From Software to Systems

Transforming from the inside out

Linear Approaches Can’t Deliver Systems

From Software to Systems (FS2S) introduces practices for thinking, acting and leading in an increasingly interconnected world.

Delivering transformed systems depends on people thinking as a transforming system. Technology expertise alone isn’t enough. We need nonlinear approaches that support our modern initiatives.

Alas, by default, we are terrible at nonlinear thinking. Many initiatives are struck in this paradox: we need to become good at nonlinear thinking in order to see that we aren’t good at nonlinear thinking. To get unstuck, we need a mindshift.

FS2S explores practices for individuals, teams and organizations to create that mindshift.

Practices for Cultivating …

Self awareness

To improve our thinking, we must first become aware of our own thinking.

Collective reasoning

Systems design is a social process that depends on thinking well together.

Nonlinear approaches

Focusing, in the midst of uncertainty, on learning, patterns, relationships and feedback loops.

Integrative leadership

Synthesize knowledge, experience and sound judgement into decisions bases on valid reasons.

Upcoming Themes

Ten years ago, I built content management “systems” by installing a single piece of software and adding caching to scale it. Today, I build systems: interrelated platforms of software and cloud-native services. Where once people published an article on a website, now they must communicate that information to nearly-infinite platforms, products and devices.

The technical learning curve has been steep. What has the last decade taught me?

I’ve learned that technical expertise is not the primary predictor of “digital transformation” success. The tools — Kafka and Kubernetes, for example — are valuable but do not deliver transformation. Transformation arises from thinking well together. And constructing nonlinear approaches so people communicate as a transforming system.

Brilliant software developers, product designers and executive leaders aren’t necessarily good at nonlinear thinking. That is, generally speaking, not our fault. Linear thinking has served us well in the past. It’s a type of thinking so common, we call it, simply, “thinking.”

Systems require nonlinear thinking. By default, we are spectacularly terrible at nonlinear thinking. Worse, we don’t know we are terrible at it! We mistake our opinions, cognitive biases, fears, assumptions and logical fallacies for reality.

So, we need to practice.

We need to practice skills that have historically been devalued in tech — self awareness, helpfulness, collective reasoning, integrative leadership. From Software to Systems does not include “how to implement event-based interactions.” (Though we are publishing How We Built This, which includes technology-specific implementation details you might enjoy.) Here, you’ll find the practices you may not know you need, practices to help us transform from the inside out.

I encourage a test-driven approach … try some out, see what happens.

Begin at the beginning: cultivating mindshifts in ourselves

Thinking about thinking

To improve our thinking, we must first become aware of our own thinking.

Coming Soon!

Metta: being helpful

Respond in a way that provides help, rather than react or give (only) opinions.

Coming Soon!

Systemic reasoning

Reason giving, also called argumentation, is sharing our thinking as a sound, cohesive whole.

Coming Soon!

Artifacts or it didn’t happen

Construct conceptual integrity by creating spaces for thinking to evolve visibly and cohesively.

Coming Soon!

All together now: cultivating mindshifts with others

Uncertainty and counter-intuitiveness

Discovering unknown unknowns and doing the exact wrong things (first) are unavoidable growth experiences.

Coming Soon!

Collective reasoning

To improve our thinking, we must improve the way we thinking together.

Coming Soon!

Patterns and relationships

The difference between music and cacophony is the relationship between the parts and playing the same score.

Coming Soon!

Designing feedback loops

Systems are reinforced and maintained by feedback loops — they are keys to getting unstuck.

Coming Soon!

Leading mindshifts: cultivating integrative leadership

Synthesize

Knowledge, experience and sound judgement become recommendations based on valid reasons

Coming Soon!

Redefine success and failure

Our outcomes will only be as good as the goals we set for ourselves.

Coming Soon!

Conceptual integrity

The most important consideration in systems design — ensuring there is cohesive elegance.

Coming Soon!

Speaking truth to power

How do you maintain patience and integrity when you are so often screaming into the wind?

Coming Soon!

Contact Mentrix

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From Software to Systems

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