Interlock research

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Interlock research is a concept used to overcome the gaps in individual or group knowledge of which they are unaware of and which would result in incorrect action being taken, or important action not taken, leading to unintended consequences. It is based on the notion that no individual or group can ever understand anything fully on their own.[1] The concept is achieved by working and communicating efficiently within the same organization at a lateral level directly with each other. The concept was developed in a series of research papers and the book "The IRG Solution - hierarchical incompetence and how to overcome it"[2]

Energy policy interlock[edit]

A example given when discussing interlock research is the issue of energy policy. Energy and raw material could be saved, and pollution avoided by interlinking industrial processes. Most professionals and policy makers are uninterested in these opportunities because they are unaware of them. A little appreciated fact is that both the USA and the UK waste heat from power stations equal to and able to replace the entire usage of natural gas for heating, which is an example of hierarchical incompetence and the relevance paradox.

The concept propounds the need for and a mechanism to create a methodical scheme whereby such lateral self constructing communications networks could develop and inform professionals (engineers, scientists, politicians, health workers) of what it is they needed to know but weren’t aware of. These schemes enable professionals to ask questions and get answers more rapidly, but crucially they can be told, unbidden, not only that they were asking the wrong questions but also be able to be supplied with the correct questions and the correct answers.

Methodology and mechanism[edit]

Consider any area of managed human activity say power systems, sewage treatment works, energy policy government departments, health systems, justice systems etc. A physical map could be constructed by each practitioner showing the physical interactions with the world and other domains. This is called an interlock diagram. It will inevitably contain shortcomings and missed links. However if these individual interlock diagrams are open to public scrutiny particularly interested colleagues others can point out deficiencies. So a power system ID might start out just showing coal in, power out, carbon dioxide out. Others from a local water company may realize that water is needed for the cooling towers and that it can be provided as effluent from an adjacent treatment plant. The theoretical ID can be adjusted and maybe actually implemented – just this happens in Bristol where Wessex Water and SeaBanks Power station do this. Energy experts may realize that two-thirds of the fuel input is wasted heat and will pipe that heat to heat all the houses in the adjacent areas and avoid the expenditure on heating fuel. This practice, called cogeneration or district heating, is practiced in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Finland and Denmark.

Eventually after enough iteration, the ID for a given industry will match its interaction or potential interaction with the environment and adjacent subsystems. If direct person to person communications are established between individuals at the nodes of each subsystem then potentially harmful open links can be mitigated or closed, and beneficial ones enacted. Note that links can be formed by a participating node sending out a probe, or receiving one unexpectedly. This is how the relevance paradox is resolved. Once established such links can also transmit tacit knowledge.

Such a system of closed links will have minimal energy, resource and pollution implications. The links, personal and interactions need not be modeling purely physical systems – exactly the same kind of ID can be drawn for social, legal health etc. policy development. By drawing in expert individuals, the network will end up exactly mapping systems and subsystems, in a self growing and self organizing way. Such systems will be greater than the sum of the individual parts and will hold vast amounts of knowledge.

The “experts” need not be formal professional experts – a worker in a sewage works is as much an expert in this context as a professional biochemist in his own domain.


Examples of where IDs have been lacking include the NASA engineers who having spent a fortune on unsuccessfully developing the complex sliding and articulating inside knee joint needed for space suits went to the tower of London and copied the armor of Henry the Eighth with just such a joint – stating “we wish we had known about this earlier!”

Other examples include the social policy introduced by a Labour Government for controlling rented accommodation ostensibly to increase the availability of cheap rented accommodation. It has had the effect of drastically reducing the availability of such accommodation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Interlock Research". Claverton Group. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  2. ^ The IRG Solution – Hierarchical Incompetence and how to overcome it. David Andrews. Souvenir Press, London, 1984. Pages 200 – 220. ISBN 0-285-62662-0. Detailed description of the proposal.