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Unfolding values in places, spaces and paces: Service systems thinking and architectural theory 0

Posted on July 01, 2015 by daviding

Prior talks on Service Systems Thinking have focused on basics.  For this year’s Symposium on Service Systems Science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, I decided to step up the emphasis in a short presentation on some selected ideas:

  • An unfolding is a process which gets you from one stage or moment of development to the next moment of development, in the evolution of a neighborhood or in the evolution of a building;  and
  • Value is dynamic, with access consciousness ex-ante and ex-post, and phenomenological consciousness in lived experience

From the 8 practices employed by Christopher Alexander on the 1985 Eishin project, I focused on one:

  • Find systems of centers in (i) the notions in people’s minds, and (ii) the places in the land. Combine them.

These ideas are at the core of how systems thinking is intertwined with service science, and pattern languages.  Jim Kijima and Hiroshi Deguchi arranged for a videographer this year, so there’s a record of the presentation.

Audio [20150228_1430_Titech_Ing_UnfoldingValuePlacesSpacesPaces_128kbps.mp3]
(45MB, 46m51s)
Video (47m01s) nHD
H.264 MP4 [640×360
454Kbps m4v
] (160MB)
1754Kbps m4v
] (679MB)
WebM [640×360
247Kbps webm
] (87MB)


The video is available on Youtube, or downloadable as audio or video.

From Environmental Structure to Service Systems Thinking 0

Posted on June 29, 2015 by daviding

Christopher Alexander’s work described the architecting of built physical environments.  The 1977 book A Pattern Language bears the subtitle “Towns, Buildings, Construction”.  This approach was developed in the context of architectural programming and problem seeking originating the late 1960s.  It was complemented by methods described in The Oregon Experiment, and theory in The Timeless Way of Building.  Appreciating the philosophy embraced in the practice of building environment structure leads to a lot of reading.  The challenge has been made harder by Alexander continually evolving his vocabulary and definitions throughout his career to 2012, with his last publication of The Battle for Life and Beauty of the Earth.

Service Systems Science inquires into a world that is not necessarily physical.  Is it possible to remain relatively true to the pattern language approach developed by Christopher Alexander, and extend that into a new domain labelled Service Systems Thinking?

The 21st Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs — known as PLoP, organized by the Hillside Group at Allerton Park, Illinois for September 2014 — was an opportunity to test out the idea of Service Systems Thinking amongst practitioners who have grappled with applying pattern languages to software development for over 20 years.  My contribution of writing to the Narrow Road to the Deep North (奥の細道) writer’s workshop led by Richard P. Gabriel and Jenny Quillien turned out to stretch the normal process of critical review.  The accepted paper was incomplete, overwhelming in length (since workshops usually review submissions of just a few pages), cross-disciplinary in nature, and written at level beyond an undergraduate audience.  Since preceding presentations at other conferences had been workshop presentations of 3 to 5 hours in length, a written work turned out to be an ambitious effort for both the audience and the author.

PLoP conferences produce proceedings, where authors take the comments from the reviewers to revise the writings.  The timeline for completion was by January 2015.  In months between the Allerton meeting and the deadline, I managed to complete a coherent manuscript which was scheduled to be formally published by the ACM.  Self-publishing on the Internet is now easy, so it’s easy to distribute the author’s version of the work.

So, the manuscript for “From Environmental Structure to Service Systems Thinking: Wholeness with Centers Described with a Generative Pattern Language” has been available for some months.  At 32 pages (including a long list of references), this work comes with an apology.  If you would prefer the precision of reading, this article should be seen as a beginning, not an end.  If you’re not a fan of reading, perhaps watching some of videos might be less painful.

Incubating Service Systems Thinking 1

Posted on August 26, 2014 by daviding

Evolving the Proposal to Collaborate on a Pattern Language for Service Systems from January, the initiative has now taken on a label of Service Systems Thinking.  The presentation at the 58th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences in Washington DC was recorded, so that interested parties have the option of watching or listening ideas that have developed over the past six months, and reading the slides at their leisure.  Here’s the abstract:

“Service systems thinking” is proffered as a label for an emerging body of work that: (i) builds on social systems thinking (i.e. socio-psychological, socio-technical and socio-ecological systems perspectives) to advance a transdisciplinary appreciation of service systems science, management, engineering and design; (ii) explores opportunities to enrich Alexanderian patterns and categorized pattern catalogs into a generative pattern language; and (iii) collaborates on new platforms, moving from inductive-consensual wiki pages to a multiple-perspectives (federated) wiki.

The session was conducted in two parts, each of about 90 minutes.  The first part had a soft start playing some videos on the Smallest Federated Wiki by Ward Cunningham, since participants were coming back from lunch in another building.  The presentation alternated between projected slides, and live content on the federated wiki at  The agenda covered:

  • 1. Service Systems Thinking, In Brief
    • 1.1 An intentional representation
    • 1.2 An object-process representation
  • 2. Conversations for Orientation
    • 2.1 Systems thinking
    • 2.2 SSMED (Service Science, Management, Engineering and Design
    • 2.3 Generative Pattern Language
    • 2.4 Multiple Perspectives Open Collaboration

Part 1 Audio [20140730_1453_ISSS_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_128Kbps.mp3]
(85MB, 1h32m25s)
Part 1 Video (1h32m26s) nHD qHD
H.264 MP4 [640×360
238Kbps m4v
] (243MB)
716Kbps m4v
] (846MB)
2028Kbps m4v
] (1.4GB)
3341Kbps m4v
] (2.4GB)
WebM [640×360
135Kbps webm
] (176MB)
289Kbps webm
] (282MB)
0688Kbps webm
] (557MB)

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

  • 3. Conversations for Possibilties
    • 3.1 [Multiple Perspectives Open Collaboration]: We could have federated authored content on open source platforms
    • 3.2 [Generative Pattern Language]: We could be reoriented for unfolding wholeness, layering systems of centers and/with creating interactive value
    • 3.3 [SSMED]: We could have trans-disciplinary cooperation on service systems improvement
    • 3.4 [Systems thinking]: We could have service systems evolving from the systems thinking tradition

A Proposal for Collaboration on a Pattern Language for Service Systems 1

Posted on February 15, 2014 by daviding

A meeting of systems scientists and systems engineers together as the Systems Science Working Group at the INCOSE International Workshop 2014 provided a forum for “a proposal for collaboration on a pattern language for service systems (science, management, engineering and design)”.  The title is deliberately long, and required some hours to unpack the content in the slide deck.

A Proposal for Collaboration on a Pattern Language for Service Systems (Science, Management, Engineering and Design)

The initiative has been presented as ambitious.  Writing a (good) pattern language is non-trivial.  The originator of the pattern language, Christopher Alexander, published his first work in 1968, and then spent 9 years in collaboration until the 1977 release of the landmark A Pattern Language: Towns, Building, Construction.  In a 2010 interview, Alexander was asked about his perception on similar efforts.

[Rob Hoskins]: What’s been your opinion of subsequent peoples’ attempts at doing Pattern Languages – I’ve seen a couple of different ones, have you seen many?

[Christopher Alexander]:  Some. They’re not that good. The reason I say that is that the people who’ve attempted to work with Pattern Languages, think about them, but are not conscious of the role of morphological elegance in the unfolding. In a biological case, they always are elegant and the unfolding morphology is a sort of magic. But it’s very simple.  It’s not as if it’s magic because it’s complicated, it’s just … like that.

[Rob Hoskins]:  I guess when we were talking before about how a Pattern Language goes from the large down to the small, maybe when we were talking about it as going outwards maybe it is more like an unfolding process?

[Christopher Alexander]:   I think it is yes. The business of going from the large to the small was more for convenience….you could make sense of the book most easily like that but it isn’t necessarily the way to actually do it.

While contributors to this project can learn from prior art in pattern languages, there’s some basic contexts to be understood and appreciated.

A. Service systems (science, management, engineering and design)

Service systems are described in the context of the 2008 report on “Succeeding through service innovation” by the Cambridge IfM and IBM.  The science, management, engineering and design perspectives are from the 2009 Spohrer and Kwan article on”Service Science, Management, Engineering, and Design (SSMED): An Emerging Discipline — Outline & References”, with ten basic concepts underlying a service systems worldview.

B. Pattern language (c.f. pattern catalog)

The working of a pattern language is described with extract of the 1977 book A Pattern Language, with 127 INITIMACY GRADIENT.  The history of the Hillside Group, with a software (design) pattern (definition) illustrates application in a domain other than the built environment.  The variety of forms of writing patterns has been described by Martin Fowler.  Ties between pattern language and systems thinking are drawn by James O. Coplien and Neil Harrison 2004 and by Werner Ulrich 2006.  Christopher Alexander’s “Quality without a Name” is described in Richard P. Gabriel 1996.  Addition domains with ongoing work with pattern languages are evident in Scrum, in group facilitation processes, and in communications in the public sphere.

C. A starter set?  7 conditions from service systems science

Why do power failures seem rare in our Toronto neighbourhood? 0

Posted on December 23, 2013 by daviding

At our home in South Riverdale of Toronto, we rarely seem to have power outages when others report them. Why might that be so?

(1) We live within walking distance of 8 electric substations.

Electric substations in Toronto, South Riverdale

From a link on “Toronto Hydro’s not-so-hidden residential substations” | Derek Place | Oct. 13, 2010 |, I found a list of assets for Toronto Hydro from By-law No. 374-1999 at , and mapped out the addresses close to us.

(2) At least some of the TTC is powered by equipment in a electric substation near us, on Carlaw Avenue.  There was a procurement order in 2004 as “Procurement Authorization – Replacement Of TTC Traction Power Equipment In Toronto Hydro Owned Substations“, so maintenance should have been performed relatively recently.

(3) Toronto Hydro has a 12-acre Service Centre at 500 Commissioner’s Road.  The Toronto Portlands Company saw this development as so important that it produced two videos on the project that started in 1994, originally a Shell Canada site since the 1930s.

Conclusion:  If the power is on for Toronto Hydro and for the TTC, Riverside (South Riverdale) should also have power!

Using logic for productive presentations and reports | Mark Buckwell | Jan. 31 2013 | 0

Posted on August 08, 2013 by daviding

The style of reports in the original IBM Consulting Group style is explained well by @buckwem, with presentation slides in landscape format following Minto’s pyramid principle structured with horizontal logic and vertical logic.  I never met Mark Buckwell during my IBM career, but he’s been there since 1993, so we “went to the same school”.  If I’m not using this style in a presentations, it’s for a conscious reason, as this way of writing and presenting is always in the back of my mind.

On Slideshare, Mark has shared Using logic for productive presentations and reports 31-jan-2013 – speakerdeck in the series

Mark first surfaced Using Logic for Productive Presentations and Reports while teaching a chemical engineering course at Birmingham University, on a blog post at

The Pyramid Principle from Barbara Minto was first written over forty years ago and defines a logical way of writing reports and presentations. The technique first came from McKinsey and Company but it is now used by many management consulting companies including IBM Global Business Services.

On a subsequent blog post, he provides a rigourous “Checklist for Presentation Logic” at .  This knowledge is normally imparted situationally by experienced engagement managers, so the checklist could seem intimidating for individuals coming up the learning curve.

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