On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Part 10

I said in the last post that this next post would start sharing an example of permaculture design in the CDUFDDAYG (concept design up front then detailed design emerges as you go) mode.

As it turns out, this post constitutes a slight deviation1 from that plan. Here’s why:

In starting that post I quickly realised there was an important omission in the below diagram that was important enough to need its own post to rectify.

I invite you (yes – YOU! YOU RIGHT THERE!) to consider this diagram and think on what forth category might be missing – what I consider one of the most culturally dominant approaches to creating stuff (alongside CDDUF). Here is a little blank thinking space for you…





[STOP & insert your thinking here]





[scroll down when you’re done…]


Okay so what I realised is missing is the very common pattern in which you start implementing haphazardly where only chaos, mistakes and dead ends emerge as you go. Further, I realised that this omission could create great confusion in that this chaos mode, which reliably fails to create meaningful order, would be confused with CDDAYG, where the point is that the process is conducted in such a fashion that meaningful order does emerge, and major mistakes and backtracks are successfully avoided (as I’ll explore and even demonstrate in due course).

Anyways, whilst I continue taking my sweet time in preparing what was originally for this post, I’d love your feedback on this latest iteration of the diagram:

Note that this fourth category differs from the first three in that all three of them, it might be said, involve some kind of intentional design approach, however premature (CDDUF), or, conversely, seat-of-the-pants (CDDAYG). RIGNCD, on the other hand, involves no or at most very superficial or tokenistic attention to any kind of design process at all. Hence the dashed line demarcating the new category from the prior three. Here we are pretty much leaving the domain of design altogether to run around in circles digging holes faster than we can fill them in again (when we belatedly find out they were in the wrong place).

I don’t know about you, but I immediately find this addition helpful in making sense of creation processes used in modern culture. For example, much modern apartment development is a combination of mistake-ridden CDDUF (up front image-driven architectural master planning) within each project and effectively RIGNCD across projects. Hyper-imposed, premature and ultimately dysfunctional order in the small, yet random, haphazard, and ultimately equally dysfunctional dis-order in the large.

And so on. Anyway this is a quick draft so please share your thoughts and let’s make it better together. Oh yes, I’d also love to hear if anyone has example suggestions for the spaces I’ve put question marks.

Update (April 24, 2017)

Further to the above, based on the wonderfully helpful comments from James, Bret, Mark, Milton, Alexander and Jason,2 here is a revised version of the above diagram with quite a few new layers to it (see below or get as PDF here). I only have a moment right now, so am simply sharing the new diagram without explanation, and will add some explanation within a week or so (as well as responding to each comment individually – hopefully it is clear that every single comment has had an influence). Yet I and trust/hope it is fairly self-explanatory?

Meantime let me share my gratitude for your comments. It excites me to be getting to a place with this project where folk from around the world are feeding into ideas that are unfolding in realtime and where even I don’t know exactly what will happen next. This is also the first time that reader comments (including face-to-face discussions about this with Mark and James) have fed back into the post they were about rather than only feeding forward into future posts. Feels like a healthy step to me.

Catch you in Part 11 of this inquiry.


  1. Which is hopefully healthily self-referential in the sense that the detailed design of this inquiry is literally emerging as I go along.
  2. mega thanks also to Anthony Briggs for suggesting the phrase “winging it” which I’ve replaced the can-of-worms word “chaos” with


  1. Hi Dan,

    More good reading… cheers! Although – I thought at first you were having a bit of a joke with all those acronyms… but it appears not! Can you please just give them approximate descriptive names?

    Up Front
    …Or whatever.

    Another point, is that on one hand sometimes upfront design is required (eg client, or community project); but on the other hand (eg my own place), there is a high degree of chaos (especially in the early stages), and Emergent / Actualise design… AYG :-).

    Also, when time is very scarce, sometimes a bit of randomness and ‘winging-it’ can generate quite good results – usually depending on the degree to which ‘nature’ can take over and deliver those results. This could be a topic in itself as it depends on the resources used, the time-scale (eg winging it is great for short term planting / design – but long lived trees and infrastructure not so much).


    1. Thanks Goshen!

      Sort of was a bit of a joke, but I like long jokes and besides people seemed to be taking them seriously until you, Anthony and Alex just went and spoiled my fun by insinuating things were getting out of hand…

      Yes I’m inclining toward:
      -winging it

      Thanks for your comment re generating and winging it working well together I’d be curious to see what you make of my long reply to Anthony just below? I think your comment about “the degree to which ‘nature’ can take over and deliver those results” is really interesting and yeah right on about being careful where you wing it, if indeed winging it you must ;-).

    1. Thanks again Lilian and the more stuff out there hammering the process-result / generating-generated etc distinction the better!

  2. I have been pondering this for a few days, then just came back to comment and saw your update.

    I have to say, I think it’s quite different from where my thinking was heading.

    I was going to suggest that you might need to introduce another axis. On the X axis you currently have “degree to which design is done up front vs as-you-go”.

    The main other axis I can see is “how much design is done at all”. You could do zero, aka “winging it”. When it comes to designing up front, you could do very little, or you could do years of it. When it comes to agile, you could do less design by failing to iterate, or by failing to “self-regulate and accept feedback” on each iteration (i.e. forging ahead in the wrong direction).

    A third axis could be “degree of change in goals and environment”. For instance, in a rapidly changing climate, a very detailed up-front design from 30 years ago might no longer apply. Or for a family who start having kids, their goals could change partway through their permaculture journey.

    I think you’d end up with an interesting 3D blob showing where “chaos” falls. I’d love to draw a diagram but I have to go cook an enormous meal for 20+ people so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

    Some examples:

    * Unchanging environment and goals, extremely detailed and extensive CDDUF: low chaos
    * Changing goals and environment, extremely detailed and extensive CDDUF: high chaos
    * Changing goals and environment, CDDAYG with good iteration and feedback: low chaos
    * Changing goals and environment: CDDAYG without iteration and feedback: high chaos

    “Winging it” would tend to have more chaos than not, I think. CDDUF is only low-chaos in a low-change world. CDDAYG thrives in a high-change world, but depends heavily on good process over an extended period to avoid becoming chaotic.

    1. I’m not so sure that “Winging it” belongs on the left hand end of the chart. If you put it on the right, then the x axis becomes the amount and detail of the process that’s applied — CDDUF being lots, CDUF and CDAYG less so, and WI having none or virtually none. In IT terms, these correspond pretty strongly to Waterfall, various types of agile in the middle and what I call “Code and bugfix” as more-or-less chaos on the end (ie. reactive, knee-jerk, no-idea-when-we’ll be done).

      I think of the stages as reactions to the expected/acceptable level of chaos involved in the project. If your requirements are cold and you’re pretty sure there’ll be no surprises, or the costs of errors are large, then CDDUF makes sense – space probes, medical equipment, real time systems, etc.

      With higher levels of change, the optimum moves to lower-overhead, trade-off systems like Scrum, agile and XP, where you plan as best you can, but accept a higher rate of error in your design.

      And if you have really high levels of change, then even those systems might break down and somewhat-managed chaos is the best that you can do.

      A simpler way to put it might be just that the level of process and the level of change are pretty strongly correlated.

      A couple of other thoughts:

      – Scrum makes a big deal about reflecting and to modifying the process that you’re following (usu. called “retrospectives”), so on any given project you might move left or right as issues or ideas present themselves. In XP, moving left is called a ‘spike solution’, where you quickly plan out and implement a small part of your design in detail to make sure that it’ll work. I’m also reminded of David Holmgren digging soil sample holes for his dam locations.

      – If you can make your design process better (faster or more accurate), the optimal process should move more towards CDDUF (and vice versa if something starts throwing a spanner in the works). From what I can see, Dan seems to spend a lot more time on the concept and “feelings” side of his designing now, but with a better result overall.

      – “Winging it” will have different outcomes depending on the skill and experience of the designer. A 10 year veteran programmer who appears to be “winging it” could be following a fairly detailed design process, even if it’s one they’ve internalised. This also gives you some shades of grey between WI and CDDYAG, where you might wing it for a while as you work out how to apply some sort of order to a chaotic system.

      – Finally, Dan’s idea of being a “Permaculture Design Facilitator” corresponds pretty much 1-to-1 with a Scrummaster role, ie. there to explain and safeguard the process. It’s interesting when the same idea pops up in different fields.

      1. Hey there Anthony!

        Great comments though I disagree re the amount and detail of the process applied increasing as you move from CDDAYG and CDUFDDAYG to CDDUF. In my experience because for example CDDAYG involves the wholesale pulling of the implementation process inside the design process there are many thousands more feedback loops and details in the mix making the amount and detail of the process much, much higher than knocking something up on paper or screen in CDDUF mode (even though in CDDUF there is more time/effort spent up front). But I agree that “code and bug fix” sounds like winging it (thanks again for suggesting that term!) and waterfall is the same as CDDUF.

        Right on re the correlation between process level and change level. A related distinction in here is that CDDUF works pretty well for mechanical systems but starts falling over when it comes to living systems. Allan Savory makes this distinction using the contrast between complicated and complex.

        That’s great to learn how scrum has a process for adapting the process along the way, not sure about your comment “the optimal process should move toward CDDUF” ??, and don’t get me started about the ‘feelings’ side of my designing (all in good time, all in good time) 😉

        Totally re it being hard to tell from the outside whether what looks like winging it is actually a master CDDAYG practitioner and your comment about winging “it for a while as you work out how to apply some sort of order to a chaotic system” correlates perfectly with what Dave Snowden says re navigating chaos in this cyefin vid.

        Srummaster, love it. Might change the wording on my business card ;-). Dan Palmer, Permaculture Scrummmaster, at your service.

        1. Hmm, maybe detail is the wrong word, but to my mind there seems to be a continuum of “letting go of control”, or something along those lines, as you move from left to right. I can imagine moving back and forth between CDDAYG and Winging It as you work out where you’re going, but I can’t imagine a similar situation for CDDUF and Winging It. It just seems to stick out in odd fashion on the left hand side.

          I’ll see if I can re-explain the optimal process part more clearly 🙂 My take is that the process is a balance between the upfront costs of planning, and the onsite costs of development, including any errors. So (eg.) you might avoid the cost of calculating dam catchments in cases where it won’t matter too much, and accept the risk that your dam might not be big enough. But if I write a program to do it automatically from a contour map, there’s no reason for you not to run that calculation all the time. You’re doing less work than before, but your design is more detailed – does that make more sense? There’d be a similar effect for anything that makes your design easier (hand mapping contours vs. using a drone, element analysis vs. patterns).

          I definitely agree that it’s hard to plan a design around living systems, including people. There are too many factors in play to consider every possibility, and even if you could your final design would be too complicated to wrap your head around.

          Also, I’ve been thinking that you need some better names (or nicknames) for your quadrants. Could I humbly suggest something along the following lines?:
          CDDUF -> Engineering
          CDUFDDAYG -> Town Planning
          CDDAYG -> Exploring
          RIGNCD -> Winging It

          These are somewhat related to the Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners in this article, which might be worth a read: http://blog.gardeviance.org/2015/03/on-pioneers-settlers-town-planners-and.html

          ps. It’s “Scrum Master” – I accidentally a space 🙂

          pps. An update after watching the Cynefin video – the left hand edge of CDDUF seems to correspond to their concept of a “simplicity cliff”, ie your detailed plans and procedures lose touch with reality and can’t adapt.

          1. Thanks Anthony – so helpful to have your help crash-testing these distinctions before anyone (myself the prime suspect) gets too carried away with them.

            Let me share my take on the idea of arranging the continuum around the degree of “letting go of control.” It’s funny because I think the same arrangement makes sense for two opposite senses of “control.” And in both cases winging it stays put on the left hand side ;-).

            In the first sense the locus of control is the doer or designer. Here winging it represents the greatest control in the sense that the doer has almost total control of what is being done. It is like they are pointing their magic wand in some almost completely arbitrary direction and ‘poof’ in run some contractors or whatever to plonk the chook house there, or they themselves go and chuck a herb spiral over there.

            Then fabrication (CDDUF) represents a little less control, in the sense that actual parameters and constraints of the context (which in a landscape design setting include as ingredients the site, the client, and the designer) have a greater say, but the overall feeling is that the design expert is in control (yet they are still to a large degree imposing their arbitrary whim on the site, just in a more veiled and professionally respectable way).

            When we move into the hybrid (CDUFDDAYG) and fully generative (CDDAYG) approaches control in this sense is relinquished as the reality of the unfolding context is given much more say. Indeed in these scenarios, especially the latter, the designer stops ‘imposing’ their expertise from outside and starts facilitating the emergence of what is most appropriate and adapted to the context as a whole.

            Now let’s look at it in the opposite sense where the locus of control is not the designer/doer but the context as a whole. Here winging it represents almost no control in that as I mentioned above it is really a highly arbitrary process of imposing stuff willy nilly.

            Then fabrication (CDDUF) in a living system context represents an aspiration of high control when in reality due to the lack of real feedback it is a pretence, and can’t help but spin out of control in the sense of going off the rails and flinging itself headlong (if obliviously) into a sea of arbitrary and impositional decisions (even if often the users go along with the pretence and take years to realise that the emperor is naked).

            Then as you then move into generating processes (CDUFDDAYG and CDDAYG) the amount of this second sense of control increases, in that these processes enable the reality of the context to exert a more thorough and continuous control or influence over what is being created (as implied by the word unfolding in the above diagram update).

            I should note that I don’t really like the word ‘control’ in all this. I prefer talking in terms of process arbitrariness or the degree to which it is about imposing on context vs unfolding from context.

            Yet hopefully looking at it through the ‘control’ lens gets across why I’m keen to emphasise that despite seeming close and possibly hard to distinguish at a glance, winging it and generating (CDDAYG) are in fact very different beasts.

            You say you can’t imagine moving back and forth between fabricating and winging it, and though I get where you are coming from this is exactly what I see in most back yards and small farms or lifestyle blocks. Where things go is often highly arbitrary (has been winged) where as the actual thing itself (house or whatever) has been designed up front by some expert or another. So the high-level layout and resulting feel is hodgepodge, but the bits themselves are often prematurely over designed. Or sometimes this happens in the opposite fashion in cases where the overall site layout has been expertly designed up front but then the details of house gardens etc are winged. Actually I think there can be a third sense of this interplay where someone tries winging something, it doesn’t work, so they try fabricating, it doesn’t work, so they try winging it, and so on…

            On the flip side you say you “can imagine moving back and forth between generating (CDDAYG) and Winging It as you work out where you’re going,” and again I get where you are coming from, but I feel that though you might do something like “winging it” inside a generating process to come up with and test possible next moves, the difference is that you wont actually implement them unless they make it through the filtering/winnowing process integral to a generating process.

            Whereas winging it is when there is no real consideration of what comes next. You just do shit blindly and the chances of a coherent adapted system are negligible. I’m realising as I write this that I’m keen to find out from others whether their experience accords with mine – that though on the surface winging it and generating seem like they would inevitably slide in and out of each other, my actual experience is that the nature of an authentic generating process means that winging it just doesn’t get a look in. It is almost like the nature of the process prevents it even being a possibility.

            I should note here (this is a note to myself, not to anyone else!) that I think the key to this discussion being meaningful is to get some actual clearly documented examples of design process in the different modes on the table. Otherwise due to the complexity of the ideas and the shifting or alternative meanings of so many of the terms we are using could mean the discussion just sort of wanders on and gets too ungrounded and abstract. And we can’t have that, why we are just getting started here!

            I have used a generating process to get a system that has got to where it is by winging it heading back on track toward adaptedness, but in my experience once winging it is entrenched it takes some kind of facilitation entering the scene to find itself being transformed into generating (where the culturally default pushback again winging it is of course fabrication/design up front). Actually in the other direction I have also experienced winging it sort of continuously knocking at the door and trying to sneak in when folk are just getting a feel for being in a generating process. But though folk might slide over the line unconsciously, there is no ambiguity as to the slide once an actual move is made. And early on in a landscape development process at the level of critical whole-site earthworks etc etc winging it is bad (and expensive) news.

            Does that all make sense? I hope these ideas don’t come across as too fixed or certain – I’m really just playing with this line of thought, and trying to hone in on what is going to be most helpful here in terms of elucidating these differences. I welcome other perspectives, and in particular I look forward to people’s reactions to this point in the context of the generating example I’ll soon be sharing (after first sharing a hybrid approach).

            Your thing about optimal process makes sense though I feel it is still consistent with a generative process?

            Thanks for your humble suggestion. In this post as you’ll have noticed I’ve been trying these on for size:
            -winging it

            That article looks interesting and that sounds right re Cynefin.

          2. Maybe “attempted | anticipated | aspired | imagined level of control” might more accurately describe what I’m thinking? And yes, reality may have other ideas re. your actual level of control, but the attempt is there. Note that if you can nail down or simplify enough of reality, a CDDUF design can work well and you get very high reliability, accuracy and predictability. I don’t think that’s true for any of the other methods.

            Winging It to me is throwing away even the very rough controls or seat-of-the-pants plans that you might’ve developed in a CDDAYG/Exploration phase, in favour of an experiment, wild guess or whim. Self-control is still control (“Man, I really wish I hadn’t put that duck pond there…”).

            It makes sense in my head, anyway 🙂

          3. Replying to Dan but it won’t let me reply that deeply… oh well.

            Has anyone else mentioned the XP concept of a “design spike”? I have a feeling they might have but can’t find it easily.

            You write:

            you might do something like “winging it” inside a generating process to come up with and test possible next moves, the difference is that you wont actually implement them unless they make it through the filtering/winnowing process integral to a generating process.

            A spike is when you say “look, we don’t know the way forward here, so let’s just have a bash at something until it becomes clear whether it works or not.” Maybe you make a rough prototype, or whatever. Maybe you do several and see which one works best.

            That could sound/look like “winging it” but if you do it within the context of a generative process, it’s actually more calculated and can help move things forward when they’re otherwise stuck.

            Here are a couple of links that have good definitions/explanations of spikes:


          4. Hi Alex,

            You can reply … if you edit another reply URL manually with the right comment id 🙂 I’m not sure what WordPress makes of that behaviour though…

            I mentioned the spike solution earlier, but to me it seems that you’re moving left on the scale rather than right, by trying to lay down a small test implementation and adding (supported) detail to your design. It’s not necessarily actual work, but work that you need to do to improve your design, so I’d count it as designing.

    2. Wouldn’t it be the awareness of the changing/unchanging environment & goals? A truly clueless designer could be as bad off as a gifted designer in an changing environment.

    3. Hey Alex. I had a good ponder of your comment and even played around with a few multiple-axis graphs. What I came to though was that firstly at this stage I’d like to keep things simple/accessible (in the context of where this inquiry is headed the main take-home point I want to emphasise is that there is a continuum of processes from more to less arbitrary which result in systems that are less to more adapted). Second, I have a vague feeling for another kind of axis I’d like to look at introducing later (harking back to my prior inquiry) so don’t want to go cluttering the scene with too many just yet.

      That said I’d love to come back to such ideas after sharing an example or two such that these discussions can be cross-referenced to actual real cases. I’d also encourage you to draw that diagram and send it through!

      A few other comments is that though I think it is (obviously) important to acknowledge that there is a continuum of how well each of the four (or at least the three right-most in the updated diagram – winging it is just winging it!) approaches are carried out (or what you refer to as “how much design is done at all”), for now I’m happy to assume we’re talking about them when carried out well (plenty of time designing up front, feedback rich in the last two, and so on).

      When it comes to “degree of change in goals and environment” this is one reason I dropped the term “chaos” for now – it is slippery and can refer to the process itself, the context in which the process starts, or what becomes of that context over time (either as a result of the process or independently). The picture then becomes more complicated (and the graph more axisy) than I feel is appropriate at this early and provisional stage of inquiry (you might say I’m reluctant to overshoot the MPV here!).

      The other thing that happens is we start to enter the territory of both the cynefin framework and adaptive leadership’s distinction between technical, adjustive, and adaptive contexts. Which is great territory well worth exploring, but I feel would confuse or detract from my primary intention here of getting across the fact that there is a simple continuum of design process arbitrariness that permaculturalists would do well to acknowledge, discuss, debate, critique, and most importantly crash test on the ground. Where it matters A LOT in that if permaculture is about enabling/generating adapted and adaptive systems, being aware of one’s process arbitrariness MATTERS BIG TIME.

      I like your examples which again come very, very close to what you find in resources on cynefin and adaptive leadership. And though I think it is ultimately all-important that the process itself is adapted to its context, I guess I’m assuming that permaculturists will be interested in a sort of default process or process cluster (which my inkling suggests are in the ballpark of CDUFDDAYG / CDDAYG) suited to highly changeable contexts (which for me includes the environment and user-goals) both because natural systems are always on the move and often in complex non-linear ways and that central to permaculture is having huge relevance in the highly uncertain, unpredictable, chaotic circumstances coming on down the line.

      ps. I note that the way you use “chaos” in your comment corresponds closely to how I’d use “adaptedness.”

  3. Hello, hey I’ve just been looking at that diagrammatic contraption you’ve got there and whilst liking the increase in representativeness that the all new RIGCND category brings, I find myself faintly offended by its proximity to the generative end of the spectrum.

    I understand that, (as Jason mentioned) conversations that explore the potentials of more generative approaches can evoke fear of the chaos, but does that fear come just because we are getting a bit far from our cultural comfort zone (CDDUF) and are starting to have a mild panic attack, or is it actually true that the generative approach if taken to its extreme, risks becoming chaotic and random? And is that risk of chaos greater at the generated end or the fabricated?

    Could RGCND be moved to the fabricating end of the diagram? Or should it be split in two where its dangers exist at either extreme? OR maybe the fabricating/generating spectrum is a stand alone thing that hovers above the chaos, which is like a shark tank underneath, into which you risk falling if you go off either end?!

    1. James Andrews! Fancy meeting you here! (I’ve been trying to lure James into this more public end of the conversation for months ;-)). As discussed (in person) we reached this same feeling of faint offence independently and both feel good about it’s relocation to the fabricating or arbitrary / impositional end of the spectrum (not to mention its renaming).

  4. Hey Dan,

    I feel like the RIGNCD is important to recognize as an approach even though it is not by definition any sort of intended design. The value in RIGNCD is purely experimental and therefore getting outside of the box of design; which can be good or bad depending on the result vs the intended (if any) outcome.

  5. Hey Dan

    As recently discussed, I’m not so sure that RIGNCD forms part of the spectrum of design (or facilitation for that matter). For me, the two are differentiated by a) the concept of ‘conciousness’ and b) the concept of ‘meaning’.

    What I mean here is that for something to be a ‘design’ or a ‘design process’ requires that it is a consciously intentional process. In the first three concept of design, a ‘designer’ attempts to facilitate or create an outcome that is in accordance with the permaculture ethics and principles. In your fourth concept, there is no ‘conscious’ design and hence the outcome is highly unlikely to fit within the bounds of permaculture principles and ethics (given that there is a chance that it may). Secondly, and interwoven with this, is the necessity for a ‘meaningful’ order to be the outcome of design. Again, a subconscious design methodology is unlikely to create a meaningful order, at least in so much as it falls within the Permaculture Ethics and Principles.

    Having said all this, I still think (as a behavioural psychologist) that even as a subconscious design process there is still likely to be some meaningful order represented in the design. Humans create things that fit within their mental models of the world (consciously or not)… so in that sense, the many examples of architecture and home gardens designed ‘piecemeal’ will in a sense be representative of the ‘patterns’ held subconsciously in the mind. There is an opportunity to observe and learn here – what are the patterns that are generated when design is subconscious and representative of the dominant culture? We could learn quite a bit about the mental models held by mainstream culture by looking for the patterns represented here….

    Finally, I do also want to balance the logic of using ‘conscious design’ and ‘meaningful order’ against the more eastern concepts of ‘flow’ and ‘mushin’… In reading some of Christopher Alexander’s work I do think he proposes that the more advanced philosophical aspects of design become a living process that unfolds…. much of which incorporates emotion, and sensing, rather than purely logic or intent. In this way, design perhaps becomes more of an artform rather than just a science, couched within universal ethics and principles that provide the ‘edges’ or boundaries that mimic those laws created by nature….

    1. Thanks Mark and yep great first point – which I hope is addressed in the above update by the clear differentiation between cases where there is or isn’t an intentional design process in the mix. Yep I also agree that there is much to be gleaned re dominant culture / mental models from the actual patterns we are creating – “as within, as without” and all that (though going too far into this mindset can make a walk down the street a rather demoralising experience!). Your last point is appreciated too, in that in my (early) experience logic and intent need to be complemented by emotion and sensing (or maybe vice versa is more accurate) in order to generate deeply adapted systems via CDUFDDAYG/CDDAYG. I think there is false dichotomy between art and science that starts dissolving inside the right-hand end of the updated continuum.

  6. Isn’t it lack of awareness and not complete chaos that you’re talking about here? I would put chaos two squares to the left of CDDUF with RIGNCD inbetween. Then the chart would be a spectrum.

    Intention is another thing entirely…

    1. I kept thinking, what could start out as a RIGNCD could metamorphose into a CDDAYG if a feedback loop exists. Also, CDDUF would probably morph into CDUFDDAYG as reality exerts itself on the design.

      1. Right on Milton. I remember many occasions in the past when the CDDUF approach I used to use got sort of salvaged toward a better outcome than would have otherwise happened by the fact that I managed an extended implementation process which forced me (reluctantly at first!) into CDUFDDAYG. I also agree that it is possible for something that starts out as what I’m now calling “Winging it” to morph into CDUFDDAYG if feedback kicks in / bites back hard enough, though I’ve personally come across very few cases of this. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks and winging it is getting to be quite an old dog ;-).

    2. Great thought Milton and you’ll see I have taken your suggestion on board (in my own special way) and moved RIGNCD across to the left (and also retagged it WI) and dropped the term chaos from the situation for now. Also re intention have made it clearer where that is present/absent.

  7. Good to have you back Dan!

    I agree that this is a very helpful addition for anyone who wants to claim they’re implementing a design in the spirit of CDDAYG, and to distinguish that from the situation where feedback is not accepted and processed as a part of implementation (ie chaos). Ben Falk talks about how he learned more about the land in one year of planting trees, than in three years of passive observation (I believe it’s in the permaculture voices podcast you referred to previously). Surely you could learn heaps from chaotic planting and digging holes, but there has to be a feedback loop.

    I’m wonder if RIGNCD should be a singularity rather than a spectrum. Once you have stepped over the line (that you indicate with the dashed demarcation) from CDDAYG to RIGNCD, then you’re in chaos. Can you go further into chaos?

    I’m also interested in the boundary conditions for chaos and if there are some clear signs for the demarcation.

    1. Thanks Alexander and you’ll see I’ve since moved away from using the term “chaos” in part to make the thing more clearly a continuum (of process arbitrariness and as a result system adaptedness).

  8. Nice Dan,

    The addition of Chaos to the generating end of the spectrum is useful.
    You say “I realised that this omission could create great confusion in that this chaos mode, which reliably fails to create meaningful order, would be confused with CDDAYG”. This confusion is certainly true in the conversations that I have had on the subject. Where I find that there is a fear of loss of control over a desirable/productive/orderly end product.

    Whereas we as Permaculture designers (decision makers) perhaps we are wanting to push the boundaries of design, to be in the creative flow of responsive decision making. To allow for the unknown to enter. For new solutions/patterns to emerge, co-created with nature. To not claim that we can create a functional ecosystem, and yet bring about a process of evolution from which we hope that one will unfold.


    Chaos should be recognised as a theoretical end of the spectrum, as we all, in anything we do bring some sort of patterning/culture/research/overall vision/decision making to what we do, even when we “run around in circles digging holes faster than we can fill them in again”.

    For me this kind of chao you refer to occurs either when I am rushed, or acting within a collaboration (or with myself) where there is some sort of communication block, tensions, or such reason that makes the design/decision making process dysfunctional. The results are never satisfying or exciting!

    So, that’s me saying, yes, lets keep focus to the left of chaos in your diagram

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