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…One of the most successful treatments in the addictions field is based on this simple principle of supporting people to hear themselves voicing their own concerns. Called Motivational Interviewing, it backed by an impressive evidence base. How can this approach be applied with issues like climate change?

About five years ago, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, and I spent a day with Professor Stephen Rollnick, co-developer of the Motivational Interviewing (MI) approach, to explore this question. Professor Rollnick’s advice was ‘move from information giving to information exchange’. In medical consultations, MI involves a shift away from lecturing people about the risks of health-damaging habits, to instead being more interested in hearing how they see the risks and what concerns they might have about these. The stance is of being a ‘motivational listener’ who makes space for people to make their own argument for change.


from this blog post.

Here is the transcript of the original conversation.

What is Gutenberg Method?


assign the students portions of the textbook to study before they come to class.

The students have read the material, they have thought about it, and they have questions to ask about it. You answer these questions, or, better still, try to get them to answer their own questions, or get other students to give the answers. You ask questions. You have a discussion. If they’re slow to come alive, you take up points that you know give students trouble. You lead them through difficult problems. The entire class hour becomes like those few golden moments at the end of an old-fashioned lecture when a few students manage to rise above the system and gather around your desk.

The Gutenberg Method, then, is one that uses a book. But if it is to work, the book must be written with this end in mind, or as though this end was in mind. It should not be a reference book jam-packed with ten times the facts and information that a student can hope to learn. It should not be a short, concise summary written to help the student review. It must be written to be the student’s initial contact with the subject. New ideas must be introduced as though the students were completely ignorant which, at this stage, they are. Explanations must be full enough, complete enough, that the students can understand them. This means using many words and many pages.

What we really want to do is strike a spark in the students’ minds. We want to reveal to them the beauty of ideas and concepts and rationality. The teacher and his personality play the key role in this. But it is not the teacher’s wit and polish and delivery that are important. It is the teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject that is enormously contagious … It is the intense pleasure the students get when they are led, like Socrates’ slave-boy, to use, really use, their own minds.


from this article.


It also have very good quotes:


… laziness. It is always easier to go on doing what you’ve been doing and what everybody else is doing than to do something new.

I think that everyone, at least one part of everyone, wants the security of knowing what is going to happen.


and some other interesting quotes:

Reading makes demands on you. You must work at it. And because of the work you do, reading stretches your mind.


Learning … is not a spectator sport. A student doesn’t learn sitting on the aisle in a lecture room watching a spectacular performance by a star lecturer.



Also read the article below written by Frank L. Lambert:


The essence of the Gutenberg Method that can transform a class lies in the psychological change in professor and student to the roles of coach and student-who-wants-success. The procedures are just the framework. They are trivial, useless, a waste of time without a commitment by instructors to change their attitudes to create a different relationship with students than they themselves suffered as undergraduates under authoritative savants (or marginal human beings with fast-moving chalk and PowerPoint). In my opinion, the instructor must communicate this and the advantages of their changed roles for the student to the students from the first minutes of contact with members of a new class.

Only a psychological change in the instructor, plus extra hours of labor in finding/developing optimal talking points to aid each student, can prove to doubting students how a course is worth their best effort. It is additional labor to speak with them individually, personally. But if they sense the sincerity of such interest in helping them in their future, I predict a major change in enough students to tip the balance in the whole class toward a genuine coach-to-team-member relationship.

What I discovered as “the Gutenberg Method”, via procedures and attitudes described in the preceding paragraphs, is maximally successful only if it is truly, and if it is sensed by the student to be, part of a totally cooperative endeavor to conquer the subject matter: to ‘beat the book’…with coach and student working together.

Unfortunately, an understanding of the causes of violent conflict does not, in itself, provide a sufficient basis for implementing good policies and avoiding bad ones, though scholars sometimes believe this. Theory can help us understand the process by which violent conflict escalates. Promoting understanding is the role of the scholar. But effective political leadership requires a combination of understanding, toughness, vision, empathy, courage and the ability to communicate. Political leaders need the results of our theorizing. They need our understanding and our prayers as well.


from this inspiring paper. Its ten lessons are very valuable too.

Also, by courtesy of this paper, excerpt from The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions‘s “Epilogue”:


We have said that computer modeling can add five important qualities to human understanding beyond what can be achieved by the mind alone.

1. Precision
2. Comprehensiveness
3. Logic
4. Explicitness
5. Flexibility

The great problems that threaten modern social systems – poverty and hunger, armaments and terrorism, environmental destruction and resource depletion – certainly would be helped if these five qualities became regular elements in human decision-making. But we have also said that these qualities cannot be realized unless modelers become compassionate, humble, open-minded, self-insightful, and committed. If those qualities would become regular elements in human decision-making the problems of the globe would certainly be solved.

I opened the first workshop by asking, “What is your vision of a world without hunger?” Coached by Peter, I made the request strongly visionary. I asked people to describe not the world they thought they could achieve, or the world they were willing to settle for, but the world they truly wanted.

What I got was an angry reaction. The participants refused. They said that was astupid and dangerous question. Here are some of their comments:

  • Visions are fantasies, they don’t change anything. Talking about them is a waste of time. We don’t need to talk about what the end of hunger will be like, we need
    to talk about how to get there.
  • We all know what it’s like not to be hungry. What’s important to talk about is how terrible it is to be hungry,
  • I never really thought about it. I’m not sure what the world would be like without hunger, and I don’t see why I need to know.
  • Stop being unrealistic. There will always be hunger. We can decrease it, but we can never eliminate it.
  • You have to be careful with visions. They can be dangerous. Hitler had a vision. I don’t trust visionaries and I don’t want to be one.

After we got those objections out of our systems, some deeper ones came up. One person said, with emotion, that he couldn’t stand the pain of thinking about the world he really wanted, when he was so aware of the world’s present state. The gap between what he longed for and what he knew or expected was too great for him to bear. And finally another person said what may have come closer to the truth than any of our other rationalizations: “I have a vision, but it would make me feel childish and vulnerable to say it out loud. I don’t know you all well enough to do this.”

I go to a quiet place, shut down my rational mind, and develop a vision. I present the vision to others, who correct and refine it and help it to evolve. I write out vision statements. When I lose my way, I go back to those statements.

I keep practicing vision, because my life works better when I do.

I have to work actively to focus on what I want, not what I expect.

One essential tool for making vision responsible is sharing it with others and incorporating their visions. Only shared vision can be responsible. Hitler was indeed a visionary, but his vision was not shared by the Jews or the Gypsies or most of the peoples of Europe. It was an immoral, insane vision.

Vision has an astonishing power to open the mind to possibilities I would never see in a mood of cynicism. Vision widens my choices, shows me creative new directions. It helps me see good-news stories, pockets of reality that could be seeds of a wider vision.

I am constantly amazed, but increasingly convinced, that envisioning is a tool for producing results.

Above all, we could strengthen ourselves to endure the pain of the enormous gap between the world we know and the world we profoundly long for. I believe that it’s only by admitting, permitting, and carrying that pain that we can gradually move our world away from its present suffering and unsustainability and toward our deepest values and dearest visions.


from Donella (Dana) Meadows’s envisioning paper. See also this column.

I recommend especially the last part of the paper about how to envision.

For the video see this post.

This blog post tells a good example of my concept of learning. It is the most effective, as people look at the results using their eyes, comparing the results and reflect on the differences. Same input, different interventions, different outcomes. It must be due to the interventions! No cognitive conflict can be stronger than this. By explicitly pointing out this, again and again, people cannot escape but reflect.

If we have two earths (at least two human-hospitable planets), then we can run an experiment – one earth is like now, business as usual; and another earth changes to sustainable course. Wait and see them after Year 2050, we will learn that which one is better choice.

Unfortunately we don’t have another earth to learn. The best we can do is creating virtual earths, or modelling and simulation to test policy interventions. People who don’t like simulation outcome of a model can always complain about its assumptions, since model is never as perfect as the real world. But this is what the best human can do. Study the model as unbiased as possible, learn its usefulness and limitations, examine its assumptions and trace back to understand why the simulation outcome is like that (how the model results that simulation outcome). We can learn a lot even the model is not perfect.

Another way is to learn from history. Of course no history is identical. But similar to modelling and simulation, we can learn its usefulness (insights) and limitations (what may not apply). Understand why the history becomes like that is the most important gain of study history. Generally most of the insights are just repeating. If our civilization is collapsing again, it means we didn’t learn enough history.

Obviously, leaders in this new decade must be well-versed and decisive, innovative and industrious, visionary and hard-working. They cannot expect to get by peddling their citizens shallow aphorisms, false utopias or ad hoc governance.

For our own sake, we hope we have the leaders we need to guide us through a more challenging new decade. We must demand from them the quality of leadership our nation needs to thrive in an age of more evident scarcity.

and its comment:


Not only those in the government and the church but also those whose work is to shape how we think, the opinion makers should we demand from. Inspire the people into pulling together out of the rut we’re in. Inspire and not conspire with thieves who have lined our pockets.



Update: Forget to reflect on last year post.

… Model builders seem to assume implicitly that passing on knowledge, which was acquired through scientific research, is sufficient to convince people to change organizational policies. Studies on the impact of computer models on policy making have convincingly revealed two things. First, in most cases the impact is conceptual (i.e., people learn from it), rather than instrumental. Second, most of the learning takes place in the process of building the model, rather than after the model is finished.


first paragraph of this Foreword twelve years ago.

Donella (Dana) Meadows talks in October 1994 at International Society of Ecological Economics Conference in Costa Rica. The exercise is in the last part.

Read the rest of this entry »

I like these words from System Dynamics Discussion Forum:


Perhaps the question shouldn’t be, “how do we make complex models easier to present to people?” but rather, “how do we engage more people in the modeling process?”. One suggests a more technocratic-vision of building models, producing knowledge, and getting that knowledge in the hands of change makers, who then make the change; the other suggests a vision where the process of understanding a problem and the process of creating change are more intimately tied together and more horizontal in their power arrangement.

That being a bit too idealistic, in the practical world of presenting models, I think that it is largely a problem of having our tools be modeling tools first and foremost and presentation tools only as an afterthought.

Modelling as part of communication, modelling as part of problem definition, modelling as the process of understanding the problem. It is pretty safe to say, if the problem’s stakeholders can learn about the nature of the problem through modelling process, they are already in good shape to manage the problem (Note: I prefer to use the word “manage” than “solve” because I think problems often cannot be solved, only be managed within an acceptable range).

The conventional way of policy analysis-inform-decision making is becoming more and more difficult to serve the modern complex society. Problems are increasingly complex to grasp through simple policy briefs paper. Decision makers need to take effort to learn the insights through well-designed problem modelling-understanding-decision making cycle. The role of facilitator is to guide problem’s stakeholders go through this learning process smoothly.

Limits to growth is the insight gained from world modelling. It is also found in many other cases as well, including limits to growth of mature industry, overdrunk and collapse, housing bubble and dissolution of Soviet Union. They were really dazzling during their peak, and many thought they will grow forever. However, the result is, nothing have ever grown endless. Mostly due to physical limit. 0 is already nothing, you canot go below 0. One of the good recent example is the limit of US interest rate cut. In monetary theory, US economy can be stimulated by continue cutting interest rate, even into negative territory. But by doing so will bring unintended consequences that may harm US economy at the end. This means that the use of interest rate to stimulate economic growth has hit its limit.

Unfortunately, insight cannot be told. It is best understood when audiences found out themselves. It needs well-crafted exercise to guide audiences to explore. It needs motivating teachers who are good at the art of teaching. It needs engaging learners who are willing to learn. It takes time. These requirements are stiff. No wonder most modelling insights are failed to communicate.

Appreciation of the difficulty of dynamics is also an insight gained from building System Dynamics models. This may be why many System Dynamists are humble. We need to be prudent. Unfortunately, as with other insights, it is hard to be appreciated by simply telling. You need the war to appreciate the peace.

This is my insight about insight.

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