Consider splitting into 4 separate pages for each I
# I1: IMPACT Is about observation (engagement): Literally noticing things. To notice things we have to be engaged, alert and aware of our environment and what is happening right now. We have to be present in our minds rather than preoccupied with the past or the future or somewhere else we need to be. It involves all our senses and our feelings. It is about seeing rather than simply looking. In the modern world the provision of information has increased reliance on systems and leads to less openness. Devices (such as smart phones) lead us to engage more in the virtual world and less in the real world. The internet provides an enormous amount of data and it is easy to access. The question remains what is worth noticing and what is simply “crap” to be filtered out. Time series (Behaviour over Time) graphs are a useful tool. They need to be sufficiently long term and presented in a format which invites questions rather than disguising/hiding potential issues. Young children are very good at observation. It is a natural skill. In a command and control (conforming, box ticking) culture this is a skill which is not developed or rewarded. Many schools and organisations have this cultural influence and over time adults lose this skill through lack of practice. Over time we can redevelop our sensitivity and skill in this area.
# I2: INTERACTION Interaction is about understanding why. Whys make us wise! Why is this happening? What is causing it? Why am I being shown this? How does it relate to the other things I have seen? What are my mental models (my experience)? What can I find out from others? Who do I need to consult? (Stakeholders) We can use the tools of Systems Thinking to map out interactions in Causal Loop Diagrams. We can also use causal circles, stock/flow diagrams and icebergs to help.
# I3: INSIGHT Focuses on answering the following questions: What are the root causes (vs symptoms)? Who influences them? What am I able to influence? What could I do differently? What would be the impact? Who else will be affected? How does this make me feel? Vensim is a useful software tool for creating and analysing Causal Loop Diagrams. It allows us to understand feedback, trace root causes of problems using driver trees and the consequences of potential interventions using effects trees.
# I4: INTERVENTION: Is about making a change to a system. This could be via the existing system or by creating new system structure. We look for high leverage interventions (which via feedback make a big difference for a small change). Mapping the expected impact of these interventions helps us to identify the likely consequences of these interventions and the risks. We can also consider the purpose of the system and other ways it could be achieved with the resources in the system.
Remember we can change anything given enough time. A lot of tension is created by the need to achieve short term results but this can mean long term compromises.
Where the implications of what we have observed (in Impact) are difficult to deal with we tend to avoid or ignore rather than confronting the issue directly. However, even doing nothing is a choice which will have consequences.
Note that the 4Is process remains cerebral until we change something. We have to decide and commit (fortune favours the brave!) Make the change. Know that it is an experiment so we must ensure we monitor the result (the Impact). I don’t think that Cabrera has a letter for this. For me this is the whole point. Making a real difference. We must remember to identify how we will measure the impact of our intervention. This returns us to the first I!
# The 4Is is a never ending process…. I believe it is how we learn so fast when we are very young (pre school). I think it is how we would have learnt life long in tribes before we became civilized. We had a great incentive to do so and that was the chance to live another day. Something we take for granted in modern times. The tools embedded in the 4Is make our thoughts explicit so they can be shared, challenged and understood. As we develop our proficiency in the 4Is we start anticipating problems which gives us a chance to prevent them happening. We become a powerful influencer rather than a reactive victim of the systems around us.