Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

How do systems — systems sciences, systems thinking, systems practice — fit into the way that individuals and social groups behave?  The connections between the development of general systems theory and interdisciplinary work stretches back into the mid-20th century.  In the Science of Synthesis, Debora Hammond traced the history of researchers bridging over disciplinary boundaries.

Early in the fall of 1954, four of the distinguished CASBS [Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences] fellows — Bertalanffy, Boulding, Gerard, and Rapoport — sat together at lunch discussing their mutual interest in theoretical frameworks relevant to the study of different kinds of systems, including physical, technological, biological, social, and symbolic systems. According to Boulding, someone suggested they form a society to foster interdisciplinary research on a general theory of complex systems, and thus the idea for the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR) was born.  [Hammond 2003, p. 9]

Initiated by a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1954, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences continues today, having joined Stanford University in 2008.  The luminaries founding the Society for General Systems Research — Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard and Anatol Rapoport — continue to be held in high regard today, in the International Society for the Systems Sciences (as the society was renamed in 1998).

The CASBS ties surfaced during the research leading to the report “John Bowlby – Rediscovering a systems scientist“, authored by Gary Metcalf.  On a visit to the Bowlby archives in the Wellcome Library in London, I served as a research assistant to Gary.  One artifact that we uncovered was the list of CASBS fellows for the 1957-58 years, with blue pen and red pencil markups by Bowlby.  Over 50 years later, many of those fellows have become prominent public figures, famous in a variety of ways.  Here’s my transcription of that original document.  In the case some of the names seem only vaguely familiar, I’ve appended a column on biographical sources as a reference.

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August 22nd, 2011

Posted In: psychology, systems

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In the weekend Globe & Mail Focus section, Tralee Pearce wrote an article titled “Adolescence is obsolete” (subscription required, unfortunately). It outlines a new book The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen by a former editor of Psychology Today, Robert Epstein. (As an alternative, there’s lots of links to articles, essays and even video on adolescence on the drrobertepstein site).

Pearce writes that Epstein:

…. challenges this drive to postpone the rights and obligations of adulthood. He suggests that we have lost track of what it means to be an adult – and underestimate just want it takes to become one.

The short version — 140 questions! — of the Epstein-Dumas Test of Adultness is available online at . (I haven’t taken this test, because I’m arrogant enough to actually believe that I approach a half-century in age, I am an adult!)

August 27th, 2007

Posted In: psychology

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The Focus section of the Globe & Mail newspaper this past weekend centered on happiness. The Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire, developed five years ago by Christopher Peterson (from the U. of Michigan) was reproduced as 24 questions in the newspaper. Matthew Trevisan reports that …

thousands of people have taken the test online, with an average score of 3.24 out of five. Pretty good, considering that most of the people who take it are what Prof. Peterson calls “seekers.”

“I mean, if you are happy as a clam, why the heck would you go to a positive psychology survey?”

Well, I’m a researcher, so I was just curious as to how I would score. Since I hate doing arithmetic, I found that the questionnaire is available on a University of Pennsylvania site by Martin Seligman. (You can register a userid there, to add to the statistics, and take the test). It turns out that I score 4.33, on a 5-point scale.

Authentic Happiness Inventory, David Ing

June 26th, 2007

Posted In: psychology