Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Intellectual virtues; architectural programming; agile delivery and action research 0

Posted on November 09, 2015 by daviding

For a class on Service Science at the U. of Toronto iSchool Master of Information program,  Kelly Lyons granted me the luxury of 2 hours of time.  In a relatively small classroom, she asked me to enable more interaction with the students.  With an orientation more towards theory in service science, I decided to use the slides for “Service Systems Thinking: An Introduction” that I had presented earlier in the month in Finland, but to start in a different place.  Thus, the lecture began in part 6, with three topics:

  • 6.1 Intellectual virtues
  • 6.2 Architectural programming
  • 6.3 Agile delivery, action research

This discussion opened with science as episteme, techne and phronesis.  The context of architectural programming as problem seeking opened up a conversation about what researchers and practitioners are doing with service science.  Towards concreteness in methods, the transition from structured methods to agile development was compared with action research.

Here are audio recordings of the lecture, in two parts.  (Video is so much more work!)

Part 1 Audio [20151026_1830_UToronto_Ing_IntroServiceSystemsThinking_1.MP3]
(67MB, 1h09m57s)
Part 2 Audio [20151026_1950_UToronto_Ing_IntroServiceSystemsThinking_2.MP3]
(43MB, 44m47s)

After the philosophical introduction, circling back to the beginning of the slide deck placed more emphasis on understanding the perspective of bringing systems thinking into service science.  We then rolled through content that has been (or will be covered) in the course, from a different orientation.

In the audio, there’s some banter back and forth with Kelly Lyons, who has been active in service science since its beginning.  While she paces students through content over a semester, I unfortunately only lecture occasionally at universities, so I cover a lot of ground.  Making digital recordings available is a favour for listeners who prefer to use a pause button to think and reflect.

Negotiating order with a GPS 0

Posted on November 03, 2015 by daviding

This morning, I had a low stress commute through rush hour Toronto traffic. I programmed my GPS navigator, and then mostly decided against its recommendations. My commute time yesterday was about 75 minutes, following the GPS recommendations. Today, the drive was about 60 minutes, using the GPS as a lookahead map of unfamiliar streets, including a serendipitous circumnavigation of a park that I hadn’t previously known.

Negotiating order is a way of governing where one or more parties engage with the environment to coordinate action. An alternative way of governing is social contracting towards legal order (or rules-based order), where parties delegate the directions and constraints of social activity to some (higher) authority, and accede to conditions then pre-established.

Self-organizing is another way of describing negotiating order. A contractualist perspective sees parties engaging in mutual benefit schemes, towards achieving some outcomes that they can not achieve on their own.

The congestion of rush hour traffic is a familiar experience for people in cities. Toronto has a record with the highest Commuter Pain Index in the world. How does a GPS (or possibility one of the future autonomous car) impact the decision on routes for a long commute?

Toronto Riverside to Markham

The conventional path from downtown Toronto to Markham is north and then east. An alternative path through arterial city streets is east and then north.

The conventional path is a highway typically clear for the first 10 minutes, placing the driver into a congestion trap. When the driver gets sufficiently frustrated, he or she will attempt a diversion to an alternative road off the limited access highway. Unfortunately, that diversion may also be selected by other drivers, so the pain gets distributed not only to people on the main highway, but also onto all of the nearby arterial roads.

An alternative path, when navigating (mostly) a grid of arterial roads, aims to stay away from the highways, and to route though traffic lights and stop signs. In Toronto, the grid of roads is supplemented by a few diagonal paths, as some roads follow the landscape where Lake Ontario and the rivers were already in place before the roads were paved. Today, upon encountering a construction zone, and then an streetcar breakdown, I had the freedom to move away from the obstacles. The GPS enabled me to see more than a few blocks ahead, so I was able to anticipate and avoid dead ends in unfamiliar territory.

A future in autonomous cars leads to a question as to whether computer programming can (i) only solve a problem in congestion for vehicles with that capability, and/or (ii) dissolve a problem for all drivers, whether they do or not use electronic navigation devices. Russell Ackoff originally published on these distinctions:

Towards a federated social web 1

Posted on October 30, 2015 by daviding

Systems Thinking World — a LinkedIn group with dialogue from over 19,000 members — ceased to exist by October 28, 2015.  It was a place where learners (new and old) of systems thinking came to overcome barriers, from 2009 through 2015.  A change in the terms and conditions at LinkedIn led to the group owner to move on.  The scale of worldwide participation in Systems Thinking World was significant, and the journey was the subject of a presentation at ISSS DC 2014.

While cleaning house, the Facebook Group formerly known as Systems Thinking World came into the hands of a new owner, and was retitled (at least temporarily) as The Ecology of Systems Thinking.  The new owner has a more open approach, and has authorized additional members to be administrators (including me).  The group had changed temporarily to be closed (i.e. content visible only to members), and Facebook won’t allow groups with more than 250 members to revert from closed to open.

Is there an alternative to the centralized structure of (a) forum owner(s) and members?

Actually, there is.  The diaspora* foundation has a different approach:

diaspora* is based on three key philosophies:

Decentralization: Instead of everyone’s data being contained on huge central servers owned by a large organization, local servers (“pods”) can be set up anywhere in the world.

Freedom:   You can be whoever you want to be in diaspora*.  [….]  diaspora* is also Free Software, giving you liberty to use it as you wish.

Privacy:  In diaspora* you own your data. You do not sign over any rights to a corporation or other interest who could use it.

The history of the diaspora* social network platform goes back to 2010, with a Kickstarter project.  Since 2012, it has been an open source community project.  The project blog shows a continuing stream of releases, so the technical community appears to be viable.

I have had a profile at since 2011, but haven’t had a reason to exercise the platform.  Maybe the demise of Systems Thinking World is a sign that it’s time for a big change.  I’ve started Systems Sciences groups on Google Plus, Facebook and LinkedIn.  I’ve been experimenting with federated wiki.  Although others may have become comfortable with ease of a corporation managing their content, I’ve always been an advocate for self-sufficiency.  So, in a learning-by-doing mode:

  • I, David Ing, pledge to post on diaspora* with the #systemsthinking tag, if at least 5 people join me.  I will post with public visibility, and others may choose to post publicly or privately.

Join me!  Signing up to diaspora* is easy.  The first decision is choosing a pod.  If you want to follow my example, you could sign up at  (The server is physically in New York.  If you normally converse in language other than English, you could pick a pod geographically closer that encourages dialogues in your native dialect).  It would be nice if you reciprocated with a real identity, and posted a photo.  You can even link your profile from Facebook, so you don’t have to fill in all of the fields.

System types as purposeful, and displaying choice 0

Posted on October 28, 2015 by daviding

Russell Ackoff has a four-way categorization of systems that I’ve found useful, and often shows up in my presentations.  I’ve had a history of citing a 1996 article that is peer-reviewed.  However, when I first saw him in person, speaking with an overhead slide projector in 1997, I recalled a slightly different language.  I’ve now discovered an article that is consistent with my memory.

In 1996, Ackoff & Gharajedaghi wrote (in a language consistent with the Ackoff & Emery 1972 On Purposeful Systems book):

Whatever one considers a system to be — and there is considerable agreement as to what a system is — there are obviously different ways of classifying them.  For example, they can be classified by size, by discipline (physical, biological, psychological, and so on), by location, by function, and many other ways as well.  The choice of a classification scheme normally depends on its intended use.  For our purposes — examining the consequences of mismatching systems and their models — the critical classifying variable is purpose and purpose is a matter of choice.

An entity is purposeful if it can produce (1) the same functionally defined outcome in different ways in the same environment, and (2) functionally different outcomes in the same and different environments.  Although the ability to make choices is necessary for purposefulness, it is not sufficient.  An entity that can behave differently but produce only one outcome in any one of a set of different environments is goal-seeking, not purposeful.  Servo-mechanisms are goal-seeking.  In contrast, people are obviously purposeful systems, and so are certain types of social groups.  An entity can be multi-goal-seeking if it is goal-seeking in each of two of more different environments.

Types of Systems and Models

There are three basic types of systems and models of them, and a meta-system:  one that contains all three types as parts of it (see Table 1):

Table 1: Types of systems and models
Systems and models Parts Whole
Deterministic Not purposeful Not purposeful
Animated Not purposeful Purposeful
Social Purposeful Purposeful
Ecological Purposeful Not purposeful

(1) Deterministic:  systems and models in which neither the parts nor the whole are purposeful.

(2) Animated:  systems and models in which the whole is purposeful but the parts are not.

(3) Social:  systems and models in which both the parts and the whole are purposeful.

These three types of systems form a hierarchy in the following sense: animated systems have deterministic systems as their parts.  In addition, some of them can create and use deterministic systems, but not vice-versa.  Social systems have animated systems as their parts.  All three types of system are contained in ecological systems, some of whose parts are purposeful, but not the whole.  For example, Earth is an ecological sysetm that has no purpose of its own but contains social and animate systems that do, and deterministic systems that don’t.  [pp. 13-14]

In the unreviewed 2003 paper, Ackoff & Gharajedaghi footnoted “1. This article is a revision and extension of an article we published earlier: “Reflections on Systems and Their Models,” Systems Research, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 1996, pp. 13-23″.  The table that appears in 2003 is different from that in 1996:

Systems Thinking: A journey, and some prospects 0

Posted on October 24, 2015 by daviding

A system of ideas can be approached through a history of science.  For my annual visit to the Creative Sustainability program, I decided to talk about the context that started me off on systems thinking, and has continued to shape my ongoing research.

The session was conducted as a continuous two-hour lecture.  An abstract was sent in advance:

Learning about systems thinking is a journey. How and what each person learns is different.

In reflection, my appreciation of systems thinking was shaped by the 42nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the System Sciences meeting in Atlanta, in July 1998. The context was a profession in management consulting in IBM, followed by an assigned to the IBM Advanced Business Institute in Palisades, NY, as the Adaptive Enterprise book was being written by Stephan Haeckel. Some key speakers at ISSS 1998 shaped my perspective on systems thinking, and have continued to have an influence even after 15 years.

The presidency, culminating in the ISSS meeting in 2012 at San Jose led to prospects looking into Service Systems, Natural Systems. Complementary associations have risen over the past few years, including the Systems Sciences Working Group with INCOSE, and the Systemic Design Research Network (conducting Relating Systems Thinking and Design symposiums) with OCAD U. and AHO.

Recent research includes encouragement of a Service Systems Thinking community based on Alexandrian pattern language and open collaborative technologies.

This presentation aims encourage systems thinkers to reflect on their own journeys, and gain awareness of some new prospects for further deepening their knowledge.

Part 1 Audio [20151008_1000_AaltoCS_Ing_SystemsThinkingJourneyProspects.mp3]
(114MB, 1h58m22s)
Part 1 Video (58m06s) nHD
H.264 MP4 [640×360
686kbps m4v] (610MB)
1879bps m4v] (1.7GB)
5273kbps mp4] (4.7GB)
WebM [1280×720
1197kbps webm] (1.1GB)

An Introduction to Service Systems Thinking 0

Posted on October 21, 2015 by daviding

A lecture for the Master’s Program in Industrial Management at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences was an opportunity to talk about the research that has been brewing over the past 18+ months, from the basics.  These students were unlikely to have heard much about (i) systems thinking; (ii) service systems, (iii) generative pattern language, or (iv) federated wiki.

Coming to Metropolia in 2015 was like a return home.  In 2006, the institution was named Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia, and I collaborated on starting up the curriculum as part of the Rendez project.  In recent years, I haven’t been so involved.  As I was planning a trip to Europe this fall, I discovered that Satu Teerikangas had returned from teaching at UCL in the UK to Finland, becoming the Head of the Industrial Management Program.  My itinerary coincided well with the course dates, so I pulled together a presentation from the evolving ideas over the last year.  The audience would be a combination of students from the Industrial Management program and the Logistics program.

The session was conducted in two parts, each slightly under 60 minutes.  The first part covered:

  • 1. What could Service Systems Thinking be?
  • 2. Systems Thinking
  • 3. SSMED (Service Science, Management, Engineering and Design)

Part 1 Audio [20151002_1300_Metropolia_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking.mp3]
(55MB, 57m02s)
Part 1 Video (58m06s) nHD
H.264 MP4 [640×360
724Kbps m4v] (316MB)
1938Kbps m4v] (845MB)
5445Kbps mp4] (2.4GB)
WebM [1280×720
1006Kbps webm] (439MB)

In the second part after the break, the agenda covered:

  • 4. Generative Pattern Language
  • 5. Multiple Perspectives Open Collaboration (federated wiki)
  • 6. Context that are coevolving?

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