Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies


Comparative systems analysis at Cal Poly Pomona

Posted on December 19, 2006 by daviding

I really wish that I had the time to join this course … but I’m trying to stay focused on completing my dissertation over the next few years!

At the Sonoma 2006 meeting of the ISSS in July, Len Troncale, Lynn Rasmussen and Todd Bowers had a workshop describing the study of 80 systems processes. They’re now maintaining a blog with a report of their experiences from fall 2006, and have announced of a new session beginning January 2, 2007.

In my work with the ISSS, one of my concerns is that the systems movement needs to advance and continue to move forward. A lot of people in business come to systems thinking through writers like Russell Ackoff, but I claim that the last significant influential systems writing in management was published by Eric Trist in 1981, for the Ontario Quality of Working Life Centre. (When was the last time you heard about Quality of Work Life?)

The problem that I have with systems theory is that a lot of it is really modernist, and most continuing research streams acknowledge postmodernism, if postmodernism isn’t already a central philosophical foundation. Having systems theory stagnate in the 1980s helps no one, and it’s arrogant to believe that 1980s researchers knew everything.

When David Hawk encouraged me to continue doctoral studies at the Helsinki University of Technology, he said that I really should complete the degree, but the way to do that was to continue to study my natural interests. I have to say that not taking this Comparative Systems Analysis course represents the first real time where I have a curiosity, but can’t follow through … at least not now.

This program at Cal Poly Pomona is not a management course, it’s a systems course. However, to really learn something, business people need to get deeper than the current management book-of-the-month writing.

I hope that maybe someone who reads this blog will join this distance program and help advance systems knowledge!

Side note: I recently visited with Len, Lynn and Todd, and took a snapshot!


Footnote: If you wonder about the Eric Trist article that I cite, you can find it in the University of Toronto library. Here’s the official citation: 

  • Trist, E. L. (Eric Landsdowne), The evolution of socio-technical systems : a conceptual framework and an action research program, Ontario Ministry of Labour, Ontario Quality of Working Life Centre, 1981. 67 p.

It’s in Information Studies Inforum branch (that’s library studies), as 331.01 T838E — (Dewey Decimal system, how quaint!)

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