Three Dimensional Understanding


  • The first dimension is what everyone does - seeking out bridges to meet our individual needs.  When we understand the world from the point of view of our individual needs we consider it to be a 1st dimensional understanding of system function.
  • Generally, our individual needs are met by maintaining a bridge to groups (organizations).  Every group has a different set of needs that must be met for the group to continue.  Each group, through the individuals that make decisions for the group, seeks out bridges to meet the needs of the group, including the need to maintain its bridges to the individuals who make up the group.  When we understand the world from the point of view of a group's needs (business, nation, religion, etc.) we consider it to be a 2nd dimensional understanding of system function.
  • If we step out of our role as a member of the group and look at how the group fits into all the flows of value across all the bridges in the system, we can think in terms of flows that feed back into themselves building value into the system . . . and flows that dissipate as they move through the system diminishing in value as they flow across the bridges.  When we understand the world from the point of view of all the flows across all the bridges we consider it to be a 3rd dimensional understanding of system function.

In the first dimension, we are separate and vulnerable and must be constantly vigilant to attacks on our bridges.

In the second dimension, with a strong bridge to a group, we may feel less vulnerable but our group maintains constant vigilance against attacks on the group's bridges.  Here is where we find conflict in the system.  Our group defends its bridges and when the flows across our bridges prevent flows across the bridges of others there is conflict.


In every community there is unrealized human potential and unrealized biological potential.  In two dimensions we call those poverty and environmental degradation and treat them as a problem instead of as a resource.  In three dimensions we can see the benefit to ourselves as individuals and to our groups to help realize that potential and increase the amount of value flowing through the system.

Table of Contents

Practical Holism


Complexity Spirals

Integrated Systems of Production

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  • David Braden IV, Executive Director, Living Systems Institute
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