The seven-layer communication model Compram DeTombe (1994)



Prof. Dr. Dorien J. DeTombe
Founder and Chair International - , Euro - , West-Euro- & Dutch Operational Research Research Group Methodology of Societal Complexity
Sichuan University, Chengdu, P.R. China
Chair International Research Society on Methodology of Societal Complexity
多莉恩·德通教授 华人民共和国四川省成都市 一环南路一段24 四川大学
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EuropeTel: +31 20 6927526





The problem is expressed in different ways in a seven-layer model to maximize mutual understanding and communication about the problem (figure 1). The seven-layer model is the central communication tool of the Compram methodology. Using the seven-layer model the problem can be expressed in different ways, using different models, and different languages. In this way experts and actors from different backgrounds can understand each other and recognize their own favorite way of expressing the problem. Expressing the problem in different ways and in different languages also makes it easier to see what is missing. It helps to adjust the models and to make clear how the phenomena are related.

Natural language is the start of defining the phenomena and concepts and making a semantic model. The semantic model makes it easier to adjust the description of the problem. The seven-layer model is also created to avoid some of the often occurring pitfalls, such as verbalism and collective blind spots.

Each team, the expert team as well as each actor team express their definition of the problem using this seven-layer model. All teams are guided by the facilitator.





Figure : The seven-layer communication model DeTombe


In layer I the problem is described in a natural language, in words, that each team member understands.


In layer II the concepts and the phenomena used in the description of the problem in layer I are defined. In this way the team members are stimulated to operationalize and define the concepts and phenomena they use. This gives other team members the opportunity to learn the concepts of other professions, and prevents verbalism[1].


In layer III the relations between the concepts and the phenomena of the problem are described in natural language. These relations can be based on theories, hypotheses, assumptions, experiences or intuition. This indicates the status of the knowledge. This layer is related to the description of the problem in layer I, to the definition of the concepts and the phenomena in layer I and to layers IV, V, VI, and VII.


Layer IV shows the knowledge islands. This is a graphic representation of the knowledge of the problem that is needed for handling the problem. The way the knowledge islands are filled indicates the completeness of the knowledge.


In layer V a semantic model of the problem is made. A semantic model is a graphic representation of the relations between the concepts and the phenomena of the problem described in layer I.


In layer VI a graphic representation of the causal relations between the concepts and the phenomena of the problem is shown.


Layer VII contains a system dynamic model of the problem based on the causal model in layer VI. The system dynamic model contains non-linear connections because of the repetitive interactions between the phenomena and the actors of the model.


Parts of the problem and of the different domain knowledge can be worked out in more detail in sub-sheets of the layers I to VII. The sub-sheets of one domain are connected and are connected to the overall problem. It is often necessary to focus on a part of the problem in detail to get a better view. Otherwise the models are too large to comprehend. The seven-layer model can be used to support the first sub-cycle of the problem handling process as well as the second sub-cycle.




[1]  Verbalism is using words without knowing what they mean.



©Dorien J. DeTombe, All rights reserved, first created 2004, update January 2017