Box Gambits

Part Three – The Box Gambit:

The pen stays on the page, linking the dots with four straight lines.

The “rule” of this gambit is to connect all the dots with four straight lines by not allowing your pen/pencil to leave the surface of the page. Solving this graphic riddle will require some thinking and trial and error. Try it four times. Good luck.

When developing a plan, remember this exercise.  We are all in one kind of rock, paper, scissors box, metaphorical or not. Use your experience to identify examples of thinking that explain moving some examples. Next, describe your thinking with other people (dots) as a creative or imaginative game. What examples of thinking or acting to get the dots of your box to work for you? This is a classic “connect” gambit. Use and share this little exercise with friends. Follow the rules four times and four lines. The pen stays on the page. The lines connect all the dots. The answer is at the bottom of this page.

Congratulations on a solution, or before you go for it below, take a moment to think of a problem or issue you/we would like to define. Use the sample questions below to guide a journalist’s six basic questions with some sampling answers. There are boatloads of these things available now. This meets Occam’s Razor test.

Problem Observation

“There are at least three parks in the community in terrible physical condition. They are misused and abused. Then, in the evening, teenagers hang out, sometimes all night, making a horrible noise and a big mess, why I don’t understand how or why, and so on.

A.  Issue/Problem Defining Questions

  1. Who is responsible for the management/maintenance/budget of these parks?
  2. What are the causes of poor conditions, noise, and mess?
  3. Where are these parks and other recreational places?
  4. When do the “misuse” and disturbance occur all the time, often, infrequently?
  5. Why do these disturbances occur?
  6. How many complaints have been made?

B.  Asset/Opportunity Defining Questions

  1. Who are the parents? Who else can we work with to further define this issue?
  2. What are the resources available in the short and long term to “x” or “y.”
  3. Where should we direct our research or take our first action(s)?
  4. When should we get directly involved?
  5. Why must I/we work to define and solve this problem?
  6. How can we work with park management/maintenance?

The Box Gambit Animated GIF.

A graphic illustration of system change produced by Melanie Rayment is discussed in detail in System Change Part Four: Critical Thinking Pathways (here). When we noticed how Rayment put “system change” outside the description, this example was from our training courses on creative thinking pathways.

Gratitude for all the recommendations and accounts, The Report

Back to System Change


Part One – Discoveries:

Johari Window

System change builds on the psychology of transparency in human relationships. In this openness, we find friends to love and leaders to trust with our tithings and taxes. The chart illustrates a heuristic method for building awareness, trust, and confidence whenever a “never doubt” group decides to change the world.

In 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the beginning of the most unparalleled system change in America since the authors of the U.S. Constitution finished their work.  Martin Luther King was twenty-six years old when the boycott began. He would have just twelve years and four months more to live. Identifying when a system change will occur reveals an unpredictable set of choices in our history. That means the only thing to do is begin. The only way to discover what you need to know is to act.

Two more examples, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment ratified the women’s suffrage movement. It occurred as a product of 54 ballot measures in 30 states. It took decades of work and hundreds of small group efforts to produce national law prohibiting governments from denying or abridging the right to vote on account of sex. After another half-century, the Voting Rights Act (1965) expanded to include the destruction of segregation with the vote’s power. Proof came in 2016, roughly another half-century later. A recent documentary tells another story of system change that involved just six months that changed the world forever (here).


Tossed up for all to see are the grand assumptions and harmful practices in our world that appear to be malfunctions. We say, “Do something about ending this tyranny or meeting that unmet need.” Democracy is supposed to be one of the best ways to solve a stubborn problem, especially when events threaten many people‘s well-being. But, unfortunately, the argument to “do something” also includes authoritarian structures such as raising an army, running a business, oppressing a people, or ending a pandemic.

At the center of both methods circles the question of efficacy. Is delay due to squabbling and bounded rationality, or is it due to the utter fear of error and power? The discoveries can be positive or negative in our efforts to define problems. Most of our findings concern the value of predicting and mitigating an adverse event’s most probable cause, time, and place. Individual circumstances cannot be assigned effectively in this way and lead to the acceptance of the unknowable as something more easily attached to an actuarial table of risk in anticipation of a long list of malfunctions assigned to social practices few natural events. The losses are, therefore, attributed value and paid to victims post-trauma.

It is occurring to us all that more engagement on questions of global impact events demands an entirely new regime. These events are grounded in climate change and the probable recurrence of global pandemic infections in which there may be other connections beyond comprehension.  The risk to “all” in a post-trauma evaluation is an insufficient duality. Losses are measured in blood and cash, by good or bad locations, as lucky or unlucky, in life or death, for cultural survival or existence as subsistence.  The trauma is further parsed into black and white, rich and poor, knowing and unknowing, educated or not. It divides young or old, able or disabled, using percentages drawn with an unknown, shifting denominator of dissuasions to proportionality. Tossed it up for all to see is the confusion of our times.  (See: Crisis Management)

Still, much of our practical solutions come as a post-trauma payment to reduce future risks. Individual households and governments also pay individually with resources drawn by regional needs. For example, a volunteer fire brigade works in one place, while another site requires a professionalized firefighting force. Predictable malfunctions reveal investments in first responders and a standard set of institutional providers.  In these cases, the assessment of risks and costs and the selection of management protocols establish readiness levels defined by the tools required.

Finding Steppingstones to New Pathways

How can the world move steadily and permanently away from post-trauma payouts toward levels of resilience and enduring sustainability?  How can the extensive democratic debate be grounded with more power in the equally slow and painstaking science rules? Will it be possible to make science lawfully capable of overriding the procedures used solely to sustain political power? Given these practices, I can accept authoritarian rules to protect us all on the promise of a system change as structured in the Pathways to Malfunction Identification chart below. This is a failing system.

The chart below describes a bubble-up process established as components of local governance composed of “never doubt” groups. As small organizations, they will select a needed change based on self-interests.  Examples are quality of life issues by residents or scientific groups to analyze specific problems. The chart also recognizes the formation of interdisciplinary groups skilled at acquiring and injecting capital resources. It anticipates coalition groups charged with aligning policy and program implementation schemes built on trial and error evaluations. 

The final system change events in this model (upper right) are as unknown as their seminal beginnings (lower left).  They will become known as the initial efforts bubble up, and shared ideas spread like Whitman’s leaves of grass across the landscape of personal change. The bet is a simple one.  People in small groups can pick their experience with a problem, become a never doubt organization, and build toward a system change of great value to themselves with recognized results. Should the malfunction be shared widely and require a more productive agency for an action, the process acquires funds. It encourages never doubt coalition groups to seek higher levels of investment that implies a regional area of operation.  Finally, if the malfunction has national effects, the proposed system change will have widespread consensus agreement as it is already in place and well-practiced locally.  

The chart above suggests that social system changes utilize the energy in the “never doubt” idea.  The widespread knowledge of “never doubt” comes from the work and words of anthropologist Margaret Mead regarding cultural transformations or transitions.

Whether the change sought is significant, dangerous, beautiful, or hideous, the cause of a difference (major or minor) can be the work of a relatively small group of people with an idea. The factor often left out is that the change sought could be twelve apostles or twenty violent supremacists. Claims that this is the only way a system change occurs are logical and historically accurate, but it may not be a lasting one in the digital world.  Given the flow of ideas, it is possible to conceive of a thousand groups that might identify and act on a common view of change that will alter everything all at once, whereby the source becomes irrelevant. Rosa Parks knew she was not the first person to be insulted on a public bus in Montgomery. She is known for saying, “I was just tired.” But, it became “one and all” who wanted her to be the last person insulted and arrested on a Montgomery bus. Historians can only speculate why the sit-in at the Woolworths in Greensboro, NC, in early 1960 by four untrained college students set the tone for the decade. Sit-ins at segregated lunch counters are well documented throughout the South, but this one began in February and ended in July.

Therefore, the purpose of the chart (above) is to trust in our better selves. It lays out a belief in discovering malfunctions for two extremely well-known reasons. First, power concedes nothing without a demand. Second, the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. That was Douglass (1849). He was writing about getting more comfortable with change, even if every turn seems to be for the worse. Sensing the end of misery in the world is a powerful feeling and opens the mind to wonderment and recognizing beauty. 

The failures of power occur in its acquisition and thereafter in the keeping of it. Thus, in seeking change, it is logical to examine how public appropriations become private holdings. Here are three widely known global examples:

  1. Vast personal capital accumulation among a small percentage of people is now common knowledge. That the rate is fantastically beyond a measure of any one person’s productive capacity firmly suggests an economic malfunction worthy of analysis and action.
  2. Fossil fuels are irreversibly altering the thin layer of gas encompassing the earth. These added gases are causing climate change and several malfunctions.
  3. The endogenous formation of organic molecules capable of endangering all human life as a virus may be a natural occurrence. However, the failure of anticipation, prediction, management, and mitigation might be the most serious malfunction of all.


The chart has seven letters (GOS-3P RE) in the upper right corner. I developed it to describe a process for defining big problems like the three listed above.  I use them to support the never-doubt group idea with steps that mean something in the immediate sense that can be put to practical use today and shared or joined with others on a similar path. Before this process can begin operationally, the issue must be continuously well defined and researched. In writing a GOS-3P RE, the “future perfect tense” as a verb form of communication is best.

  1. Establish goals that address the problem(s) as defined.
  2. Form objectives that will measure purpose (s) as stated.
  3. Construct strategies (tactics & activities aiding goal and objective success)
  4. Select a broad range of possible projects  (creatively imagine the future).
  5. Determine policy (the values and principles that will guide future decisions).
  6. Decide on priorities (which projects go first? what is the governing policy?).
  7. Budget the resource implications of the plan (projects, cost? and;
  8. Evaluate (is their measurable progress?)

A “never doubt” group can process and implement these steps with the cautions offered by Alasdair MacIntyre, a Scottish philosopher whose book After Virtue (1981) brings insight to our modern problems. One observation remains especially useful now, “Questions of ends are questions of values, and when it comes to values, reason is silent; conflict between rival values cannot be settled.

In this sense of change, it seems far more reasonable to focus the world on its malfunctions. They can be found among the powerful, among rivals, and even in our regular day-to-day lives. People worldwide joyfully engage a problem when confronted with a self-interest grounded in something as complicated as community survival or as simple as improving physical comfort. Before us, the task is to broaden this personalization of our place globally and broaden it with digital communication tools at our disposal.

Communication action is occurring now, every minute and hour of the day. But, will these face-to-face experiences spin our lives into the shadows of our home-based comforts? Will they be used to share stories of survival more aggressively? Will they help build the knowledge with the action needed to define and solve common problems?   

From the mathematical genius of interpreting regression to the mean data to the inspirational voices of political activists, we can likewise fall to the floor in laughter at our ridiculous selves in a barrage of satirical media presentations that seem (and often are) far more accurate than a news broadcast. We are awash with the language for change, but finding a pathway to a real change, please think about the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the sit-in at Woolworths in Greensboro and don’t look back.

Malfunctions are examined in detail (here)

  Part Two: Malfunctions


Clip of the Chicago Seven. Raised fists had value at the 1968 Democratic National Convention

Tom Hayden died in October 2016 at the age of 76. He was a founder of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It was a half-century ago, June 1962, when Hayden and some twenty-somethings of the SDS got together to examine their values. In just a few days, they wrote down ideas and criticisms that remain solid common sense today, yet we still struggle to make them real as the number of thieves that “rule” continues to grow.

The week they met, John F. Kennedy was at Yale giving a commencement address. The invention of the first communication satellite that year included building missiles to chase the moon and no one at that time could even imagine having phones in their pockets more powerful than the computers used to guide those rockets. They could not have dreamed of the capacity to connect everyone to everyone else on an issue. What they did was prepare a very useful vision of a democratic society. The SDS gathered to write the Port Heron Manifesto for their generation. It is a statement about the values and principles of participatory democracy.

The Chicago Seven and William Kunstler

The eight principles (below) led Hayden and the group above to Chicago and the Democratic National Convention in September 1968. Their ability to mobilize resulted in their arrest by the federal government for conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to anti-Vietnam protests. Their principles have been rewritten and re-interpreted below using the future perfect tense. Doing so adds accountability to sustaining their vision because the main lesson of having control is the ability to create recurrence. A restatement of their platform would, therefore, read, by the year 2020, we will have:

  1. established a political order that defines problems with facts to set goals
  2. discovered the means to share the social and economic consequences of public decisions equally
  3. enabled people to come out of isolation and participate
  4. accepted the privacy of social relations among all people
  5. added new ways for people to find meaning in public leadership
  6. provided outlets for the expression of grievances and aspirations
  7. illuminated a broad range of choices that facilitate goal attainment
  8. acknowledged questions that help to reformulate well-defined issues.

If these principles recur in our experience, they become instructions for participation in a democracy that filters oppression out of the social context. Not surprisingly, fulfilling these principles by 2020 remains unlikely; therefore, each occurrence in our experience and in your organizational experience needs extensive identification and authentication.

Political leaders can be helpful as individuals or as local delegations when principles attach to data measured in days, months, years, decades, or generations. Connecting these principles to an issue such as the “health of the nation, or my city” leads to useful evaluation. An implementation of this method would say, we will have “x” by the end of “y.” In this example, health problems and goals to resolve them will have measures of improvement or decline as an assessment of the existing political order to create a useful and helpful system change.

The writers of these principles also knew that the measures of economic change whether caused by fresh capital or human sweat, also require a statement of values. In the future tense, as follows:

All aspects of (our) work at the end of each day will be:

  1. worthier than incentives, money or survival
  2. educative, creative, self-directed and collaborative
  3. a source of independence, human dignity, and respect for others
  4. subject to democratic and social regulation
  5. responsive to ethical standards and guidance
  6. a decisive personal experience that instills self-determination
  7. an influential economic understanding that strengthens every community
  8. a means of production open to democratic participation

The ideas developed in Port Heron offers insight into our current, highly polarized political condition. They sensed the danger of replacing goal-oriented and idealistic thinking with a kind of general chaos even though a year later (1963) they would hear “I Have A Dream” by Martin Luther King in 1963 and learn of plans to put men on the moon. Leadership was pushing us to be better and to be the best.

Another aspect of the papers was the criticism of appeals to American “posterity” as insults justifying “present mutilations” of that time. They observed how searching for answers could slip far too easily into the ratification of the conventional. They sensed a critical detachment from the catastrophes facing humanity. They observed that the central purpose of privately held power in a democracy is to assure an organized political stalemate. Today we still watch millions desperately feeling the anarchy of war and drought. Only the consensus for war remains. Human environmental impacts are now global. The flow of wealth accelerates toward the few as if it was a means to escape and tragedies are used to amplify war instead of peace.

Two fundamental changes have occurred, somewhat ironically in the economic sphere since June 15, 1962, when the Port Heron Conference concluded that it might advance the quality of political change in the democracy we have today. First, ending the separation of people from power, relevant knowledge, and effective decision-making is more than a possibility today. It is probable. The wealth held by anyone at any time, however, can disappear with the ease of a few billion keystrokes. Second, to become one of the bright, thoughtful members of a generation, one no longer needs to be born in comfort or from a university adorning privileges.”

Rex L. Curry


The separation of people from power, relevant knowledge, and effective decision-making are more than a possibility today. It is probable. On the other hand, the wealth held by anyone at any time can disappear with the ease of a few million keystrokes. This contrast in power is because any one person can become one of the bright, thoughtful members of a generation and no longer need to be “born in modest comfort” or from a university “adorning privileges”.


We are an Internet experience. The capacity for knowledge, consensus, and collaboration is enormous. Along with a few core competencies, all that is required is the injection of some serious, task-oriented curiosity and some chops in organizational development experience to look ever more efficiently at the world you want to inherit.

As the contradictions of this new wealth begin to sink in, there are opportunities to deal with assessments of the “takings threat” that make stealing a futile, even laughable practice. If these changes hold, the streets will not be where the battle is won’t. There are other places to win this one.

Whether your organization has a whole earth viewpoint, a human and civil rights strategy, a distinctive liberation theology, or an agenda of everyday politics, it is important to focus on the content of liberation movements to identify common ground. The important work for all of them is to recognize the complexity of the patriarchy, the exploitation built into capitalism, and the detritus of militarism.  These are oppressive forces but claim to be so in the name of our well-being, freedom or liberation.

A society’s patriarchal system (male-dominated) gets attached to dominance. When masculinity includes this emotional appendage, it is a drug with the side effect of unfairness. The movement for liberation from this situation begins when people assemble and learn to fight for structural change best envisioned in democracies. Small groups easily produce revolutions of thought and action. As these groups tend to be isolated at the start, the attempt to find ways to make combinations of them big enough is motivated by creating a pulse positive outcomes. The backlash experienced in the push for these changes leads to disruptions but it includes many opportunities to raise consciousness about the continuing need for change.

Movements for race and gender equality collect the experience of unfairness toward power. It is uncomfortable but encouraging lateral rather than vertical relationships is the best way to uproot old hierarchical systems and untie knots. This work leads to projects such as taking back state legislatures through vote-education that stops normalizing hierarchy.

The motivation of a liberation movement is to define the damage done to individuals and the well-being of entire cultures. Embedded within the analysis of emancipation, especially in recent decades, is the critique of multinational, multi-trillion-dollar corporations building bold, unapologetic forms of unchecked Darwinist philosophies of supremacy, as part of the white, mostly male, western European and American establishment. It is as if these institutions are paying attention to global challenges to their vision of authority and power, yet find it impossible to create positive change. Perhaps they fail because they continue to fail ordinary people at an accelerated rate for the lack of belief in democracy and where hope can be capitalized.

The general framework for compromising a rising level of dissent in the name of transparency or borders is to establish divisions between the known and unknown. Accepting the contradictions of the news/fake news, or the truth and lies experience reveals a hidden demand for change. Develop a super keen sensitivity to the nature of vague oppression of any group of people and work to understand them with the intensity of social companionship. If small groups of people are to initiate political mobilizations with any success at all, know that the goal of organizing new institutions to replace the old is a vast enterprise requiring generations of intelligent observations and the facts to back them up.

Threats to personal safety and the general welfare of a community are familiar. Maintaining command over solutions to common problems requires a localized capacity to respond to new threats. In the past, oppressive forces made it dangerous for large groups of people to breathe the air, eat safe foods, or drink clean water across significant stretches of the American landscape and the world. Reversing the environmental damage caused by these problems became law by consensus, not because solutions were easy but for one fact. Air, food, and water quality are inseparable.

Today, the rise of the localized threats to safety and welfare are far more subtle, and it has little to do with what you might expect such as, seemingly newsworthy acts of random violence or senseless brutality. A more telling example is available. Recall the time Bernie Sanders said to the liberation movement protesters of Black Lives Matter (BLM) that, “all lives matter!” Blurting such a truism at that moment was dismissive and only proved that he did not get it at that moment. He knows the fight for the protection of one is a struggle in defense of all, but he was not aware of the moment he spoke to, and it is safe to say now he does. It tells us that understanding the call by Sanders for an American political revolution is far less complicated than building the ground upon which it will move forward. In this example, the ease with which liberation movements split apart internally exposes external forces that feed on these divisions.

The first question is, how do you build trust in an instantaneous communications regime? The diversity of the Nation (or the world) contributes to the cultural cohesion of groups but sustains values that find forced separation intolerable. Poor interpersonal and group-to-group communication is more likely in a diverse society, but free expression is a simultaneous opportunity for continuous improvements. The first step in this direction is to discover shared values clearly including arrangements to disagree.

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