Mechanisms cannot become more complex. Automated systems cannot change their own rules, learn from feedback or adapt to unfamiliar inputs. Mechanisms can only play by their rules and reliably do what they always do. They succeed in the ways they previously succeeded. Like the boy with a hammer in his hand, everything looks like the head of nail. Mechanisms do their thing when it's called for according to it's own rules which overrules any indicators of variety, change or added complexity.
Humans and human systems are hybrids between living systems and mechanisms. When these hybrids function like living systems, we label them open, permeable, responsive, adaptive, learning and complex systems. When they function as mechanisms, we label them as closed, defensive, unresponsive, dysfunctional, stuck and overly simplistic systems. In order to function as a living system, these hybrids need to be curious in a place where it's safe to make mistakes. This contrasts with situations where mistakes are fatal or extremely costly because survival or a zero-sum success is at stake.
We can further the evolution of the human hybrids by any of the following strategies, among others:
- Giving permission to make mistakes, learn from errors without test anxiety and debug the current understanding by seeing where it messes up.
- Giving protection from devastating failures through social safety nets, "retests for full credit", and "game over play again?" frames
- Giving acknowledgment of current intentions, constraints, and obligations which open closed minds and lower defenses
- Giving expectations to become more responsive, better adapted and more complex in response to the external complexity