Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Whom, when + where do Systems Changes situate?

Covering practical wisdom (phronesis), the third of four lectures again was compressed for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University. The students in the part-time session on February 7 extended their discussion period longer than those in the full-time session on February 5. I again jumped slides in the sequence to stay within the timebox.

The agenda was in four sections:

  • [preamble] Episteme, Techne, Phronesis (reordered)
    • Intellectual Pursuits (Rethinking Systems Thinking)
    • Systems changes as situated c.f. ideal-seeking
  • A. Value(s), Judgment, Soft Systems Thinking
    • Appreciative Systems (Vickers, Checkland)
    • Policy, impacts and consequences of systems changes
  • B. Service Systems (c.f. Production Systems)
    • Science of Service Systems (Spohrer, Kijima)
    • Material-products c.f. information-services as systems changes
  • C. Socio-Technical Systems Perspective
    • Tavistock Institute + Legacy (Trist, Emery, Ramirez)
    • Coproduction and design principles guiding systems changes

The web video can be streamed on Youtube.

Copies of the video files are downloadable for disconnected viewing.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
February 7
(1h21m)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing HD m4v]
(HD 2477kbps 1.6GB)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v]
(nHD 1344kps 866MB)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing HD webm]
(HD VP8 375kbps 349MB)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing nHD webm]
(nHD VP8 139kbps 206MB)

Why (Intervene in) Systems Changes?

With a focus on “ecological systems”, the second of four lectures planned for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University proceeded as a timeboxed presentation:  targeting 40 minutes of content (skipping slides to stay within time constraints), followed by 10 minutes of discussion.  Since the slides are rich with content and links to sources, students were directed to pay attention to what I was saying, over trying to read the slides projected behind me. 

The agenda was in four sections:

  • [preamble] Errors, Attention and Traps (Ecological Understanding)
    • Systems Changes Learning Circle (Bateson, Gibson, Ingold)
    • (Resistances to) Changing as primary system of interest
  • A. Socio-Ecological Systems Perspective
    • Tavistock Institute (Emery, Trist)
    • Organization as primary system of interest
  • B. (Social-) Ecological Systems  + Panarchy
    • Stockholm Resilience Centre (Holling, Walker, Peterson)
    • Ecology as primary system of interest
  • C. The Ecosystem Approach
    • Resilience Alliance (Waltner-Toews, Kay)
    • Sustainable development project as primary system of interest

Online, the video is available on Youtube for streaming.

Viewers who prefer to watch video on a disconnected device can download a video file.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM

Are Systems Changes Different from System + Change?

The Systems Changes Learning Circle has met at least every 3 weeks over the past year.  As part of an hour+ lecture to introduce systems thinking, students in the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University were immersed in questions where we’ve focused our attention, complemented by background into traditional foundational materials.  An audio recording has now been matched up with presentation slides, so that learners outside the classroom can partially share in the experience.

This lecture begins with the rising interest in “systems change”, that is related to “theory of change” from funders of social innovation programs.  From there, the lecture aims to recast (speak in a different way) and reify (make some specified ideas more prominent) an understanding of systems thinking.

The presentation was overprepared — we can’t predict how engaged students will be on the ideas, before their brains are full.  Of 55 slides, we stopped on slide 37.  For streaming, the video is accessible on Youtube. (with a 6-minute excerpt on the Luoyang Bay abalone farms from the documentary Watermark, by Edward Burtynsky, removed).

Viewers who prefer to watch video on a disconnected device can download a video file.

Ecology and Economy: Systems Changes Ahead?

Following the workshop at 2019 CANSEE Conference, cohosted with David L. Hawk, we were invited to contribute an article to a special issue of WEI Magazine.  Here’s the abstract for the workshop in May:

Systems Changes, Environmental Deterioration

This dialogue-oriented workshop will be framed by two short position papers (< 30 minutes each) towards energizing a discussion on the prospects for systems thinking and ecological economics.

(1) Systems Changes research program

Shifting the emphasis from stable states to a fluid world, what patterns describe shifts due to (i) human will, and (ii) nature? The Systems Changes program aims to extend research from the 1970s (e.g. West Churchman systems approach; Horst Rittel wicked problems; Christopher Alexander pattern language; Eric Trist and Cal Pava action learning) with 21st century advances (e.g. holons and hierarchy theory; resilience science; ecological anthropology; open sourcing).

(2) Environmental Deterioration: What have we learned about systems change(s) over the past 50 years?

Since the 1960s, nations have enacted regulations towards environment issues, sustainability of resources and stewardship of the environment: USA EPA (1969); Canadian EPA (1988/1999); EU Treaty of Maastricht (1993). Yet in 2009, the Stockholm Resilience Centre declared that human activity has exceeded two thresholds of nine planetary boundaries. Is it too late for the human race to act, or even to try? The 1979 Ph.D. dissertation on “Regulation of Environmental Deterioration” from the University of Pennsylvania will be considered retrospectively.

(3) Dialectic: Group Discussion

In an open group discussion, in what ways might a shift from “systems thinking” towards “systems changes” make a difference (or not)?

At the conference, we had a relaxed and wide-ranging conversation

CANSEE 2019
CANSEE 2019: Workshop with @davidlhawk @CANSEE_org on Systems Changes, Environmental Deterioration. Two position presentations, attendees introduced selves, then had open discussion aiming to synthesize the ideas. Leisurely pace encouraging us to think together, as compared to the time-constrained agendas in other sessions. Notetaker will produce summary in a few weeks. (Canadian Society for Ecological Economic, CIGI Campus, Erb Street, Waterloo, Ontario) 20190524

In synthesizing some appreciation of the discussion from that workshop, we decided that I would take the lead on trying to capture some of the ideas.  Final revisions were accepted in October, and magazine production was completed by December. Here’s a rendering of the preprint.


Ecology and Economy: Systems Changes Ahead?

Open Learning Commons, with the Digital Life Collective

With governance of online communications a problematique, the Systems Changes learning circle has actively been advancing our collaborations on the Open Learning Commons as an open platform, and the Digital Life Collective for semi-private communications.  Complementing the Systems Community of Inquiry, this combination of technologies presents alternatives for Systems Thinking communities who are uncomfortable with the terms and conditions of commercial providers (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn).

The systems sciences community was invited to participate in workshops at the ISSS 2019 Corvallis meeting in June.

Open Learning Commons workshop, ISSS 2019 Corvallis
Workshop @ISSSMeeting @OSUAlumniCenter with @bortseb on Open Learning Commons and Digital Life Collective @tech_we_trust. Team of stewards convened for official launch of open source tools for collaboration, towards the promise of learning journeys for which artifacts endure. Relaxed pace through http://isss2019.daviding.wiki.openlearning.cc/view/introduction-to-the-open-learning-commons-and-the-digital-life-collective (CH2M Hill Alumni Center, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon) 20190630

The governance of the Open Learning Commons operates under Creative Commons licensing.  The Digital Life Collective operates globally as a member-owned platform cooperative, incorporated under a UK jurisdiction.

Joining these online platforms may not be as convenient as having a commercial enterprise “take care” of communications amongst individuals.  While I personally participate (and am named in groups of administrators) on most major social platforms involving systems thinking, my depth of involvement is consciously selective based on terms and conditions.  On a Dec. 23 thread on The Ecology of Systems Thinking group on Facebook, I responded to some questions, and have permission to repost the exchange publicly.

Services methods in a process framework

From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, methods for organizing for service engagements at scale were developed at IBM. Although this investment in knowledge management was huge, changes in the organization by the late-2000s saw this rich body of intellectual capital practically disappear.  Appreciation for the framework remains in the memories of practitioners in the IBM Global Services organization — particularly the methodologists — immersed during that period. Some foundational historical artifacts can be rediscovered on the open Internet:

  • 1. Configurable Development Processes (2002)
  • 2. Method Adoption Workshops (2000)
  • 3. Eclipse Process Framework Composer (2007)

The resemblance to pattern language, as prescribed by Christoper Alexander, is not accidental. Excerpts from these three sources are provided here, to entice readers who might seek out the full articles.

1. Configurable Development Processes (2002)

The Work Product based methods started in IBM at the rise of object-oriented methods. With OO as a new paradigm, incompatibilities across the variety of approaches frustrated clients trying to get work done.  The end results seemed pretty much the same. The resolution for IBM came through centering on ends (work products) first, and means (techniques) second. The methods originating in software development became cross-appropriated into services engagement for other domain offerings (e.g. business strategy, organizational change).

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