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syntegration

The words syntegration and syntegrity were coined by Stafford Beer to describe a very specific convergence process suitable for groups of 12 to 42: a means of seeking a synergy to achieve integration via an icosahedral geometric model that relies on the tensegrity model of Buckminster Fuller. In which "a formal representation of the Outcome Resolve as a Markow-process ascertains, by means of a calculus of eigenvalues, that after three iterations, 90 % of the information in the Infoset will be shared by all its members" - Reverberating Networks - Modelling information propagation in syntegration by spectral analysis - Assad Jalali

In other words, it is easier using this model to share what all members of a group of 12-42 people know. An extended example of the use of this method in a Town of Oakville, Ontario, planning process problem shows the stages involved in a practical way.

process


According to one simplified summary, "the process of a syntegration proceeds as follows:"

"1. Opening: The syntegration stands under a general topic that focuses all mutual efforts and is explicated in an opening question, e. g.: Which form should management training take in future?

2. Generation of the agenda (Problem Jostle): Each participant hands in contributions that seem important to him or her (Statements of Importance). In the following these are discussed and combined (Aggregated Statements of Importance). Then, in a process of successive synthesis and prioritizing, the agenda for the actual work on the general topic or problem is generated (Hexadic Reduction). It is finally worded in 12 topics (Consolidated Statements of Importance).

3. Assignment to groups (Topic Auction): Each member of the infoset decides on the topics to whose processing he or she would prefer to contribute. A corresponding listing of the individual preferences forms the basis for the assignment to the various teams, with the help of an optimization algorithm. One alternative is random assignment to groups.

4. Working on the topic (Outcome Resolve): The individual teams (consisting of 5 players and 5 critics each) discuss their respective topic. Each team meets several times (e. g. in three iterations). The fact that the same problem setting with its different but interconnected aspects is continually processed by the same set of people, who gather in alternating compositions, provably leads to a self-organizing process with a high effect of integration: Via reverberation, the information in the Infoset is shared progressively, over time.2

5. Conclusion: final coordination if necessary in Triplets (corresponding to the triangular faces of the icosahedron), presentation of the results in plenary."

The original Team Syntegrity approach defined in Beer's book Beyond Dispute made explicit mention of organization protocols, path-finding experiments, differences in academic, corporate and community setting.

Major issues it raised included:
  • "Vexed Questions of Allocation."
  • "Developmental Planning."
  • "Governance or Government?"

The essential form of the model seems to be the icosahedral space it defines, and the support for better dynamics and self-reference than with a "flatter" model. An emergent concept such as what Beer calls Recursive Consciousness seems similar to the later autopoetic network theories that became popular later in the 1990s.

'Color teams' code the output seeming to parallel the layers of the spiral dynamics methodology. Though they are not related apparently.

experiments and extensions


The World Syntegrity Project conducted an outreach in 1993 to find 10 different perspectives in each of 10 cities on the same issues. There has since been little or no activity to develop this work.

The worldgame.org was a related effort, as was the acunu.org delphi, both much more successful, but more founded on the original work of Buckminster Fuller than on Beer's version.

Today consultants seem to be the primary users of this method. Two direct successors, Smallforms and ((Sy

At the 2001 ISSS Conference in Toronto, Joe Truss and Chris Cullen described two new "official Team Syntegrity protocols":

Smallforms


"Smallforms are useful to solve problems with less complexity so that 9 to 18 participants are enough to address it and 6 topics are enough to cover it. The importance filter assigns members and critics ... to their struts previous to the Syntegration by the client with help from the organizer. The opening plenary and the "generating statements of importance" take place as usual but then, the predefined teams sit together (two at a time) in one room to define their topic. During this process, they are supported by a facilitator and critics."

Smallforms are octahedral, with 6 nodes and 12 struts, so as to result in 3 to 5 members and 1 to 3 critics per meeting. "Smallforms usually last two days, including 3 iterations. The Delivery Team consists of the organizer and lead facilitator, two facilitators, the lead logistician and the logistician. "

Syntegritaste


"Syntegritastes are useful to solve complex problems which need to be dealt with by 18 to 30 participants, where not enough time is available to conduct a Syntegration, and where 12 topics are needed to cover it. Syntegritastes take less time (1 to 1.5 days) but also bring less reliable results concerning commitment, alignment and actions."

"Additional to the color teams which deal with the opening question, Syntegritastes also make use of up to 5 number teams. These teams receive predefined questions are asked to discuss it with the inputs they have received out of the color teams."

"Syntegritastes need larger Delivery Teams and larger facilities. An additional facilitator is needed and not only a large enough plenary room to host two teams meeting at the same time but also 4 meeting rooms in stead of only 2."

compared to other meeting methodologies


"In her book "Dialogue at Work - Making talk developmental for people and organizations" (London, 1998), Nancy M. Dixon gives the reader an understanding of the relationship between talk and development in organizations. Chapter 6 deals with the forums and conditions for dialogue and compares four different group settings: Future Search, Open Space, Real-Time Strategic Change and Team Syntegrity." - from syntegrity.com

This review suggests that

sources


Beer's Beyond Dispute: The Invention of Team Syntegrity, ISBN: 0-471-94451-3

which cites:
  • "Reverberating Networks: Modelling Information Propagation in Syntegration by Spectral Analysis (A. Jalali)."
  • "From Prototype to Protocol: Design for Doing (J. Truss)." See prototype and protocol and active ontology for an updated view of these problems.
  • "Pliny the Later:Elective Selection (J. Hancock)."