Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Understanding scales… in plain English


All systems operate at scale, and all scales are relational.  One of the first steps in making use of whole-systems thinking is understanding scales and your relationship to them.  We propose four scales: the “Me” scale, the “My” scale, the “Us/Them” scale, and the “One” or global scale.

The “Me” Scale

The “Me” scale refers to systems and networks of which you are the central and essential part. Without you, nothing in the “Me” scale would continue to exist. So, for instance, your health, your job, your relationships, your intellectual development, your spiritual life, your Facebook page, etc.


The “My” Scale

The “My” scale refers to systems and networks in which you are an integral part, but not an essential one. In other words, if you no longer existed these systems and networks would be significantly altered, but would continue. Examples of the “My” scale include your extended family; your company; your immediate faith community; your civic or social organizations, especially local chapters; perhaps even your town or neighborhood.

The “Us/Them” Scale

The name of this scale is not intended to refer to a duality in opposition. It refers instead to systems and networks in which you participate, but are not an integral or essential part. For most of us, this might mean the city or state in which we live;’ our country; the economy; the Internet; the environment; large institutions in which we play a negligible role, such as unions, the military, political parties, church denominations, and very large employers.

The “One” Scale

The “One” or global scale refers to the scale at which everything is connected, the universal plexus. Recall that in “Understanding systems …  in plain English” we talked about …

  • A system as an integrated set of elements that perform a desired function.
  • And that most complex systems are really systems of systems working together.
  • And that when systems of systems interact with each other – as when human beings form friendships – we have networks.
  • And when multiple networks interact with each other, especially when they predominate a given field or scale, we have a plexus.

Okay, so the “One” scale is the entire architecture of existence, the universal plexus, the “Whole System” on a cosmic scale. Now, at PathTree we don’t tell you what to call the “One” scale  (beyond the “One” scale) because we’re about a process, a methodology, not religion, or even – strictly speaking- science. Some people call the “One” scale ‘God.’ Others call it ‘The Universe’ or ‘Creation’ or the ‘Cosmos.’ What you call the “One” scale or how you choose to think about it is your business. We just want you to be aware of a scale in which everything is connected. That’s the point.

We began by noting that all scales are relational. This is an important point to bear in mind, for reasons that will become clearer when we talk about assessing conditions, both present and emerging. For now, though, consider that while Barack Obama’s “Me” scale may be remarkably similar to yours or mine, his “My” scale is dramatically different. If one is the President of the United States, one’s “My” scale – the scale at which one is an integral, though not essential, part  -  includes the entire nation and much of the global political and economic system. On the other hand, the President’s “Us/Them” scale is by definition far smaller than yours or mine.

In the next post in this series, we’ll look at shocks and disturbances.

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