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joe collado

I would imagine that one of the icebergs along the way might actually apply to the "constant feedback" portion of the argument, whereby committee members may be hesitant to give factual feedback to superiors for fear of retribution. Or even worse, they might provide tainted feedback in order to appease superiors , giving them "what they want to hear".

Only way i can envision combatting this is to create AND INSURE an "environment of equals" where all members are on even footing.


Thanks for the comment, Joe. Feedback is central to learning in any complex system, but most developing country governments (and other organizations) do not foster feedback, learning or experimentation. It is one of the major reasons these organizations get stuck. Fostering feedback loops is thus one of the crucial dimensions of change, but it starts with fostering a demand and appetite for honest engagement...which you rightfully note is missing in many paces because of the icebergs that exist. This is one reason I believe autocratic systems fall behind...unless they cultivate engagement like those in Singapore... They don't embrace the importance of staying at the edge of chaos, with voices of reason and those of opposition to reason fighting for space.


Dear Matt,

I've quite enjoyed your different posts recently - not least the institutions as icebergs metaphor. Thank you.
It's interesting to see what will come of the initiative. I really appreciate the attempt to find a way around everyone-and-no-one-still-believing-in-modernisation-theory, to paraphrase the first paper.

Following up on the institutions as icebergs, however, I would like to ask if it wouldn't be expedient to re-theorise institutions thoroughly as a foundation for the PDIA? More specifically, I worry that before we 'get' institutions in a way that respect their complexity in its own measure, we won't get them right.


matt andrews

Thanks for the comment. I agree completely that any approach to institutional reform should be realistic about what institutions are. I will be blogging about this in future, but the PDIA approach is developed with a clear appreciation of institutional complexity. You will notice we are not big on pre-planned or pre-designed interventions. This is partly because we don't think it is possible to see the full content of all the icebergs one must consider when designing reforms. We advocate using problems as entry points to contexts so that you have a vehicle through which the iceberg can be revealed. More to follow but your perspective is spot on.


Thanks, I'll be looking forward.
Not least to see what you imply when you say 'revealed'. As much as I like the iceberg metaphor for drawing attention to the inter-linkage with the non-observable 'parts', I think there's an important difference in that an institution is (dynamically) defined by its function. It's in that respect more akin to a city than to an iceberg. If you isolate the first, it'll die. I think there're some big implications of this to how we currently theorise institutions. That's why I suggested the proper re-theorisation.
But, as I said, I'm looking forward with great interest to follow your work.


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