Transformative Approaches Project
Patterning: Alternation between complementary policy
Transformative Approaches Project |
The vital point that emerges from the Chinese perspective of the previous
note is that it is not sufficient to conceive of organizational conditions
in isolation, as is the prevalent tendency among Western networkers. The
processes of change in which a policy cycle is embedded, or to which it
responds, require that the policy cycle consider itself in a state of transience
within a set of potential conditions. It courts disaster if it attempts
to "stick" to one condition such as "peace". If the
dynamics of problem networks are not being contained by present strategies,
as would appear to be the case, then organizational self-satisfaction is
a recipe for the disaster-prone or the ineffectual. It creates a false
sense of security. Any condition may be right temporarily, none is right
permanently. The situation is somewhat analogous to many team ball
games where if a player tries to retain the ball it will be taken from
him by the opposing side, or else the team is penalized. Furthermore policy
cycles opposing the "team" of world problems find themselves
like novices having to deal with an opponent which handles the ball with
a dynamism such as that of the Harlem Globetrotters or a shell-game con-artist.
The focus shifts continually and is often where it is least to be expected
in order to take advantage of weaknesses.
A policy cycle must continually "alternate" its stance
within the network of transformation pathways in order to "keep
on the ball" and "keep its act together". As with a surfer,
a wind sailor, or a sailor on a rocking boat, if it fails to change its
stance it will be destabilized, according to the I Ching, by one
of 64 changing conditions through which it is forced to move in a turbulent
The developmental goal can then be conceived as somehow lying "through"
the exit of this labyrinth of traps for the unwary. More satisfactorily,
it is perhaps "in" the art of moving through these conditions
as progressively clarifying the locus of a common point of reference undefined
by any of them (cf, the Sanskrit phrase "Neti Neti", roughly
translated as "not this, not that"). It is this art which is
extolled in describing the use of the I Ching or of Eastern board
games. A similar notion has recently emerged from theoretical physics through
the work of David Bohm (1980). He stresses the nature of an underlying
"holomovement" from which particularities are successively "unfolded"
once again. The significance is more readily apparent in the case of "resonance
hybrids" mentioned earlier.
The problem for a policy cycle, an organization, an intentional community,
a meeting, or even an individual, is then how to "network the alternation
pathways together" and how to "alternate through a transformative
policy cycle". Given that understanding of alternation seems only
to be well-developed at the instinctual or sub-conscious level (eg
walking, breathing, sex, dancing), the nature of alternation processes
is explored in Section MZ. Extending the earlier metaphor of the "semantic
piano" however, the challenge for policy cycles is then not simply
to try to activate people by monotonous playing of single notes (eg
"peace", "liberation", "development"), as
presently tends to be the case. It is rather to acquire a perspective enabling
them to collaborate in improvising exciting, rippling tunes with such notes
(each of which might be I Ching condition) in order to bring out
all the musical possibilities of alternation as explored in harmony, counterpoint,
discord and rhythm.
In this sense the true potential of "policy cycling" lies
in the transformational possibilities of "playing" on such
instruments. Such an approach could perhaps provide the "requisite
variety" by which the world problematique may be tamed, without breaking
the spirit it embodies. A related challenge is then how to represent or
map these transformation pathways in a memorable manner so that the range
of possibilities becomes clear. In the Book of Changes a mnemonic
system for the 64 conditions is given on the basis of 8 natural features
of which people have both a instinctive and a poetic understanding. The
features used as metaphors include: mountain, lake, wind, thunder, fight,
ravine, earth and sky. Arguments in favour of some such topographically
based mnemonic system are given in an earlier paper: "The territory
construed as a map" (Judge, 1983). Such features contribute significantly
to dissemination ofunderstanding about relationships between such conditions
in contrast to the restriction of interest in such matters in the West
to scientific elites. The Eastern board games mentioned above are deliberately
used for educational purposes, whereas very few in the West have access
to the computer simulation exercises with an equivalent orientation.
The following remarks, and those in the following notes, indicate some
possibilities for producing an adequate general map of the transformation
pathways are discussed.
2. Challenge of representation
The challenge for any organization is then to learn how to "alternate"
through such a policy cycle rather than get trapped in any particular condition.
To facilitate the response to this challenge, ways must be found to map
this set of transformation pathways so that it becomes comprehensible as
a whole that can be consciously negotiated. Some mapping possibilities
are discussed below.
3. Elaboration of a circular sequence
Helmut Wilhelm reports that in the Sung period (960-1127) of Confucianism
the scholar Shao Yung produced a tabular representation of the I Ching
elements. This "table" was also represented as a circle which
he reproduces. It was Shao Yung 's scheme which so excited Leibniz in the
course of his reflections on the binary system.
In this traditional representation the transformation pathways are implicit
except for the circular sequence itself. It is however possible to render
them explicit by simple adding them to the representation. One way of doing
this results in a diagram such as Figure 1. The only lines added are for
the six "high probability" transformation pathways associated
with the six sub-conditions of each of the 64 conditions, as described
in Section TP.
Before commenting further on Figure 1, some basic points must be made
about the traditional circular sequence. It is made up of 64 distinct "hexagrams".
The hexagram is the traditional Chinese way of representing a change condition
by a binary code of 6 broken or unbroken lines (which can be considered
identical to the binary bit-code used in modern computers). But there are
at least two fundamental points about any such code, as pointed out in
the case of computers by Xavier Sallantin (1975):
- there must be agreement as to what represents "broken" (or
"on"), as opposed to "unbroken" (or "off"),
or else the code may be mis-read as its own "negative";
- there must be agreement as to how the hexagram (or computer bit sequence)
should be read, whether up-to-down (or right-to-left) or down-to- up (or
left-to-right), or else the code may be mis-read in an "inverted"
form. The traditional circular sequence does not distinguish between these
The second point as applied to Figure 1 means that in relating the 64
condition names to their traditional hexagram representations a decision
has to be taken as to the direction in which a hexagram is to be read.
In Figure 1 the decision has been made to read the hexagrams with the "top"
of each towards the centre and the numbered conditions have been allocated
accordingly. This means that there is an alternative interpretation, Figure
2, in which the bottom of each is towards the centre. Note that the order
of the numbered conditions is then quite different. The pattern of transformation
pathways remains the same, although the sub-conditions to which they relate
are now different. The 3 transformation pathways for each hexagram that
were originally indicated inside the circle in Figure 1 are indicated by
the lines outside the circle in Figure 2.
4. Interpretation problems
The diagrams give rise to three problems:
(a) First problem: Either Figure 1 or Figure 2 can thus be considered
as a very compact map of the 384 high probability transformationpathways.
But the existence of two different and seemingly conflicting maps is obviously
cause for reflection.
With regard to this problem, the existence of two interpretations can
be explained as due to the manner in which the I Ching perspective
is grounded on alternation between perspectives rather than being
tied arbitrarily to one perspective. If two interpretations are possible
there is necessarily an alternation between them according to the Chinese
perspective. What then could the alternation between such contrasting interpretations
signify? From the significance traditionally attached to the top and bottom
of the I Ching hexagrams, it could be argued that in the case of
organizations the two contrasting interpretations could relate to an inward
global worldview alternating with an outward local worldview. The top-in
perspective (Figure 1) would then correspond to a map of consciously interrelated
contrasting perspectives on the wholeness in which they are embedded, signalled
to some extent by the process whereby leaders of a group "put their
heads together" and "share their views". The "enemy"
is recognized as being within the group ("he is us"). The alternative
top-out perspective would then correspond to a map of unexplicated solidarity
in response to the challenges of the immediately perceived external environment,
signalled to some extent by the process whereby group members "stand
back-to-back" to face an external "enemy" as he manifests
differently to each. To survive the group must to some extent alternate
between these contextual and particular worldviews, rather as an individual
alternates between right and left-brain perspectives. Lama Govinda (1981)
notes that hexagrams are read from bottom-to-top to represent the sub-conditions
of individual life, in contrast to the top-to-bottom direction for more
fundamental or universal transformation.
(b) Second problem: Also of concern in their non-evident relation
to the numbered sequence of conditions, which itself constitutes a single
transformation cycle. This lack of relationship is especially evident when
lines are traced between the conditions in that traditional sequence, as
in the case of Figure 3 (using the Figure 1 order) or Figure 4 (using the
Figure 2 order).
With regard to this problem, using Figure 3 or 4, inspection will show
that the continuing alternation between "global inwardness" and
"local outwardness" forces every second hexagram in the numbered
sequence into its opposite form (eg 3 in Figure 1 becomes 4 in Figure
2; 5 becomes 6; etc) and back again. Only the hexagrams 1, 2, 27,
28, 29, 30, 61 and 62 are not "driven" through the numbered sequence
by this alternation process (which here acts in a manner reminiscent of
the effects of current alternation in the coil windings of an electric
motor). The map is a map of alternation dynamics and cannot be appropriately
understood as a conventional map of static structural elements.
(c) Third problem: In addition, other than the striking elegance
of the pattern, it is not obvious why either the order of Figure 1 or 2
should be the basis for an appropriate map.
With regard to this problem, the "logic" of the circular representation
is that every condition denoted by a hexagram is counterbalanced by its
"opposite" across the circle. In effect the broken lines are
converted into unbroken lines and vice versa (thus partially containing
the variations in significance of broken and unbroken lines noted above).
In addition to the six high probability transformations from (and to) each
condition, there is therefore a seventh transformation through the numbered
sequence (by inversion of the code reading direction) and an eighth transformation
into its opposite (through "negative" code bits of a hexagram
acquiring a "positive" connotation and vice versa).
Given the striking relationship already noted by Schönberger between
the I Ching 64-hexagram code and the genetic 64-codon code, the
fundamental nature of the circular representation may also be illustrated
by using it to map the 20 amino acids basic to biological organization.
In Figure 1 these are denoted completely by the set of (long) transformation
lines linking quarters of the circle. For example, according to Schönberger,
asparagine is denoted by (the transformation between) the hexagram pair
34-43, the more complex amino acid threonin is denoted by (the symmetrically
balanced transformation lines) 11:5:26:9, and the "stop" codes
amber and ochre are denoted by the individual hexagrams 56 and 33 respectively.
In the Figure 2 map the hexagrams denoting each amino acid, rather than
being equidistant, are brought together side-by-side, as is illustrated
around the circumference of Figure 4.Whether this suggests that certain
well-defined transformation processes are as essential for the life of
an organization or policy cycle as those 20 amino acids are for biological
organization, is a question for further investigation.
5. Transformation cycles
A striking feature of Figure 1 (or 2) is the manner in which the transformation
pathways of different types differentiate the circle so clearly into:
- (a) 2 halves of 32
- (b) 4 quarters of 16
- (c) 8 groups of 8
- (d) 16 groups of 4
- (e) 32 groups of 2
- (f) 64 groups of 1
In the light of current interest in the distinct functions of right
and left brain perspectives, group (a) can be considered an interesting
representation of the limited number of pathways linking such halves and
the manner in which the halves are each separately integrated. In the light
of Jungian investigation of the four basic psychological functions (sensation,
feeling, intellect, intuition), group (b) can be considered an interesting
representation of the transformation pathways by which these are linked
and separately integrated as semi-independent functions. The 4 masculine
and 4 feminine archetypal versions of these functions distinguished by
psychoanalysts can in turn perhaps usefully be represented by group (c).
The question that now emerges is whether it is possible to elaborate
some kind of typology of transformation "cycles" for organizations
or policy cycles. Such a typology would clarify the different kinds of
way that, for example, the two functional halves, or the four functional
quarters are interlinked. For it is highly probable that organizations
or policy cycles can "survive" by using the simplest possible
transformation cycles that enable them to renew themselves, but that richer
and more effective policy cycling is only possible when more complex transformation
pathway cycles are used. It is therefore to be expected that some organizations
only manage a 4-transformation cycle linking four functional quarters but
are quite incapable of handling the subtler functional transformations.
Many organizations probably get stuck in cyclic "traps" because
they cannot enrich the transformative cycles on which they depend. In addition
to what has been termed the "high probability" transformations,
based on the modification of a single line in a hexagram denoting a policy
cycle condition, some other transformations of lower probability are shown
in Figure 5. These too may form part of transformation cycles.
6. Circular representation: inner structure
A different approach to circular representation forms part of the conclusion
of an extensive study by the renowned Buddhist scholar Lama Anagarika Govinda
in a recent book entitled: The Inner Structure of the I Ching: The Book
of Transformations (1981). His preference for "transformation"
in the title is to be compared with the conventional translation as "change".
The special interest of this study, in contrast to the many studies
of I Ching commentaries, is that it focuses on the structure of
the I Ching itself as a system of signs in which "two values
were alternated and finally combined into eight symbols, which by replication
yielded sixty-four hexagrams."
Lama Govinda concentrates on the problem of the relationship between
two traditional representations of the set of transformations. The first
is the "abstract order" of Fu Hi which essentially determines
the order of balanced polarities from which Figures 1 and 2 were derived.
The second is the "temporal order" of King Wen which emphasizes
the developmental sequence of phenomena. In order to make the movements
from one condition to another graphically visible the author concludes
that it only seems possible to find a unifying principle in the Fu Hi system.
His detailed investigations lead him to propose Figure 6. This shows
the position of all 64 I Ching conditions projected onto a circular
diagram. A unique feature of his focus on the "inner structure"
is that this diagram results from the interplay between the 8 fundamental
conditions from which the 64 are derived. The 8 are each denoted by a half-
hexagram, namely a trigram. Depending on the order in which any given pair
of trigrams is read, one of twohexagrams is thus defined. It is the condition
numbers of these alternatives which are indicated on the straight lines
within the circle. Each line thus represents two transformative movements.
The eight conditions around the circumference represent those cases when
the two trigrams are identical. Thus the straight lines denote transformations
governed by the relationship between the 8 fundamental conditions denoted
by each doubled trigram on the circumference.
What then is the relationship between Figure 6 and Figures 1 to 5? As
noted above, in Figures 1 to 5 the circle of hexagrams may be split into
eight parts in each of which the trigram on the inside is identical. One
of the hexagrams in each part also has the outside trigram equal to the
inside one. It is these eight (1, 2, 29, 30, 51, 52, 57 and 58) that are
positioned around the circumference in the "top-out" order of
Figures 2 and 4. Comparison with these Figures will show that the transformations
from any numbered condition are here indicated by the lines (or points)
to which it is connected through these fundamental positions, whether one
or more hexagram lines are modified. In this sense Figure 6 is a much more
compact representation than Figure 2 and 5. There is an intriguing resemblance
between some of Lama Govinda's other diagrams of transformation between
trigrams (represented by "curves" and "lines") and
aspects of the structure of Figures 1 and 2. In graph theory terms, Figure
6 is a "dual" of Figures 2 and 5 combined, in that the transformation
lines in the latter correspond to the transformation points in the former.
Even in this representational convention there is advantage in alternating
between both forms.
Also of great interest is Lama Govinda's very detailed investigation
of sub-patterns of transformation connecting groups of 8 conditions traditionally
called "houses". These patterns provide an important basis for
any further investigation of the typology of transformation cycles called
for above. It also enables him to clarify the relationship between the
numerical sequence and the abstract order of Figure 6 by determining in
Figure 7 the four symmetrical sub-patterns from which Figure 6 is constituted.
7. Elaboration of a spherical map
One interesting approach to this is to consider how Figure 6 would be
transformed if it were to correspond to the alternative "top-in"
order of Figures 1 and 3, instead of the "top-out" order of Figure
2. In effect the square formed by conditions 51, 52, 57, 58 in Figure 6
is simply rotated about the axis of conditions 1, 2; Conditions 1, 2, 29
and 30 do not move. The new sequence around the circumference is then 1,
58, 29, 51, 2, 52, 30, 57, as in Figures 1 and 3. If conditions 1 and 2
are considered as fixed "poles", a continuous rotation between
the fixed positions 29 and 30 may be seen as transforming the circular
representation into a spheric one. This dynamic model would need to be
interpreted in terms of lines of force, as in the analysis of an electric
motor or dynamo.
For reasons discussed in earlier papers, there are advantages in seeking
a representation whose completeness is highlighted by basing it on an approximation
to a spheric surface. The question then becomes how to cut up that surface
into 64 units which will be assumed firstly to take the form of regular
areas and secondly to be of identical form. (Other approaches are of course
worth exploring.) Since the 64 phases (hexagrams) result from a conceptual
system based on an eightfold complexification of 8 fundamental phases of
change (trigrams), the problem can initially be reduced to one of representing
the latter on a spherical approximation. The simplest such polyhedral approximation
is the regular octahedron with eight triangular facets (see Figure 8).
In allocating the 8 phases to these facets it would obviously be advantageous
to do so such that their three high probability transformation pathways
Returning to the 64 phases, the problem can now be defined as one of
how to divide up each of the triangular facets of the octahedron into eight
equal parts so that eight phases can be represented within each such triangle.
This can be done as shown in Figure 9. In this way the 64 phases can each
be given a unique location on a polyhedral structure which can be easily
projected onto the surface of a sphere.
There remains the problem of how to order the eight phases within each
facet in Figure 8 so that within the completed figure the six high probability
transformation pathways of the 64 phases are highlighted. It would seem,
as with the standard problem ofgeographical map projections onto a two-dimensional
surface, that there are a number of approaches to be explored. Each would
be based on a different convention and would lead to a different arrangement
with different advantages.
The Book of Changes is recognized as striking a remarkable balance
between logical, structural (left-brain) precision and intuitive, contextual
(right-brain) nuances of comprehension. For 3,000 years it has proved to
be a unique achievement in relating the qualitative to the quantitative
in a manner which is both practical and poetically appealing -- qualities
for any blueprint for a new world order.
In the exercise for Section TP, most of the poetic appeal has been sacrificed.
It does demonstrate that it is possible to interpret the insights of an
Eastern classic into the jargon of Western management, however much of
a "profanation" this may appear to those who know the original.
An important consequence of the elimination of metaphor (despite the argument
of Section MZ) is the loss of vital mnemonic keys with which the original
is replete with good reason. Much of value has therefore been lost, as
in any interpretation, despite the seeming advantages to be gained from
the precision of the alternative presentation. Clearly some of the distortion
is due to the alternative framework, whilst much is due to the limitations
of the interpreter. Other interpretations could strike a more graceful
balance between jargon and insight.
The acid test is of course whether this interpretation is useful to
the formulation of sustainable policy cycles. Is it possible to relate
the conditions described to the practical issues to be encountered? Can
policy-makers use or adapt the maps of transformation pathways reproduced
here? The answers are for the future. But the precision of the framework
of the Book of Changes, linking such contemporary topics as "development",
"liberation", "peace", "revolution", with
what have here been termed "basic need", "deficiency"
and "cultural heritage", offers an intriguing challenge to reflection
and comprehension. The topics recall many of the concerns of the Goals,
Processes and Indicators of Development project (1978-82) of the United
With regard to the important problem of representation, it is appropriate
to note that schematic diagrams of similar form have already been produced
in combining Eastern insights and a Western management emphasis. A striking
example is that of Figure 10, from Zen and Creative Management by
Albert Low (1976). Erich Jantsch (1980), in his wide-ranging synthesis
of self-organizing systems and their implications for policy-making and
human development, draws attention to metabolic transformation cycles such
as the carbon cycle shown in Figure 11. Indeed, given the fundamental nature
of the representation system and its relationship to the basic amino acids,
it is worth investigating to what extent the set of interconnected metabolic
cycles and pathways does not illustrate the kinds of transformation pathways
which need to be identified for organizations. The map of metabolic pathways
could prove to be a provocative challenge to organizational sociologists
of the future.
It is also tempting to see the 6 (+1) basic transformations from each
condition (in Figures 1 and 2) in terms of catastrophe theory, as qualitative
equivalents to the 7 characteristics kinds of catastrophe to which natural
conditions are subject. The containment of plasma in fusion research suggest
other insights concerning the containment of energy and the avoidance of
This commentary began with a concern with how to reduce the drain of
"energy" and significance from policies, organizations and meetings
to which some of the transformation conditions respond. Is there not some
possibility, like the search for the Holy Grail, that the challenge of
giving form to sustainable policy cycles may be of equivalent complexity
and form as that of containing plasma energy?
From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential