organisation of the biomatrix in space: activity systems
The output of an activity system needs to be tapped by the connecting system in order to become its input.
Tapping means taking up (e.g. accepting, accessing, procuring, seeking out) the output from another system.
An output can either be tapped by the activity system for which it was intended, or by another activity system. For example, the output of my cake baking activity system is either tapped (i.e. eaten) by the family, or – if it is a flop – it is tapped by the rubbish bin.
The tapping interface between two systems implies a shift in responsibility: It is the responsibility of the provider of the output to ensure that the product meets the criteria of the system that should tap it. The tapping itself is the responsibility of the recipient system.
For tapping to take place, the recipient must be willing and able to tap. Willingness is inherent in the recipient (e.g. to be willing and motivated to learn about systems thinking). The ability depends on the recipient (e.g. to read this you must be able to speak English), provider (e.g. we must make it understandable) and the environment (e.g. you need internet access or to buy the book to read this).
Tapping can be passive (e.g. accepting what is offered) or active (e.g. deliberately searching for the output of another system).
Tapping can be mediated. For example, in workshops we observe what was not understood and explain it again and with more case studies.
The tapping interface often involves power issues. For example, we could try and influence you to learn about systems thinking. Or you could be forced by your university to do so in order to pass your MBA.
As illustrated by the proverb“you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” the concept of tapping implies self-responsibility. During tapping, responsibility shifts. It is our responsibility to bring the waters of systems thinking as close to you as possible. It is your responsibility to drink.
relevance for the change manager
Change management involves making systems tap. This is called facilitating change.