Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution
Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J., & Fisch, R. (1974)
Chapter 1:
From mathematical logic:
1) Theory of groups—group properties
a) Composed of members—any combination of two or more members is itself a member—may allow for within group changes. Impossible for any member to be placed outside the system.
b) Can combine members in varying sequence but outcome will be the same
c) A member may act without making a difference
d) Every member has a reciprocal or opposite—combination of any member with its opposite gives the identity member
Model for types of change that transcend a given system or frame of reference.
2) Theory of logical types
The way change agents define the problem determines nature of the proposed changes. Systems perspective. First order change occurs within the system which itself remains unchanges. Second order occurs from outside the system. System itself fundamentally changes. First order change is incremental—involving a linear progression to do more or less, faster or more accurate, etc. Second order requires transformation from one state to another. Behavioral changes chort-lived.
This section synthesizes content and is drawn directly from “A Decade of Reform: A Summary of Research Findings on Classroom, School, and District Effectiveness in Washington State,” by J.T. Fouts, 2003, and from “School Restructuring and Student Achievement in Washington state: Research Findings on the Effects of House Bill 1209 and School Restructuring on Western Washington schools,” Washington School Research Center, 1999.
Schools: Examples of first order changes: changing class sizes, school 7 administrative structures, schedules, teacher training in instructional strategies such as writing the learning objectives on the board, managing cooperative learning groups, etc.—ideas or philosophies for the changes are not present. Second order changes in schools include three factors: 1) Fundamental change in ideas about student achievement 2) Instructional enhancement focused on refining pedagogy, and 3) collaborative support that replaces a culture of isolation. Eg.—research says the relationship is important—reducing class size does not ensure a change in the relationship--
Chapter 2:
Example of the arms race—policy of mutual deterrence includes no provisions for its own resolution. The system can’t generate within itself conditions for change. Complex homeostatic systems. Eg., Systems in families: Spouses are distant and the more one advances, the more the other retreats. –Families making decisions—when they try to plan something together, it doesn’t matter who proposes something, the others are bound to dismiss the idea. –persistence phenomena.
Second order change appears unpredictable, abrupt, illogical from within the system. It is introduced onto the system from the outside.
“Nine Dots problem” p. 25—an assumption of “the rules”
Almost everybody who first tries to solve this problem introduces as part of his problem-solving an assumption which makes the solution impossible. The assumption is that the dots compose a square and that the solution must be found within that square, a self-imposed condition which the instructions do not contain. His failure, therefore, does not lie in the impossibility of the task, but in his attempted solution. Having now created the problem, it does not matter in the least which combination of four lines he now tries, and in what order, he always finishes with at least one unconnected dot. This means that he can run through the totality of the first-order change possibilities existing within the square but will never solve the task. The solution is a second-order change which consists in leaving the field . . .”
we cannot see our problem because it is part of the way we see the world. In that case, a counselor, who exists outside our self-imposed limits and can see our problem in its totality, can offer suggestions that we would have never considered from within the problem
Chapter 3:
More of the same—or when the solution becomes the problem. Example of legislating morality (eg., alcohol/prohibition)
“But the Danish example has shown that the complete liberalization of pornography has not only not opened the floodgates of sin and general depravity, but has actually made people ridicule and ignore it. In the case of pornography, then, the "more of the same" solution (legal repression) is not just the greater of two problems, it is the problem, for without the "solution" there would be no problem. “ p.33
Cybernetic theory—negative feedback situation
Chapter 4:
The terrible simplifications:
-Denying the problem
-Anyone who sees a problem must be mad or bad
-Attacks on those who point out the problem
-party lines
(Note: links to Kuhn p. 41)
The problem requiring change becomes compounded by its mishandling
Chapter 5:
The Utopia Syndrome
Conversely, the utopian sees a solution where there is none. Result of belief one has found the ultimate solution. Utopia Syndrome can take one of three forms:
1) Introjective—If goal is utopian, the act of settling it creates situation in which unattainability of goal is not likely to be blamed on its utopian nature but rather on one’s ineptitude. Alienation, depression
2) Rather than condemning oneself for being unable to effect a utopian change, one indulges in a relatively harmless form of procrastination
3) Projective- a moral righteous stance based on the conviction of having found the truth. Shifting blame. Disdain for history—nothing to offer
Chapter 6:
Paradoxes: Paradox arises through confusion of a member and a class. Whatever involves all of a collection (class) cannot be one of the collection (a member)—the result is a paradox. P 72. Example of a public school.
Chapter 7:
Second order change is applied to what in the first order change perspective appears to be a solution—because in the second order change perspective this solution reveals itself as the keystone of the problem whose solution is attempted.
While first order change always seems to be based on common sense (more of the same recipe), second order change usually appears weird, unexpected—there is a puzzling, paradoxical element.
Applying second order change techniques to the “solution” means that the situation is dealt with in the here and now. effects and not presumed causes…different frame
Chapter 8:
The Gentle Art of Reframing chapter begins with the classic fence painting story of Tom Sawyer. Simply by a subtle reframing of painting as fun rather than work, Tom acquires a bevy of volunteer helpers. Tom's skills would apply well to that of being a psychotherapist, as it is usually fruitless to merely point to a doorway out of a client's problem, they must be led to consider that walking through the doorway is preferable to remaining inside the security of their all too familiar problem space.
The confusion technique
Chapter 9:
-clear operational definition of the problem
-investigation of solutions attempted so far
-clear definition of the concrete change to be achieved
-formulation and implementation of a plan
Setting concrete reachable goals. No iceberg analogy here.
Chapter 10:
-Utilizing resistance:
There is a potpourri of therapeutic approaches in the penultimate chapter Exemplifications. Dealing with the "Why Don't You, Yes But" game players is one of them. My approach to such people on the Crisis Line was to listen to their problem, offer half a dozen solutions, to which the predictable response would come, "Yes, but I tried that, etc." And then I would pause, take a deep breath and say in the most authoritative voice I could muster, "I have listened carefully to your responses as I offered you solutions, and now I must tell that in light of my years of experience and professional knowledge I think that your situation is hopeless." Then I would wait -- I could almost hear their resisting muscles flexing on the other end of the phone line. Soon, they would say, "But, what if I ..." and would offer a slight modification of something that I had suggested earlier. I would say, "Yes, but remember that ..." and I would repeat one of the many objections to change that they had offered me earlier. All the while this interchange went on, a remarkable thing had happened: they were on their own side! They were offering suggestions to be tried, any one of which might get them through the door of solution to their problem, if they chose to actually apply it. The hopelessness was now gone, and life seemed manageable again.
People say they want change when what they want is for things to stay the same while their problem is invisibly lifted from them without any effort on their part. Or perhaps they want change, but change is so scary to them that they reject every change out of hand for some spurious reason. An oyster has very strong muscles that prevent it from being opened against its will. When an oyster shucker opens an oyster, the oyster's muscle is severed and the oyster dies. Many people in hurting situations are like the oyster, they would die rather than allow their shell to opened against their will and their problem removed from within. This book has ample suggestions about how to go about the paradoxical task of getting the oyster to willingly open its shell. Will all of these suggestions work? One can only say with the authors, "The only reliable basis for judging the value of a method remains the result achieved by its application."
-Making the overt covert
Example of father giving his daughter a dime every time she is rude to
-advertising instead of concealing—eg. telling people before a speech you are so afraid of public speaking that your anxiety will probably overwhelm you
-the great effects of small causes—fear of failure—making deliberate mistakes
-The Bellac ploy
-benevolent sabotage—teenager example—agree you can’t control the behavior—would like you home by 11:00, but we agree we can’t make you…assertion and defiance no longer make sense…
-The benefits of inattention—example of not looking for runaways—they are paying great attention to the amount of attention paid to their disappearance
-Study problems—perfectionistic procrastination resulting in poor, last-minute papers….write the paper deliberately to get a C…