Buckminster Fuller introduced the concept of precession in the context of design and systems thinking. His idea of “precessional effect” is closely related to the indirect and unexpected outcomes that occur as a result of a system’s activities. Fuller coined the term to explain the unintended consequences or secondary effects that emerge orthogonal or perpendicular to the intended or primary effects.
In simple terms, precession refers to the side effect or byproduct that occurs as a consequence of an action, even though it was not the primary purpose or goal of that action. Fuller argued that precession is a significant factor in shaping the course of events and influencing the development of systems.
One of the most famous examples Fuller used to illustrate precession is the behavior of a honeybee. A honeybee’s primary goal is to gather nectar for making honey. However, in the process of collecting nectar, the bee also unintentionally pollinates flowers, which leads to the reproduction of plants. The pollination is a precessional effect of the bee’s primary activity.
Fuller applied the concept of precession to various fields, including design, education, and society. He encouraged people to be mindful of the unintended consequences of their actions and to consider how precession might influence the overall outcomes of a system.
In summary, Buckminster Fuller’s concept of precessional effect emphasizes the idea that indirect, unforeseen consequences often play a crucial role in shaping the development and evolution of systems and processes. It underscores the importance of understanding and considering these unintended outcomes in various aspects of life and design