biomatrix school for sustainable system design

The Biomatrix School for Sustainable System Design offers online courses for (re)designing social systems for sustainability and ongoing development.

why is the biomatrix design school needed

current management education is reductionist and incomplete

The current management curriculum is an outflow of reductionist thinking. It is a conglomerate of function specific disciplines. These are taught from the perspective of functional excellence and best practice. It lacks an overarching theory of management that contextualizes them. It also cannot resolve challenges of (sub)optimization.

For example, if marketing in an organization is optimized, production may not be able to cope, as described by the famous problem of overselling and under-delivering. Or vice versa, if production is optimized, its excellent products may not be marketable. In both cases, the organization as a whole is sub-optimised. If the organization is to be optimized, production and marketing interests need to be balanced.

By comparison, management praxis is multi-functional (i.e. a management situation has operational, marketing, legal, resource and other considerations in varying degrees of priority).  It demands an appropriate functional synergy that is unique to each situation. Recognizing this need, business schools respond with a case study and interdisciplinary approach.

  • The problem with a case study approach is that each case exists within a unique set of conditions in time and space and is not relevant to other systems in other contexts.

At best the case study illustrates how a specific set of management knowledge manifests in a specific situation, keeping other factors constant. If it is used to illustrate generic organizing principles (derived from a w/holistic theory of organization) it can be a useful approach to illustrate and inspire applications of principle.

  • The problem with an interdisciplinary appoach is that it combines partial knowledge into larger parts of knowledge. It represents a bottom up approach which leads to patching and sub-optimization.

An apparent whole that is derived from integrating existing parts is usually not an optimal whole, but a sub-optimal one.  The famous systems thinker Ackoff used the analogy of a car that is patched together from different car parts, to describe how the optimizing of parts gives rise to sub-optimal wholes (i.e. a patched together car is very sub-optimal). Our current management education is a patch up and therefore sub-optimal.

Also, a bottom up integration per se does not lead to an overarching theory, because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Accordingly, a management theory is greater than the sum of the partial bodies of knowledge associated with different management functions.

A w/holistic management theory needs to consist of organizing principles that can put partial knowledge into its appropriate context and challenges the assumptions on which it rests.

To manage synergistically and optimize the whole, one needs theoretical frameworks that guide the appropriate application of function specific knowledge in a specific management situation.

Biomatrix theory is a theory f system organization and change. It gives rise to frameworks and methods that contextualize the function specific knowledge of current management education. It therefore does not replace current management knowledge but complements and enhances it (e.g. as post – MBA).

“Now we know how everything we learned during the MBA pogramme hangs together!” (Typical remark of MBA graduates after completing  a Biomatrix Course)

the current management paradigm co-produces humanity’s complex problems and is insufficient for solving them

The complex problems of the world (ranging from poverty to climate change) arise from the interaction of social, natural and technological systems. They contradict the reductionist belief that the sum total of actions arising from the self-interest of individual systems gives rise to the collective good. Instead they represent a common bad.

The current management paradigm promotes reductionist thinking and therefore co-produces those problems. However, “the thinking that gives rise to a problem cannot solve it” (Albert Einstein). Therefore, the current reductionist management paradigm is insufficient for developing the strategies for solving humanity’s complex problems. More of the same type of thinking and strategies will not achieve this.

The current reductionist worldview (which is an outflow of the scientific method) needs to be extended and contextualised by w/holistic thinking.

This thinking needs to be grounded in a w/holistic theory and applied through a comprehensive and practical methodology. Merely knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that everything is connected to everything else, is insufficient for practical application in understanding and changing systems and solving their complex problems.

Biomatrix theory and biomatrix methodology make w/holistic thinking profound as well as practical, including for the purpose of (dis)solving humanity’s complex problems.

current economic, political and cultural systems are problem riddled and need to be redesigned

Many of the current economic, political and cultural systems are legacy systems of the industrial age which was characterised by reductionist thinking. Since the advent of the information age they become increasingly ineffective, problem riddled and unsustainable, besides not meeting changing stakeholder expectations and impacting negatively on other systems, including society and the planet. Examples are bloated health care systems, inappropriate education systems, a finance system with regular crises that threaten the survival of the physical economy, unsustainable energy systems, a democracy system that is impotent in the face of growing complexity and unprecedented growth of military systems, amongst others.

They need to be redesigned and transformed in a manner that makes them fit for the information age, beneficial for all stakeholders and minimises their negative impacts. They also need to be “wired” for adapting themselves to ongoing environmental change. This implies being structured for learning and self-managed change that ensures that they are sustainable in themselves and also co-produce a sustainable world.

The Biomatrix courses present the theory and methodology of system (re)design and transformation, as well as practical tools for stakeholder co-design (i.e. Biomatrix Jamming).

what biomatrix design courses are about

The Biomatrix Courses explain Biomatrix Theory which is a w/holistic theory of system organization and change. It also defines different types of wholes and explains the difference between wholes and systems.

The courses use Biomatrix Methodology which guides the w/holistic (re)design and transformation of social systems and the (dis)solving of their complex problems.

The course also prompts application of the methodology to a chosen case study, by means of template driven assignments.

biomatrix theory

Biomatrix theory is a trans-disciplinary theory that

  • defines different types of wholes
  • describes how societal, natural and technological systems are organized, interact and change and how this can be managed
  • outlines the organising principles that determine the organisation of systems in time and space
  • explains how complex problems arise from the way the current systems function and interact and that (dis)solving them requires a change in their functioning and interaction (i.e. a system transformation)

Biomatrix theory is derived from a coherent and internally consistent integration of the key concepts of systems, complexity, ecological and related models and theroies. This integration was possible to unique w/holism related conceptual contributions by the biomatrix research group. To paraphrase Aristotle: Biomatrix theory is greater than the sum of the different systems, complexity, ecological and related theories. It is a meta-systems theory.

biomatrix design methodology

The biomatrix design methodology applies biomatrix theory to the design and management of social systems and the (dis)solving of their complex problems.

It outlines the practical steps involved in the redesign and transformation of both entity systems and activity systems.

Although the steps in the methodology are the same for both types of systems, they are applied in the context of different frameworks. Activity systems are redesigned as continuous value / supply chains and entity systems as three-dimensional matrix.

The steps in redesigning a system are:

  • analysing the current system
  • brainstorming solutions
  • creating a designthat shows how the system can function differently and produce more ideal outcomes for its stakeholders
  • making an implementation planthat outlines the strategies involved in moving the system from its current state towards its ideal design
  • making a change management plan that describes the steps and methods used to manage a system transformation
  • providing change facilitation which is concerned with facilitating stakeholders in co-designing their shared (or containing) system, aligning with it and being committed to implementing their share of the design and thereby actually co-producing the transformation of the system of which they are a part. Amongst others, this can involve stakeholders in a Biomatrix Jam and in design iterations.

Creating a sustainable world is a collective stakeholder effort.  A single person, organisation or government cannot alone achieve this. Organisations and industries need to be co-designed by their stakeholders, based on generic organising principles. Then, each stakeholder needs to implement its share of the new design in order to collectively bring it about.

Nevertheless, leaders can initiate a system re-designs within their sphere of influence and facilitate stakeholder participation in co-design. The Biomatrix Jamming method is suitable for this. However, to do so effectively, they eed to become w/holistic thinkers and change facilitators. The Biomatrix courses provide this knowledge.

types of biomatrix design courses

According to the two generic types of wholes which exist in the biomatrix  (or universe), the following design courses are available:

entity system design courses

activity system design courses

All courses provide the same basic knowledge, but differ in emphasis, detail and application.