The DEMOSOPHIA Design Environment
A Proposal

Example Demosophia Type Facility in Action
Ford Motor Company Center for Interactive Design
(Photograph by Scott M. Staley, Ph. D., P. E.,
Ford Research Laboratory, Dearborn, Michigan, 1994)



John N. Warfield
University Professor
June 24, 1995


Summary of Proposal 3
Summary of Background Information 4
Background 5
Evaluation Criteria 6
Appendix A. A Compressed History 8
Appendix B. Facility Information: Floor Plan for Primary Situation Room 28

The previous page shows a photograph of a facility of the type described herein. That facility is in Dearborn, Michigan, in the Rouge Building of the Ford Motor Company.

Another facility of the same type is located in La Jolla, California, at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, part of the Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service.

A 1994 photograph of this second facility, furnished by Mr. David Mackett (NOAA Administrator of the year, 1994), can be seen in the following book:

  • John N. Warfield (1994), A Science of Generic Design: Managing Complexity Through Systems Design, Second Edition, Ames, Iowa: The Iowa State University Press, Figure 8.2, page 271.

  • The first edition of this book, published in 1990 by Intersystems, Salinas, CA, shows a photograph of the facility in existence at that time at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

All three rooms are constructed with the same basic design.


A period of 27 years of research on complexity has yielded many lessons. A major lesson reflects the importance of careful consideration of scale of situations in determining how to manage complexity. Other lessons reflect the impact of role confusion in large organizations, which creates major gaps in what ought to be integrated management practices. Still others relate to the explanation of major physical or financial disasters. A major conclusion stemming from this work is that institutions of higher education must become visibly sensitive to the importance of scale, and expand their infrastructures to accommodate to the study of complexity.

In the course of the research mentioned, two outcomes are especially significant:

  • Index of Complexity. A quantitative description of situational complexity has been discovered, and tested in numerous applications to verify its appropriateness and to clarify its interpretation. This Situational Complexity Index now allows an objective determination that a situation is complex, thereby enabling high-level management to distinguish such situations from ordinary situations, and seek appropriate remedies. Moreover, it removes the onus from scholars in the disciplines that accompanies production of defective research results applicable to the discipline, by revealing that ordinary approaches to the subject treated are virtually certain to fail, due to underconceptualization that accompanies complexity.

  • Interactive Management. It has been discovered that a system of management called "Interactive Management" (IM), applied intermittently in organizations, is sufficient to enable situational complexity to be overcome, and to create scientifically-justifiable, appropriate actions to overcome it, through highly-organized group processes.

In light of these discoveries, it is mandatory to make the results known and to strive to incorporate the lessons learned in higher education, in order to bring the fruits of the research to a wide variety of public and private institutions.

To initiate this activity in 1995 at George Mason University, it is proposed that GMU make available the space to house the initial, dedicated, infrastructure for housing group interactions, identified in this proposal as a DEMOSOPHIA-type Situation Room with appropriate service areas, which can be applied to the "threefold purpose" identified herein.(2)



Virtually all of the primary flaws in today's universities can be traced to the impact of complexity on the mission of the university, coupled with the lack of formal university recognition of what has just been said and its implications for higher education.

False dichotomies have been created which occupy much time and endless discussion, e.g., the disciplines should give way to broader studies that are highly relevant to society, and especially to economic development.

Two main task areas face the university of tomorrow:

  1. Task 1. To upgrade, strengthen, and deepen the quality of the long- standing academic disciplines

  2. Task 2. To introduce, support, and increase the extent of formal study of complexity, and applications of what is known about complexity to modern life, including ways of carrying out Task 1 and, in the process, to eliminate hastily-conceived disciplinary programs that lack scholarly foundations by introducing enhanced, efficient practices providing superior education.

This proposal aims directly at making a prototypical inroad to Task 2 that can become a template for other institutions, while providing a service to George Mason University and its varied constituencies.

Specifically, it is proposed that GMU provide the space to create a situation room of the DEMOSOPHIA type, with appropriate service areas, for the following "threefold purposes":

  • Teaching. Teach students the sciences of complexity and generic design, and the practice of Interactive Management in studying contemporary situations and designing policy strategies to resolve them

  • Discipline-Upgrading Service. Provide a service to academic disciplines to assist them in organizing the structure of the interested disciplines, to enhance the transparency and quality of these disciplines, and identify areas of needed disciplinary research within larger contexts

  • Service to Industry and Government. Provide a service to industry and government, assisting them in system design for complex situations, such as transportation, health care, product design, and strategy development for policymaking

As an incentive to GMU to approve this proposal, funds for equipping such a situation room are offered by the proposer through an existing 5-account, funding having accrued from precisely the type of service mentioned, delivered to Ford Motor Company.


The facility proposed here is one concept arising from a prolonged period of research, both theoretical and empirical, on complexity.

Aims of Research on Complexity. In the late 1960s, a research and development effort was begun at a time of extreme turmoil in American life, with the threefold aim of (a) studying complexity scientifically, (b) creating, testing, and upgrading a management support system: an integrated behavioral/technical process and a supporting process environment that could become a basis for working effectively with complexity in organizations and (c) ultimately moving this technology into the mainstream of American life in both government and corporate settings.

A continuous program of research, development, and testing was carried out during the period 1968-1995, founded in the threefold aim. Three significant results of this program are: (a) the successful development of the sought management support system (a process), called Interactive Management, heavily documented in books, papers, application reports and videotapes of Interactive Management Workshops; (b) the development and publication of a science of generic design, which provides the conceptual foundation for the process; and (c) the discovery of 17 Laws of Complexity, which underpin both the science and the management process.

Institutional Participation in Empirical Testing. During the 27 years of development, the technology has been progressively tested many times in many places, always in realistic settings on problems of urgency to the organization and individuals involved. The test or professional working sites have included, in approximate temporal order: Tata Consultancy Services, Hyderabad, India; the University of Queensland in Australia; several Japanese corporations; the University of São Paulo in Brazil; the U. S. Forest Service, Washington, D. C.; the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California; City University in London, United Kingdom; the National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington, D. C., the Defense Systems Management College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia; the University of Hokkaido in Japan; Americans for Indian Opportunity in the United States; the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), Mexico; CWA, Ltd., in Berwyn, Pennsylvania; the National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("AMTRAK"); Northern Telecom and the Bell Northern Research Company of Canada; the Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan; the University of Humberside, Hull, United Kingdom; the Rapid Response Manufacturing Consortium operating under a project managed from the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, Ann Arbor, Michigan; the Center for Interactive Management, New Delhi, India, and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Maryland.. The Interactive Management technology has been successfully transferred to those organizations highlighted in the preceding list.

Outcomes of Application. Among the outcomes of its application are: (a) the redesign of the defense acquisition system of the United States, followed by major changes to that system in the past few years; (b) development within Ford Motor Company of new prototypical front-end approaches to new system design; (c) significant cultural change highly contributory to NAFTA occurring in Mexico, in AMTRAK, and in the Ford Motor Company; and (d) dramatic increases in system design productivity in many of the organizations involved.

Lessons Learned. Lessons have been learned during this development. Many of them reflect the importance of careful consideration of scale in determining how to manage complexity. Other lessons reflect the impact of role confusion in large organizations, which creates major gaps in what ought to be integrated management practices. Still others relate to the interpretation and value of IM products. A major conclusion stemming from this work is that, in the long run, higher education must become sensitive to the importance of scale, and modify its infrastructure to accommodate to the study of complexity.

To initiate this activity in 1995, at George Mason University, it is proposed that GMU make available the space to house the appropriate infrastructure, identified in this proposal as a DEMOSOPHIA-type Situation Room with appropriate service areas, which can be applied to the "threefold purpose" identified herein.


This proposal reflects knowledge gained in many years of unique research, therefore it is reasonable that evaluators would have difficulty knowing how to evaluate it. Because this proposal is believed to be potentially far-reaching in terms of higher education as a whole, and specifically with reference to George Mason University, and because the proposal relates to an area of interest that is just coming into view, while at the same time possibly being competitive with superficially competing proposals at this University, a set of evaluation criteria is proposed below against which to evaluate this and other proposals thought to be of like nature. Use of these criteria enables the author of this proposal to direct the reviewer to specific parts of this proposal in order to facilitate their reviews, and to help motivate timely review and decision, in the light of potential applications in the near term.

Criterion 1. Appropriate Scholarly Documentation. Is there appropriate detailed documentation to support the claim that an adequate scholarly basis exists for teaching and research, of the type mentioned, to be carried out in the proposed facility?

Response. Yes. The documentation is provided in Appendix 1. Consult Page 8 to see the contents of Appendix 1, which illustrates the following:

The work is closely coupled to philosophical and scientific thinking involving deceased "colleagues of inheritance", whose work has come down through the ages, extending backward as far as Aristotle, and as recent as Michel Foucault. Moreover, a number of contributors have taken note of the literature identified in Appendix 1, and have themselves made contemporary contributions, the nature of which is spelled out in Appendix 1. Among them is Professor Benjamin Broome of GMU, presently applying Interactive Management on the island of Cyprus, as a Fulbright Fellow, to help reconcile differences among the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and who has previously taught the relevant material at GMU in a very popular course, requiring the use of the kind of facility envisioned, and who wishes to continue to do so upon his imminent return from Cyprus.

Criterion 2. Potential for Serving GMU Constituencies. Is there any evidence to suggest that such a facility, if constructed, could provide services to various university constituencies?

Response. Yes. The documentation is included in Appendix 1 and the references identified there. In particular, two books identified there (1994 books published by Iowa State University Press) show how and where the material has already been applied in higher education to various constituencies, both domestic and international.

Criterion 3. Potential for Derivative Income. Is there any evidence to suggest that outside sponsors might be found to carry out work in this facility, thereby supporting ongoing expenses?

Response. Yes. As inspection of GMU's own accounting records may reveal, approximately $1.2 million in contract or grant research has been brought in to GMU within the past decade, specifically for the purpose of doing research or providing support for research that requires a facility of this type. During the five-year period from 1984 to 1989, when an experimental version of such a facility was located in Thompson Hall, approximately $250,000 was brought in from about 12 sponsors, just to do work in that room. More recently, several organizations have constructed such a room to carry out related work in their own location, in part because of the unavailability of such a facility at GMU.

Criterion 4. Credibility of Claims. What evidence is there to suggest that what is said about complexity, as it is defined in the various references identified in this proposal, and said to be a potential major concern of higher education, is valid?

Response. While much evidence exists, let's consider the use of the Situational Complexity Index to identify complex situations, and what it reveals in the application of Interactive Management to the largest-scale issue so far tackled, namely, the redesign of the United States Defense Acquisition System, the results being incorporated in Public Law 103-355, dated October 13, 1994, titled: "Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994".

The Situational Complexity Index (SCI) can be interpreted through its three constituent subindexes.

The Miller Index. Let N be the number of distinct problems involved in the situation being explored. Let the quantity N/7 be identified as the Miller Index. (This nomenclature is chosen to honor George Miller, who first published an analysis of the quantitative capability of the human mind in his often-cited paper concerning the "magical number".) If N = 7, the Miller Index is equal to 1, and the number 1 can then be taken as a reference point. For values of N less than 1, the human being is operating in a zone of capability, reflected in the Law of Triadic Compatibility. If N is greater than 7, the human being leaves that zone and enters a region of inability to work simultaneously with a set of elements.

The Spreadthink Index. Let V be the number of problems in the set of N thought to be of highest importance by an expert group. Let the quantity V/5 be identifed as the Spreadthink Index. If V = 5, the Spreadthink Index takes the value 1, which corresponds to total consensus. For values exceeding 1, the Spreadthink Index measures the variability of belief that is so characteristic of groups that grapple collectively with complexity.

The DeMorgan Index. Let K be the number of distinct aggravation relationships among pairs of the V problems. Let the quantity K/10 be identified as the DeMorgan Index. (This name is chosen to honor Augustus DeMorgan, the inventor of symbolic notation for relations.) The number 10 corresponds to that degree of relationality represented by a linear structure involving 10 relationships among five elements, thereby correlating with the situation where a group agrees on the 5 most important aspects of a situation. When the DeMorgan Index is 1, it means that the relations among components of a complex situation are modest in number, and very likely manageable. For values exceeding 1, and departures from linearity of structure, the DeMorgan Index is a measure of the extent of relationships among identified components of the complex situation.

Viewed as just described, the Situational Complexity Index is the product of the Miller Index, the Spreadthink Index, and the DeMorgan Index.

Necessary and sufficient conditions that a situation be complex are that the situation contains seven components: (a) a human presence, (b) a generic purpose associated with the human presence, (c) exercise of system inquiry by the human presence, (d) human purpose-related infrastructure to make possible the system inquiry, (e) system-related environment, (f) sensing apertures for space-time sampling of the situation by the human presence, and (g) cognition on the part of the human presence; and that the Situation Complexity Index (SCI) shall have a value of at least 100, where SCI = (N/7)(V/5)(K/10) = (1/350) NVK.

In several applications of Interactive Management at Ford Motor Company, all instances showed values of SCI well over 100, with the highest value found at Ford so far being 7,000. In contrast, the work done by Henry Alberts of the Defense Systems Management College in redesigning the U. S. defense acquisition system involves the following quantitative descriptors:

  • Number of IM Work- shops Held: . . . 28
  • Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .330 +


    Miller Index.......97
    Spreadthink Index..68
    DeMorgan Index.....290

    Situation Complexity Index: 1.9 Million


    Miller Index.......3
    Spreadthink Index..4
    DeMorgan Index....18

    Situational Complexity Index: reduced to 216


    Miller Index.......1
    Spreadthink Index..1
    DeMorgan Index ....2

    Situational Complexity
    Index: reduced to 2
    enabling the system to
    be described and


    1. The last page to accompany this proposal is not stored in the file because it is a complex drawing to illustrate the layout of the proposed situation room. This drawing is the same one that was supplied to Ford Motor Company in 1990 as part of the proposal for them to construct such a room. The drawing is also included in the printed version of this proposal produced by the GMU copy center in late June, 1995.

    2. See Appendix B for a description of the proposed facility. The description given there has already been applied at Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan, to construct the Ford Motor Company Center for Interactive Design (a photograph showing this facility in use can be seen in J. N. Warfield, A SCIENCE OF GENERIC DESIGN, Second Edition, Ames, IA: The Iowa State University Press, 1994, page 270).

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