All of Creative Systems Theory’s various patterning concepts are need if we want to understand human systems with depth. For example, the “identity” of an organization is a reflection of its defining creative challenges (where potential Aliveness lies) and the Capacitance it has available to meet them. Just as much it is a product of where the organization lies in its own evolution, at what stage key organizational projects reside (say the development of a new product), the ages (or more accurately the life stages) of key employees, and where the organization sits in its ability to address the critical challenges of our time (its place in culture as a creative process)—all Patterning in Time discriminations. And it is a product also of the personality styles of key employees, the relationships and strengths of different departments (R&D, manufacturing, marketing and so on), the nature of current projects (improvising a dance, assembling a gearbox, and theorizing about global economics engage quite different creative relationships), and where the organization resides in the larger matrix of society (is it a church, a manufacturing plant, an environmental group, a media conglomerate)—all Patterning in Space discriminations. And with most organizations these observations would comprise only a starting point.
The exercise below invites the reader to apply this multi-layered conceptual approach:
The System: Select an interpersonal system of any scale that you know well (your family, church, neighborhood, profession, business, ethnicity, nation—or even civilization as a whole if you wish.
Aliveness: For both the system as a whole and subsystems within it (down to particular individuals), describe the important presenting questions or challenges. How is each system doing at engaging these Aliveness challenges?
Capacitance: Are they at least potentially up to these challenges? If not currently, what changes would be needed for them to be? Ask yourself if the needed modifications are really possible—and if so, worth the necessary expenditure of energy. If they are, how might they best be carried out?
Symptoms: How does your system as a whole respond when pushed beyond what it can handle? How do key subsystems respond? Are there ways you can creatively use this information?
Patterning in Time: At what stage in its development does your system reside? Key subsystems? At what creative stages do major projects or tasks reside? Where do each of the key figures lie in their personal maturation? Where does your system situate in relation to the tasks of Cultural Maturity (from playing a leading role, to just glimpsing integrative challenges, to doing its best to keep Cultural Maturity’s tasks at arm’s length).
Patterning in Space: How would you creatively situate your system within culture as a whole ( does it serve a more Early, Middle, or Late-Axis societal function)? What creative roles do subgroups (departments, political parties, alliances and cliques) play in its functioning? What are the personality styles of the key players?
Given how you have answered these questions, what will be most important for the future health and vitality of this system? Given your personal creative edges, Capacitance, and temperament, what roles, if any, would be creatively right and timely for you to play in that system’s future?
Such a multi-variable approach might seem at first rather daunting. But all these factors are systemically pertinent—leave any of them out and we risk making poor decisions. We are saved from overwhelm by the fact that each discrimination has a related architecture, or at least a parallel formative perspective. In practice—with a bit of experience—such analysis proves pretty straightforward (and fun).
It helps to summarize how this kind of multi-factor analysis might be applied to system of different scales:
Individuals: When our interest is an individual, temperament and Capacitance tend to be the most immediately useful observations. But we can’t leave out age and stage in personal development. And all manner of patterning observations related to larger systems of which the individual may have importance—the Patterning in Space function of a person’s profession or an organization to which he or she belong and it how it relates to personal temperament, the developmental stages at which a person’s personal relationships as well as workplace relationships and workplace organization reside, the creative stage and emerging critical questions that defines a person’s larger cultural context. In a psychotherapeutic context, a person’s internal Patterning in Space complexity (psychological aspects and how they relate), symptom patterns seen when the person is stressed, and the growing edge in a person’s development (where potential new Aliveness resides) all gain special importance.
Relationships: To the above considerations we add temperament similarities and differences, the relative Capacitances of the people involved, the developmental stage of the relationship (inspiration stage, perspiration stage, and finishing and polishing tasks make very different demands that affect people of different temperaments in different ways), and the creative edge of the relationships as process—where potential for new Aliveness in the relationship most resides. Cultural Patterning in Time context is a major variable when it comes to relationship options (in general—for example, whether intimate bonds are determined by matchmakers or romantic choice—and specifically in our time, with regard to the potential for Whole-Person relationship.)
Organizations: A full CST analysis of the health and functioning of an organization draws on all our patterning tools. With regard to Patterning in Time we are most interested in the developmental stage of the organization and the creative stage at which key projects reside (with the individual developmental stage of key personnel and of the organization’s target population if it has one also often important factors). Questions of Cultural Patterning in Time context may become centrally important if an organization functions internationally or if culturally Mature contribution, leadership, and organizational functioning are considerations (as more and more they must be for any organization that wants to be vital and attract the best people).
Patterning in Space organizational concerns include the organization’s creative role (Early-Axis, Middle-Axis, and Late-Axis organizations require very different organizational cultures and different approaches to leadership and management). They also include the temperaments of key people, how those temperaments match or don’t match expectations and demands of particular organizational functions, and the potential synergies and conflicts that temperament differences in particular relationships might be expected to produce.
Whole-Systems organizational concerns include the Capacitance of the organization as a whole and the Capacitance demands of the particular challenges the organization faces. They also include the Capacitances and creative-edges of key people. And they include sensitivity to ways the system as a whole and specific individuals within it can respond when overly stressed. Key to the organization’s vitality is attention to where the growing edge of the organizational culture/contribution lies—where new organizational Aliveness/creative substance is most likely to be found.
Nations and the Planet: The Patterning in Time variables of creative stage and where policy resides with regard to the tasks of Cultural Maturity present the most pivotal CST concerns. Patterning in Space reflections on the functions of different aspects of culture—government, business, science, religions—can help with the development of culturally mature perspective. Capacitance concerns also have an essential place, from understanding the Capacitance demands of particular cultural tasks to the ultimate question of whether we as a species can make manifest sufficient Capacitance to effectively confront (bring sufficient wisdom to) the challenges before us.