Learn Systems Thinking with Object-Process Modeling in PKM

Zsolt's Visual Personal Knowledge Management
16 Mar 202416:12


TLDRIn this episode of Visual PKM, Zsolt introduces the Object-Process Methodology (OPM), emphasizing its importance for systems thinking in today's complex world. He explains the basics of OPD and OPL, ISO standard tools, using the PKM Personalities model as an example. Zsolt illustrates how objects, processes, and states interact, and discusses the structural and behavioral aspects of systems. He also touches on the significance of learning modeling languages and shares his own learning journey with OPM, providing resources for further exploration. The video concludes with insights on the interconnected roles of Architect, Librarian, Gardener, and Writer in personal knowledge management.


  • ๐Ÿง  Systems thinking is essential for understanding the interconnectedness of complex systems, whether in global challenges or personal workflows.
  • ๐Ÿ“š OPD (Object-Process Diagramming) and OPL (Object-Process Language) are ISO standard modeling tools designed to facilitate systems thinking.
  • ๐ŸŽจ The script aims to teach the basics of OPD and OPL, demonstrate their usefulness in different stages of thinking, and showcase how OPM helps in understanding complex systems.
  • โ“ The video prompts viewers to think about the things that exist (objects) and happen (processes) in the universe, and how they are represented in OPD and OPL.
  • ๐Ÿ” Objects in OPD are represented as nouns in a square, while processes are represented as verbs in present participle form within an ellipse.
  • ๐Ÿ”— Processes require objects; they cannot happen in a vacuum. This relationship is depicted using lines in OPD, such as the 'instrument relation' which can be read as 'Reading requires a book'.
  • ๐Ÿ“ˆ The strength of OPM lies in dual-channel processing, engaging both verbal and visual faculties simultaneously for a deeper understanding.
  • โš™๏ธ Processes can transform objects in three ways: creating, destroying/consuming, or affecting them, which can change the state of the object.
  • ๐Ÿ“š A knowledge base, as an example of a system, consists of various components like catalogues, notes, and connections, and is represented using structural links in OPD.
  • ๐ŸŒ The script introduces the concepts of structure and behavior as two key aspects for viewing any system, with structure being static and behavior being dynamic.
  • ๐ŸŒ The video also touches on the function or utilitarian aspect of man-made systems, which is unique compared to natural occurrences.
  • ๐ŸŒ The speaker shares his personal learning journey with OPM, including the creation of a personal dictionary to aid in learning the language of OPD and OPL.
  • ๐Ÿ”— The video provides a link to an OPM model of PKM (Personal Knowledge Management), encouraging viewers to explore and edit it using Excalidraw.
  • ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ The video highlights that the roles of Architect, Librarian, Gardener, and Writer in PKM are interconnected and play together in managing personal knowledge.
  • ๐Ÿ”— The video concludes by emphasizing the practicality of OPM in PKM and provides resources for further exploration, including a dictionary, OPD model, and tools like OPCAT.

Q & A

  • What is the main focus of the video by Zsolt?

    -The video focuses on exploring the Object-Process Methodology (OPM) and its application in systems thinking, specifically in the context of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).

  • Why is systems thinking important in today's complex world?

    -Systems thinking is crucial because it helps us understand the interconnectedness of systems, which is essential for addressing global challenges and navigating personal workflows.

  • What are OPD and OPL, and why are they significant in the context of this video?

    -OPD (Object-Process Diagramming) and OPL (Object-Process Language) are ISO standard modeling tools designed for systems thinking. They are significant as they are used to model PKM personalities and demonstrate how OPM can help understand complex systems.

  • What is the basic unit of representation for objects in OPD?

    -In OPD, objects are represented with a square and are treated as nouns that start with a capital letter.

  • How are processes represented in OPD, and what form do they take?

    -Processes in OPD are represented with an ellipse and are verbs in the present participle form, starting with a capital letter.

  • What is the relationship between processes and objects in OPD?

    -Processes happen to objects in OPD. This relationship is depicted with a line, which can represent different types of connections, such as the instrument relation.

  • What does it mean for a process to transform an object in OPM?

    -A process transforming an object can mean creating, destroying, consuming, or affecting the object, which involves changing its state.

  • What are the two complementary aspects of any system according to the video?

    -The two complementary aspects of any system are structure and behavior. Structure refers to the static composition of the system, while behavior refers to its dynamic changes over time.

  • What is the function or utilitarian aspect of a system, and why is it significant?

    -The function or utilitarian aspect answers the question of why a system is built and for whom. It is significant because it holds relevance within the realm of man-made systems, providing insight into their purpose and intended users.

  • How does the video suggest learning a modeling language can benefit an individual?

    -Learning a modeling language is likened to learning a spoken language; it opens doors to new insights and understanding, allowing one to represent different concepts effectively and engage with new perspectives.

  • What is the purpose of the four big circles in Zsolt's OPM model of PKM?

    -The four big circles in the OPM model represent higher-level processes such as Architecting, Curating, Gardening, and Authoring. They serve as a solution for zooming in and out to different levels of abstraction in the model.

  • How does Zsolt suggest the roles of Architect, Librarian, Gardener, and Writer interrelate in PKM?

    -Zsolt suggests that these roles do not exist in isolation but play in concert. They are interconnected and contribute to the overall process of personal knowledge management, from curating content to creating new ideas.

  • What tool did Zsolt use to create the illustrations and run the slideshow for the video?

    -Zsolt used the Excalidraw Plugin in Obsidian.md to create the illustrations and run the slideshow for the video.

  • What is the significance of the procedural link with a plus sign in OPM?

    -The procedural link with a plus sign in OPM represents an Input, Output, and Results relationship, specifically denoting 'at least one' participation constraint in the process.

  • How does the video address the practicality of OPM in PKM?

    -The video addresses the practicality of OPM by demonstrating how the different PKM personalities can work together in concert, using the diagramming and modeling techniques discussed to aid in the process.



๐Ÿ“š Introduction to Object-Process Methodology

Zsolt, the host of Visual PKM, introduces the Object-Process Methodology (OPM) as a crucial tool for systems thinking in complex world scenarios. He emphasizes the importance of understanding interconnected systems for tackling global issues and personal workflows. OPM, through its ISO standard modeling tools OPD and OPL, is positioned as a solution for those struggling with Concept Modeling. The video aims to teach the basics of OPD and OPL, demonstrate their utility in different thinking stages, and showcase how OPM can elucidate complex systems. Zsolt invites viewers to reflect on fundamental questions about the nature of objects and processes in the universe, explaining that in OPD, objects are represented as nouns in squares and processes as verbs in ellipses. He also introduces the concept of dual-channel processing, which leverages both visual and textual representations to enhance understanding.


๐Ÿ” Deep Dive into OPM: Objects, Processes, and States

This paragraph delves deeper into the Object-Process Methodology, exploring the concepts of objects, processes, and their transformations. Zsolt uses the term 'fleeting note' referencing Sรถnke Ahrens' 'How to Take Smart Notes' to illustrate how processes like 'Note Making' can transform objects, either by creating, destroying, or affecting them. He introduces the notion of stateful objects, which must have states that can be changed by processes, exemplified by a book changing from 'unread' to 'read' due to the process of reading. The paragraph also discusses the dual aspects of any system: structure, which is the static composition of the system, and behavior, which is the dynamic change over time. Zsolt provides examples of structural links, generalization, and the function of man-made systems, which answer the purpose and beneficiaries of the system.


๐ŸŒ The Relevance of Modeling Languages in PKM

Zsolt compares modeling languages to spoken languages, highlighting their importance in representing different concepts, just as different spoken languages are used to communicate with different people. He mentions various modeling languages such as BPMN for business processes, UML for software design, and DMN for decision modeling. The paragraph emphasizes that mastering a modeling language provides new insights and understanding, similar to learning a new spoken language. Zsolt shares his own learning journey with OPM, including the resources he used and his creation of a personal dictionary. He also discusses the scalability of OPM diagrams, which can zoom in and out to represent different levels of abstraction and complexity.


๐ŸŽจ Practical Application of OPM in Personal Knowledge Management

In the final paragraph, Zsolt addresses the practical application of OPM, particularly in Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). He shares his OPM model of PKM, which he created using the Excalidraw Plugin in Obsidian.md, and invites viewers to explore and edit it. He clarifies that he is still learning OPM and that his model should be taken as a work in progress. Zsolt discusses the interconnected roles of the Architect, Librarian, Gardener, and Writer in PKM, suggesting that these roles work in concert rather than in isolation. He concludes by encouraging viewers to find the introduction to Object-Process Modeling helpful and to engage with the video by liking, subscribing, and commenting. He also provides links to his dictionary, OPD model, and other resources in the video description.



๐Ÿ’กObject-Process Methodology (OPM)

OPM is a systems thinking approach that involves modeling the world in terms of objects (things that exist) and processes (things that happen). It is crucial for understanding the interconnectedness of complex systems, which is the main theme of the video. For instance, the script introduces OPM by explaining how objects and processes interact, such as 'Reading requires a book', where 'book' is an object and 'reading' is a process.

๐Ÿ’กSystems Thinking

Systems thinking is a core concept in the video, referring to an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the components within a system and how they interact. It is vital for tackling global challenges and personal workflows. The video emphasizes the importance of systems thinking by showcasing how OPM can be used as a tool to facilitate this process.

๐Ÿ’กOPD and OPL

OPD (Object-Process Diagramming) and OPL (Object-Process Language) are ISO standard modeling tools introduced in the script. They are designed to visually and textually represent systems thinking. The video demonstrates their practical application by modeling PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) personalities using OPM, showing how these tools can be used to understand and model complex systems.

๐Ÿ’กPKM Personalities

PKM Personalities are a concept popularized by Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Nick Milo, and Tiago Forte, which categorize different approaches to personal knowledge management. The video uses OPM to model these personalities, illustrating how systems thinking tools can be applied to understand and categorize human behaviors and workflows.

๐Ÿ’กStateful Objects

Stateful objects are a concept within OPM where objects are not just things that exist but have states that can change over time. In the video, the idea is exemplified by stating that 'a Book can be unread or read', showing how processes can transform objects by changing their state.

๐Ÿ’กStructural and Behavioral Aspects

The video discusses the two key aspects of any system: structure and behavior. Structure refers to the static composition of a system, while behavior refers to how the system changes over time. An example from the script is explaining that a 'Knowledge Base consists of at least one Catalogue, many Notes, many Connections', which is the structural aspect, and how these elements interact over time represents the behavior.


Generalization is a concept used in OPM to show that specialized elements inherit properties from a more generalized element. The script uses this term to explain relationships between types of content and consuming activities, such as 'Video, Blog, and Book are Content' and 'Consuming generalizes Reading and Watching', highlighting the inheritance of properties in a system.

๐Ÿ’กDual-Channel Processing

Dual-channel processing is a strength of OPM mentioned in the video, which involves engaging both verbal and visual faculties simultaneously. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of complex systems by using both OPD (visual) and OPL (textual) representations. The video script emphasizes this by stating that OPM 'enables us to engage our verbal and visual faculties at the same time'.

๐Ÿ’กModeling Languages

Modeling languages are tools used to represent different concepts, similar to how spoken languages are used for communication. The video script mentions several examples, such as BPMN for business processes and UML for software design. The analogy with spoken languages helps to illustrate the variety and purpose of different modeling languages in understanding and communicating about complex systems.

๐Ÿ’กExcalidraw and Obsidian

Excalidraw and Obsidian are tools mentioned in the video for creating illustrations and managing notes. The unique combination of freeform illustration and linked notes offered by these tools is highlighted as the presenter's tool of choice for Visual PKM. The video script also mentions using an Excalidraw Plugin in Obsidian for creating the illustrations and running the slideshow.


Introduction to Object-Process Methodology (OPM) as a tool for systems thinking.

Importance of systems thinking in dealing with global challenges and personal workflows.

OPD and OPL as ISO standard modeling tools for facilitating systems thinking.

Practical application of Concept Modeling using OPM to model PKM Personalities.

Explanation of objects as nouns represented by squares in OPD.

Processes defined as verbs in present participle form represented by ellipses.

Processes happening to objects and the representation of this relationship in OPD.

OPM's dual-channel processing strength by combining visual and textual formalisms.

Processes transforming objects through creation, destruction, or affecting.

Introduction of stateful objects and their transformation by processes.

The two key aspects of any system: structure and behavior.

Explanation of structural links, aggregation, and participation in OPD.

Generalization structural relationships and inheritance of properties.

The function or utilitarian aspect specific to man-made systems.

Learning modeling languages compared to learning spoken languages.

The ease of learning a modeling language versus a foreign language.

Sharing of the Object-Process Model of PKM for exploration and editing.

Zsolt's admission of being a learner in OPM and the creation of a personal dictionary.

Use of zooming in and out in OPD for different levels of abstraction.

Clarification that the model is not a flowchart but a representation of concurrent activities.

Discussion on the interconnection of Architect, Librarian, Gardener, and Writer roles in PKM.

Recommendation of Excalidraw and Obsidian for visual PKM and note-linking.

Mention of OPCAT as a free OPM modeling tool for learning the grammar.



Welcome back to Visual PKM.


I am Zsolt.


Today we continue our exploration of diagrams by exploring the Object-Process Methodology.


But, why should you care?


In our complex world systems thinking is crucial.


Whether we're wrestling with global challenges or navigating our personal workflows, understanding


the interconnectedness of systems is essential.


But what does systems thinking entail?


What tools-for-thought are you using to facilitate this process?


OPD and OPL are ISO standard modeling tools designed for systems thinking.


After last week's video, some of you have commented how you struggle with the practical


application of Concept Modeling.


I'll respond to by modeling PKM Personalities, popularized by Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Nick Milo,


and Tiago Forte, using OPM.


Thus my hope is to hit three birds with one stone.


To teach the basic of OPD and OPL, to show how different tools are useful at different


stages of our thinking, and to demonstrate how OPM can help understand complex systems.


We'll start with a few questions.


Now, if we were chatting over a coffee, I'd wait for your reply and we'd have a discussion,


but given our circumstances, I am just going to pause shortly after each question giving


you time to come up with your own answer.


But before we dive in, I just want to mention that you should definitely check out the video




I've included some helpful resources there, should you wish to explore OPM further.


and now the questions...


What are the things that exist in the universe?


What do we call them?


The answer is OBJECTS are the THINGS that exist or might exist.


We can think of them as things that might exist, or in fact exist.


For example a book is an object.


In OPD objects are nouns, they start with a capital letter and are represented with


a square.


What are the things that happen in the universe?


The answer is the PROCESSES are what happen or might happen.


For example reading is a process.


In OPD processes are verbs in present participle form, that is, ending with "ing".


They start with a capital letter and are represented with an ellipse.


But processes cannot happen in vacuum; they happen to something.


Therefore the follow-up question is What are the things to which processes happen?


The answer is that processes happen to objects.


The things that happen happen to the things that exist.


You represent this relationship with a line in OPD.


There are a few different type of connections, the one I am using here is the instrument




You read it as "Reading requires a book".


This sentence is the OPL representation of the OPD.


Let's take a moment for a very important side-note, the strength of OPM lies in its ability to


facilitate dual-channel processing.


By grounding our understanding in both visual and textual formalisms simultaneously, OPM


enables us to engage our verbal and visual faculties at the same time giving you twice


the brainpower, using all the cores of your CPU.


What do processes do to objects?


The answer is that processes transform objects.


What does it mean for a process to transform an object?


Transforming of an object by a process means one of three possible things.


The process can create an object, the process can destroy or consume an object,


and a process can affect an object.


For example "Reading yields one or more Fleeting Notes or Ideas".


I use the term "fleeting note" in reference to How to Take Smart Notes by Sรถnke Ahrens.


The arrow I am using here is a procedural link that represents Input, Output and Results,


in this case, output.


The little plus sign next to the arrow is a "participation constraint" and denotes "at


least one".


In turn our "Note Making process consumes at least one Fleeting Note and yields at least


one Note"


But what does it mean for a process to affect an object?


A process affects an object by changing its state.


So here we introduce, in addition to objects and processes, a third term, which is state.


Objects must, therefore, be stateful.


In other words, they must have states.


Thus we are talking about not just objects, but stateful objects, and processes that transform




For example a "Book can be unread or read."


and "Reading changes the Book from unread to read".


Now let's shift gears and ask another key question that we will need to use later on.


What are the two complementary aspects from which any system can be viewed?


Two important, two key aspects.


The two key aspects are structure and behavior.


Structure is the static aspect; it answers the question what is the system made of, what


are the parts, and how are they related?


The second aspect, the complementary aspect is the behavior.


It's the dynamic aspect, that answers the question How does a system change over time?


What happens to the system and the objects in it?


So for example a "Knowledge Base consist of at least one Catalogue, many Notes, many Connections,


and additional parts.", and a "Connection refers to two Notes."


The solid black arrowhead is a Structural Link and denotes aggregation, or participation


when read in the other direction, the horizontal line between the arrow head and the Knowledge


Base denotes that the aggregation is not comprehensive.


If the line were not there, we would assume the Knowledge Base only has these 3 components.


Additionally, "refers to" on the arrow between Connection and Note is called a tag and is


used to specify the nature of the relationship.


Another example is the generalization structural relationship.


"Video, Blog and Book are Content", and "Consuming generalizes Reading and Watching.".


Note that you could turn both of these sentences around, thus I could have said "Content generalizes


Video, Blog and Books."


and "Reading and Watching are Consuming".


Generalization means that the specialized elements inherit properties of the generalized




Thus we can also say that "Content can be unknown or known" and "Consuming changes Content


from unknown to known".


Finally, there is an aspect that is only relevant to man-made systems.


What is it?


Well, it's the function or utilitarian, subjective aspect that answers the question: Why is the


system built, and for whom?


This question holds significance solely within the realm of man-made systems, as opposed


to natural occurrences.


I can imagine, that by now your head is spinning.


We've covered a lot.


Let's take a break and talk about learning languages.


Similar to spoken languages, there are different modeling languages as well.


Just as you use different languages to communicate with different people, you will use different


modeling languages to represent different concepts.


For example, BPMN for modeling business processes, UML for software design, Argdown for argument


modeling, IBIS for dialog mapping, or DMN for decision modeling.


Just as there are many spoken languages, there are many modeling languages.


However, the good news is that you don't need to learn them all to navigate through life.


Nonetheless, you should at least learn one or two.


Now, if you have ever tried to learn a language, you will know it is hard work.


But once you've learned it, it opens doors to new cultures and perspectives.


Mastering a modeling language offers a gateway to new insights and understanding.


However, learning a modeling language is not as hard as learning a foreign language, but


it still takes effort.


Now, I don't want to bore you to death with my Object-Process Model of PKM.


I am going to share a link to it so you can explore and edit it in Excalidraw.


I just want to highlight a few things before wrapping this video up.


First, I want to clarify that I am also just learning OPM.


I have watched all the videos I could find and spent a good 5-6 hours studying Dov Dori's




But please take my model with a grain of salt.


I am not a native OPD or OPL speaker, so my grammar, vocabulary, and accent are likely


very rudimentary.


Because of this, I even created a dictionary for myself, just as you would when learning


a foreign language.


I will share a link to it in the video description as well.


I hope you find it useful.


Second, you will notice that I have four big circles on the map.


This is OPD's solution for zooming in and out to different levels of abstraction.


If the model becomes too complex, you can zoom in or out to view it at different levels


of detail.


On this map, Architecting, Curating, Gardening, and Authoring are the higher-level processes.


This is how the model looks when I hide the details within these circles.


To make this view even cleaner, I slightly reorganized elements, an hid some of the structural


decompositions by removing the breakdown of a PKM Framework and the specialization of




Third, this is not a flowchart.


While there are processes in systems, real systems seldom operate in a sequential manner;


usually, there are concurrent, sometimes competing, and maybe probabilistic activities.


However, to get a sense of order, the general rule is to read these models from top down.


Finally, to address the comment about the practicality of all this, let's discuss the


Architect, Librarian, Gardener, and Writer within all of us.


Based on my rudimentary OPM model, it is clear to me that it is not a question of either-or,


but rather these personalities playing in concert.


Our journey in personal knowledge management starts with curating content, much like a


librarian organizing books.


But soon, you'll realize the need to architect a system for storing notes and managing your


backlog of content you've yet to explore.


This is where the architect in you takes charge.


As your library grows, you'll find yourself gardening, organizing, sorting, and connecting




When it's time to create, the writer in you steps forward.


However, these roles don't exist in isolation; they're interconnected.


The diagramming and modeling techniques we've discussed in recent videos are particularly


helpful when your inner architect is at work.


In closing, I hope you found this introduction to Object-Process Modeling helpful.


If you did, please hit that like button, subscribe, and share your thoughts in the comments.


Don't forget to check out the description below to find my dictionary and my OPD model


of PKM.


In case you were wondering, I used the Excalidraw Plugin in Obsidian.md to create the illustrations


for this video, as well as to run the slideshow.


While there are many dedicated diagramming and modeling tools out there, the unique combination


of freeform illustration and linked notes offered by the Excalidraw and Obsidian combo


makes this my tool of choice for Visual PKM.


I'll include links in the description to my plugin, as well as to my video about the slideshow


script that I am using.


Additionally, there is a free OPM modeling tool called OPCAT available.


The tool is a bit dated, as it requires Java Runtime Environment, and you will need to


Google for OPCAT download, since the download link on the official website is broken.


However, it is useful for learning the grammar.


I'll include the link to the official website in the description.


Until next time, thanks for watching, this is Zsolt signing off.

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Object-ProcessSystems ThinkingConcept ModelingPKM PersonalitiesOPM ModelingKnowledge BaseStructural LinksModeling LanguagesExcalidraw ToolObsidian Plugin