Earlier this year, in April, the International Federation for Systems Research hosted its biannual research conversation, this time in Pernegg, Austria. This meeting was a four-day opportunity to continue developing ideas on the emerging science of service systems begun in July 2009.
The proceedings from the meeting have now been published. I’ve extracted the chapter for our team as a separate downloadable document. The report starts with a description of our activities, and an outline of our progress.
The conversation began with self-reflections on personal experiences leading each of the individuals to the systems sciences, acknowledging the influence of those trajectories on their perspectives on service systems. In recognition of this science of service systems as a potentially a new paradigm, much of the time together was spent in sensemaking about the intersection between ongoing services research and systems sciences perspectives. This sensemaking led the team to focus the dialogue more on posing the right questions to clarify thinking broadly, as opposed to diving deeply towards solutions that would be tied up as issues within a problematique.
During the conversation, the progress on ideas was recorded on flipcharts. Nearing the end of our time together, the team cut up the flipcharts with scissors, and collated the discussion threads into five clusters: (i) philosophy; (ii) science; (iii) models; (iv) education; (v) development. With service systems as a new domain, the team found all five clusters underdeveloped. Recognizing that all five clusters are coevolving, the phenomenon of service systems was listed in order from the most concrete (i.e. development) through the most abstract (i.e. philosophy). Each of the five clusters was then summarized by a meta-question.
- 1. Development: How do we transition from the current paradigm?
- 2. Education: How do we help others learn about service systems?
- 3. Models: How do we understand and decribe service systems?
- 4. Science: What do we know about service systems?
- 5. Philosophy: Why do (or should) we care about services systems?
Each of the meta-questions is described below, with some of the dialogue content associated with the question clusters.
IFSR conversations follow the methods of Béla H. Bánáthy, which means that each participant starting from triggering questions individually develops partial answers and (possibly even more) partial questions. At Pernegg, we had researchers from four countries (which is even more complicated when we list current places of residency in addition to nationality):
As researchers, we puzzled our way through developing an appreciation for service systems at a foundational level. To give a deeper sense of the territory that we covered during the conversation, here’s an outline of the final report.
People looking for simple answers may be disabused of that idea, as this group of researchers didn’t have that end as a goal. People who are interested in foundational questions may find the downloadable chapter of interest.
daviding November 21st, 2010