What Knowledge is Useful? > People
Video Clip — Jay Lorsch on systems
I think there's no question there's a certain -- part of it is this notion of looking at this thing, these things as social systems, you know? That's a very fancy word, or a very fancy term, but what it really points me to is multiple causation. You know, I look at a situation, and I try to figure out: what are all the things that are going on here? I can't get them all, but what are the most significant pieces that are interacting with each other to produce the result you see? And I think that's partly my early training, but I think it's also just kind of who I am, and how I look at the world.
You know, I don't like people who say to me, you know, "This is the only cause of that," because I don't believe it. I don't believe the world, particularly the world of human beings, works that way. So when I go into a situation and look at it, I sort of intuitively think about, you know, what are the interacting variables, and how many of them can I decipher, and discern? . . . .
I remember when I first started teaching, in the first year years ago, one of the ideas we were trying to figure out was how to get the students to understand what we meant by a system. And one of my young colleagues at the time, Peter Vail was his name, had developed some kind of a game where you pulled strings, pulled the string. That string moved, and you could kind of see, you know, all the pieces were connected, but it wasn't obvious which string you had to pull to get the other string to move. And that we were -- was a device they were using to try to get first year MBAs to understand the concept of systems. And I think it's not a bad metaphor for what you have to do when you go in for a diagnosis.
You've got to try to be able to figure out -- you can't understand all the strings, but which are the ones that are most significant? And which ones, if you pull them, will it cause something else to happen?