Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

The average Canadian worker has (at least) some college or university education.  This fact is counter to presumptions in a question on the first day at the World Economic Forum by Fareed Zacharia, in an interview with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  Zacharia asked:

What do you say to the average worker in Canada, who may not have a fancy college degree — and I’m thinking about the average worker in America or in Europe, as well — who looks out at this world and says “I don’t see what globalization is doing for me.  The jobs are going to South Korea and China and Vietnam and India.  Technology is great, but I can’t afford the new iPad Pro, and more importantly, this technology means that it increasinly makes me less valuable.  Why shouldn’t I be angry and involved the politics of progress?”

The response by Trudeau spoke to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the theme of the Davos conference.  He didn’t actually respond to the presumption on education.

In a national picture of educational attainment:

In 2012, about 53.6% of Canadians aged 15 and over had trade certificates, college diplomas and university degrees. This was an increase of 20.9 percentage points since 1990.

Level of education, 15 years of age and over, 1990-2012 (percent)

Learning – Educational Attainment, Employment and Social Development Canada

… says “The Indicators of Well-Being in Canada (2016)“, by Employment and Social Development Canada.

In the Economic Indicators for Canada,

Between 1999 and 2009, the proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education in Canada increased from 39% to 50%. In 2009, Canada had the highest proportion of the adult population with tertiary education among all reporting member countries of the OECD. By comparison, the 2009 OECD average was 30%.

Population aged 24 to 64 with college or university education and their employment rate, Canada, provinces and territories, and selected OECD countries 2009

Population aged 24 to 64 with college or university education and their employment rate, Canada, provinces and territories, and selected OECD countries 2009

… says Statistics Canada in “Educational Attainment and Employment: Canada in an International Context (February 2012)“.

If there’s going to be another industrial revolution, an educated population should be better positioned for it.  What’s the fourth industrial revolution?  The World Economic Forum describes “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond“:

January 20th, 2016

Posted In: economics, education, systems, technologies

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As part of the Master’s Program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, I’ll be in Finland for 3 weeks in February, as an instructor.  I’m doing this as a favour for Katri Pulkkinen, who has been teaching the course since 2010, and felt that she needed some extra time to work on her Ph.D. dissertation.

Systems Thinking 2 follows in a series of compulsory courses, each with specified learning outcomes:

  • Creative Teamwork: “The course focuses on working methods co-operation practices within the studies and the professional field of sustainability”.
  • Creating the Mindset of Sustainable Societies: “To create the common ground of sustainability studies and to learn to deal with different scopes of sustainability concept in complex environments. Understanding mindsets and sustainable societies: what this means in political, governmental, business, organizational, individual and groups/community levels”.
  • Systems Thinking 1: “Learning the basics of the systems thinking approach in the context of sustainability. The students who have participated actively in the intensive course will be able to use the basic vocabulary and concepts of the systems thinking approach. The students also develop their skills in working and presenting ideas in multi-disciplinary teams”.
  • Systems Thinking 2: “Learning how systems thinking can be applied in questions of sustainability in different fields. During this intensive course, the students familiarize themselves with different ways of using the systems approach to tackle problematic situations. The aim is to understand both the versatility of the systems approach and the importance of choosing the right systems tools for each case. The students learn to interpret and present systems thinking ideas and to apply them to their own field”.

The official content of the course is delivered in intensive sessions:

  • During this intensive course, the students study materials from different sources and make presentations to the course, using a peer learning method. The reading materials cover several ideas of systems thinking applications. The intensive course consists of 4-5 days of lectures, team work and presentations, and individual learning diary and a final essay.

On January 12, my colleagues Susu Nousala and Glen Forde launched the course in a 2-hour session with orientation materials.  The course content is available on the open Internet at, and has been evolving over the past week.

Map 00: Course content

The 25 students have been organized into 8 groups.  Each group is preparing to stake a position on a research reference cluster, to lead an hour discussion for the class.  The systems concepts have been specified as:

January 18th, 2016

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The origin of “much of the best work” is “done by amateurs” dates back to 1890 in photography.  At that time, glass photographic plates was the norm for large images, as compared to the Kodak box camera released in 1888 with flexible roll film returned to the company for processing and reloading.


Much of the best work one sees is done by so-called amateurs. In fact, good work can only be done by amateurs in the true sense; i.e., those who love their work, and the secret is thoroughness. One must be thoroughly interested in the work—make a thorough study of the subject, and have nerve enough to keep the holder out of the camera unless the light is satisfactory and the composition thoroughly good. The “you press the button and we do the work” method is often effective, but for plates of any size more often a waste than a gain.

Very frequently we see picture makers who carefully read and observe the instructions sent by the makers with each box of plates, and the result is favorable. I envy them their pictures and the ability to stick to instructions, but I can’t do it myself. I confess to having little interest in a picture after the first batch of prints, or even after the negative has shown its quality—for the chemistry and other details of the subject exhaust most of my zeal.

It has been my pleasure to incite some hundreds of persons to try the various branches of photography, pure and simple, while I have done some work in every branch from wet-plate to photo-engraving, and the criticisms here made apply equally to myself.

I am a “hit or miss” portraitist, but am dead sure on some other branches said to be more difficult.

Most people fail in their efforts in some direction, as is quite natural. Those who stick to one class of photographs usually make a success.

I like to watch others work, and my experience is that failures are due to lack of thoroughness at some stage. [….]

J.W. MacMurray

Source:  MacMurray, J.W. 1890. “Thoroughness.” In The American Annual of Photography, edited by C.W. Canfield, 4:38–40. New York, NY, USA: The Scovill & Adams Company.

The 1890 author is fully identified as Major J.W. MacMurray, USA in the table of contents [p. v].   It is likely the same Major J.W. McMurray who was appointed as a Military Professor at the University of Missouri in 1872. The interest in photography might be associated with drawing in engineering in the U.S. Army at that time.

Military Science.

The instructions in Military Science, and the drill of the soldiers, which had been suspended in consequence of the retirement from service of the later professor, will be resumed under favorable circumstances, Major J. W. McMurray, of the First Regiment of Artillery, having been detailed by the President as Military Professor in the University.

April 2nd, 2015

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When can learning about system thinking be fun (and when can’t it be)?  This was the focus question for the third Systems Thinking Ontario meeting. We had a slight change in format from the reading-oriented prior agendas, as Steve Easterbrook led us through a more experiential approach to systems thinking.  As usual, participants were provided with pre-readings, this time from Linda Booth Sweeney.  As a change for the in-person meeting, Steve went directly to exercises from the Systems Thinking Playbook, which he has been using in classes such as Systems Thinking for Global Problems.  While the exercises are appropriate for students down into the primary school level, Steve has found that graduate students also enjoy and learn from them.  In the short time available, we played through two exercises and then broke out into discussion subgroups.

The first exercise was called “Frames”.  Steve provided each of us with a piece of paper with a small aperture cut out of the centre.


The playbook gives the following directions.

Geographic Framing

Step 1:  Ask all participants to hold their viewing holes out at arm’s length.

Ask them to look through the holes and focus on a specific object; for example, a cluster of tennis balls on a table, a poster, you, or whatever object you choose.  [….]

Step 2:  Ask the following questions, pausing for 10-20 seconds after each, so participants have time to ponder their answer.

  • “What do you see within this frame?”
  • “What questions could you answer with the information available to you through your frame?”
  • “What professions might be interested in the data you are gathering?”
  • “What actions could you take to influence the objects or processes that you see?”  [Sweeney and Meadows 2010, pp-140-141]

Steve had scattered a variety of toys around the room, on the floor and on a desk.  Some people looked at the periodic table on the wall, since we were in a chemistry lab.


After the discussion about the frame at arm’s length, the playbook next directs bringing the aperture closer.

April 13th, 2013

Posted In: education, systems

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Sean Whiteley synthesized the Memletics (Learning) Styles from two brain models: Multiple Intelligences (from Howard Gardner) and the Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic model (derived from sensory-based modes from NLP).

The Memletics Learning Styles Questionnaire on is cited as created in 2004, based on the Memletics Accelerated Learning Manual, by Sean Whiteley (Advanogy, 2003).  With neither nor domains currently online, the ebook has been reproduced on by Maria McConkey.  Whiteley bases his model on “brain regions”.

… we first look at the basis of learning styles and their influence on learning.  [….] We then look at each of the Memletic Styles in turn.  In summary, these are:

  • Visual. You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural. You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal. You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical. You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical. You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social. You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary. You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Lastly, we look at how you can improve your learning by using learning styles. One obvious way is to use more of your dominant learning styles. An interesting feature of learning styles is that you can also improve your learning performance by using styles you do not often use. If you are a mainly visual person, then you can make a lesson more memorable by using some aural content in your visualizations. If you like to use logic, then use some physical learning techniques occasionally.

Why Styles? Understand the basis of learning styles

Your learning styles have more influence than you may realize. Your preferred styles guide the way you learn. They also change the way you internally represent experiences, the way you recall information, and even the words you choose. We explore more of these features in this chapter. Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style. Refer to the “Brain Regions” diagram and read the following overview:

  • Visual. The occipital lobes at the back of the brain manage the visual sense.  Both the occipital and parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.
  • Aural. The temporal lobes handle aural content. The right temporal lobe is especially important for music.
  • Verbal. The temporal and frontal lobes, especially two specialized areas called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (in the left hemisphere of these two lobes).
  • Physical. The cerebellum and the motor cortex (at the back of the frontal lobe) handle much of our physical movement.
  • Logical. The parietal lobes, especially the left side, drive our logical thinking.
  • Social. The frontal and temporal lobes handle much of our social activities. The limbic system (not shown apart from the hippocampus) also influences both the social and solitary styles. The limbic system has a lot to do with emotions, moods and aggression.
  • Solitary. The frontal and parietal lobes, and the limbic system, are also active with this style.

I’ve based the Memletic Styles on two brain models you may have heard about. The first is “Multiple Intelligences” by Howard Gardner. I’ve broadened his model and made it more applicable to learning. You may know the other model as “VAK,” or the Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic model. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) books also describe this model as “modality preferences”.

Source: Sean Whiteley, Memletics Accelerated Learning Manual (2003), pp. 55-56.

As much as I would like to follow up on continuing research, the last mention that I can find about Memletics is a cached version on from 2008.

My learning styles inventory as assessed from sees my highest scores as logical and solitary.  However, a closer interpretation says (i) logical, aural and verbal dominate over visual (slightly) and physical (completely), and (ii) solitary is preferred (but may not dominate) over social.  If I am to have a learning style that includes listening and talking, I would expect that to happen socially!

September 8th, 2012

Posted In: education, systems


In February, I returned to Finland to teach the Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers CS0005 course in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I had previously blogged about teaching and learning from the Systemic Thinking for Sustainable Communities CS0004 course in October.  The February course was again intensive, this time on a Friday-Tuesday-Friday schedule.

All of the course content is available as open source in a directory at .  Here’s a map outlining the course.

The style of the classes again centered on a list of references from which students could select according to personal interests, supplemented by lectures outlined with context maps.  The course outline was provided as long form text that evolved online during the week.  Written responses from students were most frequently posted on public blogs, with notifications and responses on the Systemicists Forum on the Systems Community of Inquiry, with separate threads for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and the final essays.

The first lecture for CS0005 was a quick review of the first topic for CS0004 in October, foundations for a systems approach.  This turned out to be a worthwhile activity, as the students (and my co-instructors!) had mulled over the basic ideas of systems for four months, resulting in more reflection and questions than I was expecting.

This background in the first lecture continued with a discussion of method frameworks.

April 25th, 2011

Posted In: education, services, systems

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