as well as agreeing that I mostly find Jurgen's posts interesting). In the course of debate he was referenced to my work and responded. We then went through some exchanges establishing where there were misundertandings, and as is possible with mature debate, moved to defining some of the key differences between our thinking. Once you get there progress is possible but too many people in this field lack the maturity to get there. Part of this of course is confidence, the longer you have read and thought about a subject the more comfortable you are when your views are challenged.
I do not intend to summarise that debate, its worth reading. However it did lead me to think about some basic distinctions between people thinking about complexity and its applications to social systems. Thinking about it I identified three, all present in the exchange with Chris; on two we stand in agreement on one we differ and that difference is important. So what are they?
So creating boundaries allows us to progress, either by rejecting the inauthentic and trivial, or by isolating properly held differences to advance understanding. More of the latter might help reduce the need for the former!
I gave an opening address last Friday at ScanAgile 2012 on the general subject of ...