“Shape Patterns, Not Programs”

Excellent lessons and a wealth of references are included in this paper, Changing Homeland Security: Shape Patterns, Not Programs which is applicable to a wide and sundry audience.

Advice from Socrates to a man who over-planned his son’s birthday party – “ask the women”, with the following results:

We held the party at Panathinaikon Stadium. We set up places to eat, a site for crafts, a tent for shelter and rest, a station for music, and a space for art. Singers wandered and told stories. There was a field for wrestling and running and flying kites. We encouraged the children to try what they pleased. We helped if they asked, then we stepped back and watched. When there was hitting or crying or harsh words – and there was – we immediately spoke sternly or separated the offenders. Then we redirected them toward an established activity.

In sum, our strategy was to control only that which could be ordered. For those activities in the realm of that which is, and must be, unordered, we watched and we shaped – gently, but with insistence. Because I have learned to know the difference between the states of order and unorder, I am now seen by all Athens as the wisest of men. Second to you of course.

On planning for the future

We need to learn how to become a partner with an uncontrollable future.

Consider how one rears children. They are not little machines waiting to be directed by higher headquarters. They are people learning how to be free and responsible citizens. Their future emerges; it is not designed. So too with homeland security – it is only five years old.

There is much good advice here for all organizations dealing with complex issues.

8 Responses to ““Shape Patterns, Not Programs””

  1. Milan Davidovic

    The Socrates/Glaucon dialogue appears to be wholly made up by Bellavita rather than being based on an actual dialogue from classical Greek literature. The footnote (#5) only points to something about the Cynefin framework.

    If I’m not correct, what is this dialogue based on?

    If I am correct — and not that it’s necessarily that big a deal — why make something up like that? Why not tell a real story?

  2. Jade Handy

    This post is perfect as written. Milan, we can not solve problems at the level they were created (Einstein paraphrase. No accuracy correction needed.) What I got from it is what I have been telling parents like me for several years even before I had children of our own. It’s not a child’s responsibility (parent criteria & “They are not little machines waiting to be directed by higher headquarters. “) to obey. It’s not even on their intellectual radar. So don’t work against the grain, go with it. Now, I can’t tell you the long term effects as I am not that wise in years, yet, but what I do know is a child is never too young or dumb to know what they want. Therefore utilize this. Find what they want and leverage it. It makes life for everyone so much easier and constructive. -Jade Handy


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