Play With Abstractions

for organizations


c.os.org.observe.06

This Domain-Level Guide is designed to be used based on the Core Model. Please refer to the Play With Abstractions Core Practice before exploring this guide.

overview

When you have an explicit goal in mind, you might be inclined to use the things you Observe as-is. When you face a challenge, you naturally aim to solve that concrete problem.

Creating the space to explore both your challenges and the potential solutions and their ingredients using various Abstraction Levels and Dimensions is an opportunity to see them differently and potentially use them in ways and contexts you didn’t anticipate.

Play with Abstractions with anything you see within the organization and beyond it: data, interactions, behaviors, random insights, practices, challenges, and more. The more Dimensions and Levels you use, the value of what you Observe becomes higher, and the chances for surprising Fusions increases significantly.

guide

Observe Your Challenges Using Different Abstractions

When you are focused on a predefined goal or challenge, it is easy to classify each information item you come across — anything you Observe — as relevant or irrelevant to your current activities. Thus, it is easy to miss surprising solutions or ingredients for creative ideas that might serve you today or in the future.

When you apply different Abstraction Levels and Dimensions to your challenges and goals, new ingredients become potentially relevant. By simplifying the challenge and reducing the level of details you see, new observations and interactions become possible. Different domains and contexts become applicable and can interface more naturally with your challenge.

Eventually, you will have to consider the details again, but temporarily masking them can create new opportunities with creative potential.

  • Actively pick different traits and dimensions you can use to abstractify your challenge or goal.
  • Think of what you Observe as a new subject as if the details you have masked do not exist.
  • As you change Abstraction Levels and Dimensions, consider how each of them affects your understanding of the challenge. Consider refining the definition of the challenge based on your new insights. But even if you don’t, record your observations after applying each Abstraction.
Apply Different Abstractions to Random Insights

When you come across something and Observe it, you are likely to either see its concrete details or unconsciously apply your mental model to it. By intentionally playing with different Abstraction Levels and Dimensions, you create an opportunity to change your mental model, categorize what you see differently, and set the ground for surprising Fusions.

  • Actively pick different traits and dimensions you can use to abstractify insights and observations.
  • Think of what you Observe as a new subject as if the details you have masked do not exist.
  • As you change Abstraction Levels and Dimensions, consider how each of them affects your understanding of what you Observe.
  • Record your insight based on each Abstraction.
Observe Your Solutions Using Different Abstractions

When you are focused on a predefined goal or challenge, you naturally tend to focus on concrete solutions. Once you find a solution, it is easy to apply it to the concrete challenge and move forward, missing its potential in other contexts.

Applying different Abstraction Levels and Dimensions to the solutions you find increases their value. The same solutions could be helpful when applied to other challenges, maybe in different contexts and domains. By using Abstractions you acknowledge their potential and leverage it, even if you do not have another immediate application for these solutions beyond the concrete challenge.

  • Actively pick different traits and dimensions you can use to abstractify the solutions you find for a concrete challenge.
  • Think of what you Observe as a new subject as if the details you have masked do not exist.
  • As you change Abstraction Levels and Dimensions, consider how each of them affects your understanding of the solution. Consider refining how you apply the solution based on your new insights. But even if you don’t, record your observations after using each Abstraction.

examples

Example 1

When considering a risk in the context of a project, it is likely to be described in detail — concrete details relevant to the specific project. While this might be necessary to provide prompt mitigation and promote the upcoming targets, there is value in Observing the same risk using different Abstraction Dimensions and Levels.

When you pick an Abstraction Dimension and apply it to the risk, you might find out that it is not a local risk but a symptom of a broader challenge. In some cases, addressing the wider issue will have more value than mitigating the problem’s most immediate instance.

As you play with different Abstraction Levels, you might realize that other domains, even ones beyond the realm you are responsible for, are affected by similar challenges.

This thought exercise might result in no short-term action apart from mitigating the concrete risk. But for longer-term improvements and innovations, such insights could be invaluable.

Example 2

When considering your activities, the natural tendency is to list them plainly with the details and maybe add some prioritization aspect to the list. Applying various Levels and Dimensions of Abstraction can shed new light on what you and your team can do to be more effective.

Consider, for example, using Value as the Abstraction Dimension: how much value does each activity has for the organization. Using this dimension, you might gain some valuable insights as to how to invest your resources. Suppose you push this abstraction further and apply a higher Abstraction Level, for example, by dividing the activities into only two groups: High Value and Low Value. In that case, your insights might become even more evident and the call for action more definite.

Adding another Abstraction Dimension like the goal each activity serves will refine your understanding of the picture even further. Once again, as you play with different Levels of Abstraction and consider different levels of goals, you might come up with additional or other insights.

related practices

  • Apply Different Filters (coming soon)
  • Think in Metaphors and Abstractions (coming soon)

further exploration


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