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What Is 'Deconstruction'?

Deconstruction is the process of separating complex systems into the smallest subsystems possible to help understand it.

Once you've identified the subsystems, you can isolate them to see how they work and what part they play in the big system and build your understanding from the ground up.

Don't lose sight of Interdependence. Remember that each subsystem is a part of a bigger system.

Creating diagrams and flowcharts can help you understand how it all comes together.

It's important to consider the present conditions in a system and how it affects each subsystem.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Deconstruction'

Complex systems, as we've already discussed, are made up of many Interdependent Flows, Stocks, processes, and parts.

As a whole, the system may be too complex to take in all at once- if there are more than seven or eight variables or dependencies, Cognitive Scope Limitation kicks in and confusion takes over.

If that's true, how can anyone analyze extremely complex systems? Deconstruction is the process of separating complex systems into the smallest possible sub- systems in order to understand how things work.

Instead of trying to understand the system all at once, you break the system up into parts, then work on understanding the sub-systems and how they interact with each other.

Deconstruction is the reverse engineering aspect of Gall's Law. Remember: complex systems that work inevitably evolved from simpler systems that also worked. If you can identify simpler sub-systems and focus on understanding how they work and how they fit together, you can eventually understand how the entire system works.

If you know nothing about how cars work, popping the hood of your vehicle and examining the contents is an exercise in confusion-there are so many parts that it's easy to get confused.

Understanding the system is not impossible, however-identifying important sub-systems like the engine, transmission, and radiator can give you valuable insight on how the entire system functions. Once you've identified important subsystems, temporarily isolating them in your mind can help you understand how they work.

Instead of focusing on how the entire car works, you simply concern yourself with the engine for a while.

Where does the sub-system begin? What Flows are involved? What processes take place inside the system? Are there Feedback Loops involved? What happens if inflows don't come in? Where does the system end? What are the outflows? It's important not to lose sight of Interdependence when using isolation to deconstruct a system, since each subsystem is part of a larger system.

Identifying triggers and endpoints-the parts of the system that interact with other sub-systems-are just as important. Triggers teach you what makes a sub-system start operating, and endpoints show you what makes the system stop. In addition, it's important to understand the conditionals present in a system-if-then or when- then relationships that influence the operation of the system.

For example, an engine requires an inflow of gasoline vapor to operate.

If that inflow is present, a spark from the spark plug ignites it, providing energy that pushes a piston that powers the rest of the system.

If that inflow is absent or a spark doesn't come from the spark plug, the energy is absent and the system stops, making both the inflow of gasoline vapor and spark from the spark plug conditions of the system's operation.

Creating diagrams and flowcharts can help you understand how each inflow, process, trigger, conditional, endpoint, and outflow comes together. Explaining complex systems in words alone can be limiting-for best results, draw diagrams of the flows, stocks, conditionals, and processes involved.

Well-constructed flowcharts can help you understand the flow of a system as it operates, which can go a long way toward helping you fix the system when things break down.

To analyze a system, deconstruct complex systems to sub-systems that are easier to understand, then build your understanding of the system from the ground up.

Questions About 'Deconstruction'


"Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up."

Joseph Campbell, mythologist and author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces


From Chapter 10:

Analyzing Systems


https://personalmba.com/deconstruction/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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