Ryan J. A. Murphy
It is perhaps easy or natural to think of systemic design at the level of communities, organizations, industries, ecosystems, or governments. As a discipline, after all, systemic design is largely developing in response to the pressing challenges influencing society at these levels. However, Lockton (2018) showed how systemic design also applies to wicked personal problems, in a callback to the “knots” derived from the psychiatric practices and poetry of R.D. Laing and the “double-binds” of Bateson. In concluding, Lockton (2018, p. 429) asks: “Could we help people identify knots in their own lives (and help them untangle them?) Is it even possible to untangle these? Do they describe problems that have a wickedness to them which means attempting to untangle creates a whole new problem?” In this presentation, I try to answer this call by applying systemic design methods to a personal problem via an autoethnographic case study. Sparked by the dysfunctionally late realization that I am a wicked problem too, I have been making progess on my own procrastination problem with systemic design. I present an analysis of my own attempts to eradicate this disorderly habit by reframing it as a systemic design challenge—and me, and my tools, as a sociotechnical system. Here I share how systemic design modelling has played three roles in this progress: model as diagnostic tool, model as treatment strategy, and model as therapy. Applying systemic design principles and tools helped me appreciate the complexity of this problem, design strategies for change and to identify novel, creative solutions that gave me leverage over some of the root causes, and serves as a day-to-day “disentangler” when I get stuck in the tangled loops of my own anxieties. Key contributions of this presentation include the framing of personal behavioural change as wicked problems, the demonstrated combination of autoethnography and systemic design modelling, the three roles of modelling in progressing personal systemic change, and the model of procrastination-driven anxiety and its insights.
KEYWORDS: reflexivity, wicked problems, complexity, leverage analysis, autoethnography