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Cracking the Black Box of Human Reasoning

MFG Archive

Deepthi Welaratna’s recent article in the The Stanford Social Innovation Review takes an intriguing look into how we harness new tools to solve problems.


“Failure is trending right now.” Deepthi Walaratna is the founder of Thicket, a design lab and consultancy helping people harness the power of complexity. In a recent post in the SSIR, Walaratna is quick to highlight the positive learnings from the startup community. She cites “fail fast” as a “traditionally taboo topic” in international development that is finally being broken down, allowing for new and exciting tools and evaluative process to be created.


In her article, Walaratna demonstrates how this evolving mindset to embrace our failures is influencing the development of social impact measurement tools. The crux of her work comes down to the idea that “if we want to create social impact, we have to measure social dynamics in complex systems.” As a result, “a new generation of measurement tools and methods pioneered in fields like decision science and cognitive computing is cracking the black box of human reasoning wide open.”


At Thicket, they use a big data version of cognitive mapping called “fuzzy cognitive mapping,” which quantifies and aggregates human insights about a complex topic or system. This mapping can be used for situation and policy planning, or even to test business models and evaluate social impact.

“If we want to create social impact, we have to measure social dynamics in complex systems.”

“In piloting new systems change tools and methods over the last year, our team has found that both the tools themselves and how we deploy them matters.” Read on at SSIR for the full post, and to understand just how Walaratna and Thicket are pushing the boundaries of cognitive mapping, and what it can achieve.

Many thanks to Deepthi Walaratna for sharing her work at Thicket on SSIR, be sure to read the full article, and let us know what you think. 


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