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Managing complexity: A systems approach – introduction
Managing complexity: A systems approach – introduction

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1.1 Making sense of the metaphor

The metaphor of the juggler keeping the four balls in the air is a powerful way for me to think about what I do when I try to be effective in my practice. It matches with my experience: it takes concentration and skill to do it well. But metaphors conceal features of experience, as well as calling them to attention. The juggler metaphor conceals that the four elements of effective practice often seem to be related. I cannot juggle them as if they were independent of each other. I can imagine them interacting through gravitational attraction, or the juggler can juggle them differently, e.g. the E and B balls with the left or right hand as depicted in Figure 22. This allows me to say that in effective practice the movements of the balls are not only interdependent but also dependent on my actions.

Figure 22
Figure 22 A metaphorical model of effective practice based on juggling four balls that are also interdependent

Activity 32

Write down your own initial impressions to the metaphor of the systems practitioner as juggler.

It might be helpful to explore what the metaphor reveals and conceals for you by relating it to one of the roles you have, or situations you have experienced. A spray diagram could be used.