Skinner's Sexy Onion Theory


Definition of Cybernetics : It is the study of living and artificial systems and their controls. It emphasizes the relationship between different sub-parts of a system and their effect on the whole. An important aspect of Cybernetics is the understanding of goal-seeking as part of a feedback loop which measures the deviation between the perceived situation and the desired result.


AND it has nothing to do with cyborg robots, Xbox gaming or Sci-Fi 3-D movies! Got it?


The theories of cybernetics and systems thinking were developed in the 1950s. It never caught on as a formal science among their peers, but recently has found a resurgence of interest as mankind begins to understand the connectivity of everything from simple hair sprays, to holes in the ozone, to the increase in skin cancer. In the end, we are all one – one big cybernetic system.  The word cyber comes from the Greek word for ‘steersman’ or ‘rudder’.


Its major thesis is that all systems whether living or man made share similar constructs and are subject to changes to their parts which thereby alters the whole and visa versa.


One important point, cybernetic systems are by their nature ‘teleological’. In other words, they seek to fulfill an ‘end’ by feeding back information and adjusting inputs until they reach completion of their mission or end goal. 

The Onion Theory


Quotation: Man alone constitutes the last-born, the freshest, the most complicated, the most subtle of all the successive layers of life....The universe has always been in motion and at this moment continues to be in motion. -- Teilhard de Chardin


Systems organize themselves in concentric patterns like the layers of an onion, one on top of the other, affecting and connecting by form and function. This is true whether the system is mechanical or organic.  From a single celled animal to the Cosmos, they all exhibit this phenomenon.  Even more esoteric systems such as modern societies to computer hardware exhibit this. Let’s take a look at these examples:

Levels of a Cybernetic System in a Sales Process


Quotation: Problems that are created by our current level of thinking can’t be solved by that same level of thinking – Albert Einstein

Seeing business or sales in the light of cybernetics gives understanding to Einstein’s quotation, “problems created on one level cannot be solved at the same level”.  We find that Simple Problems, those resulting from cause and effect relationships are created on one level (cause) and appear in the next level (effect).  And as the theory explains, this has a ripple effect as one change becomes the cause for another in other parts of the system and so on and so forth. 


An experience from Example 1 above: You’re busy explaining the product’s features to the customer, but they don’t seem interested or get excited. The solution can be found in the prior level of Needs Development, where hastily you offered probing questions but failed to uncover the customer’s true needs. “I knew that”, you say, but at the time you were thinking: “this guy’s a cold fish” or “they’re just one of Marketing’s dead end leads”. Right? Now you have no excuses. You know where to go to fix the problem.  

[More on this article yet to be done. If you have questions please contact me to discuss.]