The Iceberg Model: A Framework for Making Sense of Complex Situations

Fast, sudden change can make it hard to understand what’s happening in a complex situation. Your attention focuses on a few salient facts — if you can pick them out from the noise. But even those facts aren’t very useful unless you dive deeper. Fortunately, systems thinking provides a tool for doing just that. I’ll introduce it by unpacking the recent turmoil at OpenAI.

OpenAI is arguably the most important company in tech today. Their ChatGPT is the fastest-growing product in history: just two months after launch, it already had 100 million active users. It’s no accident: ChatGPT brought LLMs — the most transformative new technology in decades — to the masses. From the outside, it seems as though the company has executed flawlessly. As recently as November 6, it announced an exciting slate of improvements. And yet, less than two weeks later, OpenAI almost imploded.

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