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The Law of Requisite Variety

Part 3 of 12 from Communication Dance

(continued from last week…)

Options Make Life Easier

Remember the mathematical principle, the Law of Requisite Variety? It says “The part of system with the most options will control the system.” Not might control the system, not could control the system, “will” control the system.

For instance, what’s the most complex part of a car and is also the part of the car to most likely have trouble? It’s the engine, right? How come? The part of the machine with the most moving parts is the place that has the highest complexity and in this case has the most influence over the system. That part is also the most likely one to break down first because there are more ways it can break down.

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In a car, this is the engine. The engine is the part of the car that’s likely to have the most control over whether the car goes or not. Though you can have transmission trouble, the break in a transmission is not as complex as an engine. It is less likely to give you problems first because there are fewer ways that they could fail. So, the part of a system with the most options (in this example) to cause you trouble is the engine.

Human Interaction

It’s the same in human systems. The part of the human system with the most options will control the system.

If you think of a disagreement with a parent, with your spouse, with your child, with a friend, what would happen if the only way that person knew how to behave when confronted was to yell? While you (a true master of yourself!) could also yell, or you could walk away, or you could stay calm and discuss it. Or perhaps you could look at the issue from the other person’s perspective, or you could get someone to join in on the conversation who was aligned with your position, or you could go onto the Internet to get factual data to back you up, or you could go to reference books to look up information about it, or you could make a joke out of it.

Just make a guess, who do you think would come out at the top the majority of the times in disagreements between the two of you? Pretty obvious isn’t it? Since you are the master and because you have the most flexibility in your behavior you have many more ways to manage the situation.

Who do you think would feel best at the end of the conflict? Also, it would probably be you. Who would most likely be able to get the other person to problem solve, and who would be more likely to get what they wanted from the interaction? Right again, you would.

(to be continued…)

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