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Theoretical Grounds, Pragmatic Grounds: Methods for Reordering our Priorities through Systems Changes Learning (ST-ON 2020/10/19)

For the second of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, we convened a session for the monthly Systems Thinking Ontario meeting.  The focus of this workshop was a review of progress to date on methods by the scholarly team, informed by the adoption and use by the field team.

The framing of this presentation centered on developing methods that have validity balanced between theoretical grounds (i.e. it seems right based on logic and science) and pragmatic grounds (i.e. it works when applied in practice).

This workshop had more of a “teach-the-teachers” style to it, explaining the deeper choices in concepts, terms and techniques.  Compared to the other two workshops, this audience has a stronger grasp of systems theory.  Many regular attendees have attended meetings over the past 5 years.

In the web video , the presentation slides were mostly covered sequentially.  Attendees clarified their understandings with questions posed towards the end.

The video file are downloadable from the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.m4v]
(FHD 806kbps 790MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who like digital audio on-the-go, the session has been transcoded to MP3 .

Audio
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.mp3]
(44MB)

This session extended prior presentations on Systems Changes, with the benefit of the RSD9 version oriented towards designers having been completed just a few days earlier.  The freshness of that experience encouraged a reflections on ideas that had gone over over well fort the designers, as well as some examples and metaphors that may need to be rethought.… Read more (in a new tab)

For the second of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, we convened a session for the monthly Systems Thinking Ontario meeting.  The focus of this workshop was a review of progress to date on methods by the scholarly team, informed by the adoption and use by the field team.

The framing of this presentation centered on developing methods that have validity balanced between theoretical grounds (i.e. it seems right based on logic and science) and pragmatic grounds (i.e. it works when applied in practice).

This workshop had more of a “teach-the-teachers” style to it, explaining the deeper choices in concepts, terms and techniques.  Compared to the other two workshops, this audience has a stronger grasp of systems theory.  Many regular attendees have attended meetings over the past 5 years.

In the web video , the presentation slides were mostly covered sequentially.  Attendees clarified their understandings with questions posed towards the end.

The video file are downloadable from the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.m4v]
(FHD 806kbps 790MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who like digital audio on-the-go, the session has been transcoded to MP3 .

Audio
October 19
(1h57m)
[20201019_ST-ON_SystemsChanges.mp3]
(44MB)

This session extended prior presentations on Systems Changes, with the benefit of the RSD9 version oriented towards designers having been completed just a few days earlier.  The freshness of that experience encouraged a reflections on ideas that had gone over over well fort the designers, as well as some examples and metaphors that may need to be rethought.… Read more (in a new tab)

How do Systems Changes become natural practice?

The 1995 article by Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfus on “Disclosing New Worlds” was assigned reading preceding the fourth of four lectures for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University.  In previous years, this topic was a detail practically undiscussed, as digging into social theory and the phenomenology following Heidegger is deep.  Peter Jones and I are fans of ideas expanded into the 1999 book. I was privileged to visit personally with Fernando Flores in Berkeley in 2012, as I was organizing the ISSS 2012 meeting.  Contextualizing this body of work for a university course led into correlated advances in situated learning and communities of practice.

A preface to the lecture included The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, and revisiting Change as Three Steps to clarify what Kurt Lewin did and did not write.

The agenda was in four sections. In the timebox available, the lecture covered the first two:

  • A. Situated Learning + History-making
    • Legitimate Peripheral Participation + Practices (Lave, Wenger)
    • Skill Acquisition + Disclosing New Worlds (Dreyfus, Spinosa)
  • B. Commitment + Language-Action Perspective
    • Conversations for Action (Flores)
    • Deliverables, procedures, capacities, relationships

Slides for the last two sections were ready to go, but foregone in favour of other course work priorities.

  • C. Argumentation + Pattern Language
    • IBIS (Rittel), Timeless Way of Building (Alexancer)
    • Architectural Programming c.f. Designing
  • [postscript] (Open Innovation Learning)
    • Quality-generating sequencing; Affordances wayfaring; Anticipatory appreciating
    • Innovation learning for; Innovation learning by; Innovation learning alongside

This fourth lecture is available on Youtube as streaming web video.… Read more (in a new tab)

The 1995 article by Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfus on “Disclosing New Worlds” was assigned reading preceding the fourth of four lectures for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University.  In previous years, this topic was a detail practically undiscussed, as digging into social theory and the phenomenology following Heidegger is deep.  Peter Jones and I are fans of ideas expanded into the 1999 book. I was privileged to visit personally with Fernando Flores in Berkeley in 2012, as I was organizing the ISSS 2012 meeting.  Contextualizing this body of work for a university course led into correlated advances in situated learning and communities of practice.

A preface to the lecture included The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, and revisiting Change as Three Steps to clarify what Kurt Lewin did and did not write.

The agenda was in four sections. In the timebox available, the lecture covered the first two:

  • A. Situated Learning + History-making
    • Legitimate Peripheral Participation + Practices (Lave, Wenger)
    • Skill Acquisition + Disclosing New Worlds (Dreyfus, Spinosa)
  • B. Commitment + Language-Action Perspective
    • Conversations for Action (Flores)
    • Deliverables, procedures, capacities, relationships

Slides for the last two sections were ready to go, but foregone in favour of other course work priorities.

  • C. Argumentation + Pattern Language
    • IBIS (Rittel), Timeless Way of Building (Alexancer)
    • Architectural Programming c.f. Designing
  • [postscript] (Open Innovation Learning)
    • Quality-generating sequencing; Affordances wayfaring; Anticipatory appreciating
    • Innovation learning for; Innovation learning by; Innovation learning alongside

This fourth lecture is available on Youtube as streaming web video.… Read more (in a new tab)

Doing, not-doing; errors of commission, errors of omission

Should we do, or not-do?  Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:

There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.

  • (1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
  • (2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.

For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission  [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].

Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these.  Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:

  • 1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
  • 2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
  • 3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.

These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.

For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:

Read more (in a new tab)

Should we do, or not-do?  Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:

There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.

  • (1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
  • (2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.

For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission  [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].

Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these.  Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:

  • 1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
  • 2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
  • 3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.

These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.

For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:

Read more (in a new tab)

A philosophy of “becoming with” as “becoming alongside”

In foundational research, I went through a philosophical shift from “being” (in the sense of Hubert Dreyfus’ reading of Heidegger) towards “becoming”  — as I was writing a finalization of Open Innovation Learning in Chapter 9.  As I reflect more, my view of systems as living can be expressed as “becoming with“, and more precisely “becoming alongside“.

This is influenced not so much directly from philosophy, but from the ecological anthropology of Tim Ingold, as indicated in “Anthropology Beyond Humanity” in 2013.

I conclude with just two proposals.

First, every animate being is fundamentally a going on in the world. Or more to point, to be animate — to be alive — is to become. And as Haraway (2008: 244) stresses, ‘becoming is always becoming with—in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake’.

Thus whether we are speaking of human or other animals, they are at any moment what they have become, and what they have become depends on whom they are with. If the Saami have reindeer on the brain, it is because they have grown up with them, just as the reindeer, for their part, have grown up with the sounds and smells of the camp.  [….]

My preference […] would be to think of animate beings in the grammatical form of the verb. Thus ‘to human’ is a verb, as is ‘to baboon’ and ‘to reindeer’.

Read more (in a new tab)

In foundational research, I went through a philosophical shift from “being” (in the sense of Hubert Dreyfus’ reading of Heidegger) towards “becoming”  — as I was writing a finalization of Open Innovation Learning in Chapter 9.  As I reflect more, my view of systems as living can be expressed as “becoming with“, and more precisely “becoming alongside“.

This is influenced not so much directly from philosophy, but from the ecological anthropology of Tim Ingold, as indicated in “Anthropology Beyond Humanity” in 2013.

I conclude with just two proposals.

First, every animate being is fundamentally a going on in the world. Or more to point, to be animate — to be alive — is to become. And as Haraway (2008: 244) stresses, ‘becoming is always becoming with—in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake’.

Thus whether we are speaking of human or other animals, they are at any moment what they have become, and what they have become depends on whom they are with. If the Saami have reindeer on the brain, it is because they have grown up with them, just as the reindeer, for their part, have grown up with the sounds and smells of the camp.  [….]

My preference […] would be to think of animate beings in the grammatical form of the verb. Thus ‘to human’ is a verb, as is ‘to baboon’ and ‘to reindeer’.

Read more (in a new tab)

Exploring the Context of Pattern Languages

Pattern language is not for wicked problems, said Max Jacobson, coauthor with Christopher Alexander of the 1977 A Pattern Language: Towns, Building, Construction.  In addition, the conventional definition of an Alexandrian pattern as “a solution to a problem in context” when applied to social change might better use the term “intervention”, rather than “solution”.

These are two of the major ideas that emerged at Purplsoc 2017 conference last October.  A 90-minute workshop was run in parallel with other breakouts.

For about the first hour, vocal participants included Max Jacobson (who had given a plenary talk on “A Building is not a Turkish Carpet“), Christian Kohls (who gave a plenary talk on “Patterns for Creative Space“) and Peter Baumgarnter (one of the Purlpsoc chairs).

As an impetus to discussion, we stepped through slides that had been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

For people who would like the next-best experience to being there, the slides have now been matched up with the digital audio recording, for viewing as a web video.

For devices decoupled from the Internet, downloadable video files are portable.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
Digital video
(1h22m51s)
[20171021_Purplsoc_Ing_Exploring HD_578kpbs m4v]
(HD 578Kbps 342MB) [on the Internet Archive]
[20171021_Purplsoc_Ing_Exploring nHD_477kpbs m4v]
(nHD 495Kkps 283MB)
[20171021_Purplsoc_Ing_Exploring HD_416kpbs webm]
(HD 416Kbps 246MB)
[20171021_Purplsoc_Ing_Exploring nHD_191kpbs webm]
(nHD 191Kbps 114MB)

The length of the conversation may encourage listeners to download an audio recording.… Read more (in a new tab)

Philosophers squashed, discussed and read

When I can’t figure out where an author “is coming from”, I look at the list of references. Sometimes, this leads to philosophy. The best way to learn philosophy is a slow path of discussion in a seminars. For people with less time, I’ve discovered the web version of Glyn Hughes’ Squashed Philosophers books.

Is this a reasonable way to read philosophy? Hughes comments:

Philosophers are generally appallingly bad writers and you’re after ideas, not precise words.

Hughes suggests that you might be able to pass an exam by reading Squashed Philosophers, although for Squashed Divines and Squashed Writers, you would really need to access the original texts.

In addition, the original texts of many philosophers are translations, and there are often multiple translations from which to choose.

When I can’t figure out where an author “is coming from”, I look at the list of references. Sometimes, this leads to philosophy. The best way to learn philosophy is a slow path of discussion in a seminars. For people with less time, I’ve discovered the web version of Glyn Hughes’ Squashed Philosophers books.

Is this a reasonable way to read philosophy? Hughes comments:

Philosophers are generally appallingly bad writers and you’re after ideas, not precise words.

Hughes suggests that you might be able to pass an exam by reading Squashed Philosophers, although for Squashed Divines and Squashed Writers, you would really need to access the original texts.

In addition, the original texts of many philosophers are translations, and there are often multiple translations from which to choose.

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