Reflections on Grace

In our call last Saturday, Ward shared an aspiration with David and me. One that would leverage the work of David Woods, as found in his paper _The theory of graceful extensibility: basic rules that govern adaptive systems_.

Here is Ward's summary of Woods' theory: Graceful Extensibility

Ward wondered if there were insights in that paper that might help us understand the nature of graceful extensibility as agile practices are utilized in complex systems, such as those found in urban design, business and education.

Woods' paper, while a bit challenging to read, is fascinating as he searches to define the nature of successful adaptive systems - those that do not become brittle under stress. He introduces new terminology to define the complexity of self-directed, interrelated and interdependent systems.

One could distill this insight down to layers, adaptability and alignment.

Individual systems (what he calls UABs) exist on a layer with finite resources and unpredictable stresses that potentially can break the system. Its ability to sustain itself is based on its capacity to adapt by integrating with assets in other network layers. Systems in different layers will only support each other, however, if there is an alignment of interest - there must be an intersystem awareness and willingness to support.

If this distillation is within spitting distance of Wood's intention, then how might we integrate our understanding of systems as patterns to deepen this insight? How might our pattern paradigm help us walk into Woods' unanswered question:

>The theory poses a key research question: What properties of a network of adaptive units organize relationships across units so that the expression of initiative is regulated to produce and sustain graceful extensibility?