There are two kinds of self-reinforcing cycles. The more common in human endeavors are self-destructive while those in nature are robust, resilient and sustainable. The future of higher ed depends on the migration out of human patterns to biomimicry of those natural self-reinforcing cycles. We cannot develop sustainable strategy drivers when we lack awareness of what Peter Senge called The Fifth Discipline and Gregory Bateson called our Mind in Nature. We've got to learn to take our models based on causal arrows and close the loop to include the feedback, side effects and hidden consequences of taking action.
When we tell people what to say, do or think, they will either comply or defy our domineering advice. We do the telling as if it does not come back to haunt us or have lasting effects on others. Our model includes a causal arrow of making others do what they're told to do. The others will become dependent or counter-dependent on getting told by us, contrary to our predictive model. They will discount or dismiss their inherent abilities to say what's on their minds, do what situations call for and think for themselves. They will wait to be told rather than take initiative and responsibility. Then when the cat is away, the mice will play games of retaliation. The domineering one will find the others have become "high maintenance" and in need of being told everything. There seems to be no escape to this self-reinforicng cycle. There are no sustainable dynamics amidst this considerable destruction of all the participants' flexibility and effective contributions to the whole.
When we ask people what are they trying to accomplish, what options are they considering and what considerations are on their minds, they will respond to our queries. Our model includes enduring effects on others. They will become more reflective, self aware and resourceful. They will use their timeouts to challenge their assumptions, process their previous attempts and rethink their strategies. They will take ownership and look after the common interests with their big picture. This system is becoming more resilient and sustainable as power is shared, processes work with the participants and collaborations become productive.
When we "make like a tree and leave" human endeavors, we function within a forest of reciprocities. Our model contains countless loops. We respond to what's needed, requested, missing and changed. We enjoy others doing the same for us. We find each is contributing in their unique ways to their locality in the whole system. Everyone's innovations are synchronous with the local and systemic dynamics. The effects of all these reciprocities creates a highly resilient and sustainable self-reinforcing system.