Anthony Gabriele


This paper outlines three potentially useful approaches to improving the performance of organizations, and then uses these approaches together comprehensively to design a modern urban American high school. The first approach is an adaptation of the iterative (and gradualist) approach used in engineering systems. The second is a negative reinforcement strategy that minimizes the need for negative reinforcement. The third is the TPO model-things, places and outcomes- used in conjunction with the other two approaches. All three of these methods are interpreted along the lines of the minimalist design philosophy expressed by the author.

Minimalism is defined here as a philosophy of looking for simplicity in a very complex system by focusing on the most relevant relationships to the design system. Once a very relevant relationship between factors and results is theorized using the TPO model or negative reinforcement model, iterative gradualist design methods are used to further theorize and implement the design or design change. The interpretation of the TPO model used here focuses on the manipulation of nonhuman objects, such as books and organizational structures and relies on the relationships between these objects and the desired outputs of the individuals, in order to achieve the results desired for the organization. In this approach, the needs or wants of the individual are given first priority over those of the organization. To this end organization structures, and objects within the organization are manipulated so that the organization’s needs conform to the individual’s self-perceived goals. Reevaluation of organizational needs is also part of this process.

Negative reinforcement, which is more limited in application, is used only when necessary. Iteration is the changing of one variable at a time to measure in the result the necessity for more change of that variable, or the need to switch to changing another variable. In human systems it is also necessary to do this in a gradual manner, by using a minimalist approach to again avoid unintended consequences. These concepts will be explained further and exemplified with a theoretical application to the Los Angeles South Central High School setting, and a relevant detailed discussion.


minimalism, education, systems science

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