Parmenides Academy  Thought-pattterns


What is a thought-pattern of cross disciplinary relevance (TCR)?

The strategic thinking models proposed by Parmenides Academy are labeled “thought-patterns of cross disciplinary relevance” (TCRs). TCR’s are cognitive frames that we utilize when addressing complex issues. A TCR is a complex pattern that has been lifted from a particular discipline, for instance physics, which has then been conceptualized and subsequently applied to a new and different complex situation, for instance in the realm of business. Parmenides Foundation has identified 16 unique TCR’s.


What makes a good TCR?

A good TCR should result in new perspectives and new types of questions when applied to a different issue.  It should sharpen our view for characteristic structures, dynamics and relations between the components or aspects of a problem.


Examples of TCRs

A fundamental paradigm of evolutionary biology is the mechanism of “natural selection”, hereditary transfer, the generation of variation and the selection according to certain criteria. Beyond biology,  this paradigm has been successfully applied in the economic and social sciences: technological  evolution, the competition of companies for market niches, the evolution and competition of scientific ideas are just a few examples where mechanisms are involved which have a close resemblance to structures in “natural selection”. Often even special concepts like “niche construction” or “neutrality planes” (variations without any immediate fitness advantage but leading to a better and more rapid adaptability in cases of environmental changes) have their counterpart in other disciplines.

The “logistic mapping” is a mathematical equation which originally has been investigated in the context of population dynamics. However, it exhibits  many characteristics of complex systems: attractor dynamics, bifurcation points, phase transitions, butterfly effect, parameter dependent deterministic and chaotic behavior, etc. All these concepts are relevant whenever one deals with complex systems. The logistic mapping is an example where one can easily explain and visualize these concepts, but at the same time it’s simplicity is also a warning that already in mathematically simple non-linear systems these complicated phenomena and structures can occur.

In physics, the “harmonic oscillator” serves as a model which can be applied whenever a certain state of a system is stable. Is serves as a thought pattern for “stability”. The natural questions to ask are: What is the force which brings the system back into its stable state? Under which conditions can this force “change sign”, which would result in an instable state? Is there a moment of “inertia” leading to an “overshooting” once the stable state is reached? Is there a “friction” which damps the stabilizing process? These ideas can also be transferred to steady state situations and are of highest importance, e.g., in the context of homeostasis.

A thought pattern stemming from the study of complex thinking, is what we labelled the “OCD heuristic” (for ‘optimal cognitive distance’). Whenever we think about an issue or a problem we automatically, and usually unconsciously, opt for a certain “cognitive distance”. This cognitive distance, however, is not a given but a very important degree of freedom in our thinking. Not always results a “closer look”, i.e. a cognitive homing-in, in a more telling description or analysis. Often, and sometimes counter-intuitively, also the opposite cognitive move of   “zooming-out” leads to a more insightful perspective. Realizing that this cognitive distance is an important degree of freedom in studying complex phenomena  –  and, therefore,  engaging in a proactive scanning through the various resolution levels – can be a very valuable heuristic in scientific work.