Iteration, Iteration, Iteration
Penny Tompkins and James Lawley
important property of nonlinear systems is a consequence of the
frequent occurrence of self-reinforcing feedback processes. In
nonlinear systems, small changes may have dramatic effects because they
may be amplified repeatedly by self-reinforcing feedback. Such
nonlinear feedback processes are the basis of the instabilities and the
sudden emergence of new forms of order that are so characteristic of
self-organization. Mathematically, a feedback loop corresponds to a
special kind of nonlinear process known as iteration.
Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, p. 123
A process that repeatedly applies a rule, computation or procedure to the result of the previous application of the rule, computation or procedure.Iteration is thus a very simple feedback process and a “rule, computation or procedure” is often called an algorithm. Diagrammatically iteration looks like this:
Iteration is usually used in one of three ways:
|1. Fixed Point||"No comment"; "No comment"; "No comment"; ...|
|2. Periodic||A loop, a habit or a (Transactional Analysis) Game|
|3. Chaotic||"A broad bean" (The first 'random' thing that came to mind!)|
|4. Edge of Chaos||
All living things; an ‘A-ha’; "Funny"
Examples of psychotherapeutic processes that make use of iteration are:
|Originator||Name of Process||Algorithm||Direction|
|David Grove||Maturing||And then what happens?||Forward in time to a new Metaphor Landscape.|
|Intergenerational Healing||And where does that come from?||Back in time to an original source or “redemptive metaphor”.|
||And what's outside/beyond that?||Larger contexts to a new (prior) worldview or “cosmology”.|
And what else do you know?
And what else does that know?
And is there anything else about that?
And then what can happen?
And is there anything else?
And what do you know now?
|Penny Tompkins & James Lawley||A Framework for Change||And what needs to happen for that to happen?||From desired outcome via causal links to the first step.|
|Steve Saunders||Truth Work||What needs to be true for that to be true?||Core beliefs to seeing the “cosmic joke”.|
|Connirae Andreas||Core Transformation||What does that do for you?||
Access states of
Higher purpose / Core values.
|Brandon Bays||The Journey||What's beneath that? [Not sure about this. Can anyone confirm?]||To drop through emotions into “the source”.|
|Michael Hall||The Mind BackTracking Pattern||And, behind that thought lies another thought ... what thought do you find back there?||To drop into a “Void of Nothingness”.|
While modelling David Grove we recognised the relevance of iteration and so incorporated it into our models described in Metaphors in Mind:
Symbolic Modelling involves working with emergent properties, fuzzy categories, apparently illogical causal relations, multiple levels of simultaneous and systemic processes, iterative cycles and unexpected twists and turns. ... Traditional linear, formulaic and analytical approaches to therapy are incongruent with the nature of Metaphor Landscapes. Instead we provided an alternative, iterative and systemic Five-Stage Process for Symbolic Modelling.... Although the five stages are presented sequentially, the process is not a linear procedure; rather it is an emergent, systemic and iterative way of conducting psychotherapy. ... The whole process can take place in less than an hour or it may require many iterative cyclesYou will also see the iterative possibilities in the first five of The Six Approaches detailed in Chapter 8 of Metaphors in Mind:
A. CONCENTRATING ATTENTIONMore than repetition
By repeatedly directing the client’s attention to a single aspect of their Metaphor Landscape you encourage them to concentrate on one form, one space, one time. This invites them to notice additional parts, additional attributes, additional functions and additional relationships — each with the potential for initiating change.
B. ATTENDING TO WHOLES
By repeatedly directing the client’s attention to their Metaphor Landscape’s multiple forms, places and times you encourage them to accumulate more and more perceptions into one simultaneous mindbody space. This invites them to identify patterns of relationships, patterns of patterns and patterns of organisation. As a result they recognise higher and higher levels of communion, of cooperation, of interdependency, of connection to something larger — the next inclusive whole.
C. BROADENING ATTENTION
By repeatedly directing the client’s attention to the edge, to outside and beyond the boundaries of their Metaphor Landscape you encourage them to notice what is external, to discover new forms and relationships over a larger area, to widen contexts and to extend ranges — all in the service of a broader perspective.
D. LENGTHENING ATTENTION
By repeatedly directing the client’s attention to either the origin or consequences of the symbolic event currently in their awareness, you encourage them to sequentially shift the locus of the perceptual present to before ‘the beginning’ or after ‘the end’. This invites them to make historical connections, identify patterns which repeat over time, encounter new resources or (re)discover a sense of their purpose — any of which can lead to a reorganisation of existing perceptions.
E. IDENTIFYING NECESSARY CONDITIONS
By repeatedly inviting the client to discover what needs to happen for a change to take place in their Metaphor Landscape, you encourage them to find the logical associations between the first thing that needs to happen and all the subsequent things that need to happen for a desired change to occur. In this way a symbol’s function can be enacted or its intention satisfied, and this inevitably influences other parts of the Landscape.
Iterating on paper? Cheap.
Iterating in software? Still pretty cheap.
Iterating the Airbus A380? Not so cheap:
Run safety checks; which identify potentially unsafe features; which require modifications; which require the safety checks to be run again; which identify other potential unsafe features; which require modifications; which require the safety checks to be run again; ...
The result? Iteration led to painful penalties and increased time-to-market costs as Airbus had to reduce production from a planned 25 planes in a year to 9. In Artful Making, Robert Austin and Lee Devin contrast the cost of iteration with the cost of exploration. They look at iteration in industrial and knowledge work, and how the iteration cost curve changes over a project.
All information on this web site (unless otherwise stated) is Copyright © 1997- Penny Tompkins and James Lawley of The Developing Company. All rights reserved. You may reproduce and disseminate any of our copyrighted information for personal use only providing the original source is clearly identified. If you wish to use the material for any other reason, please get in touch via our Contact Form