Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

System envisioning: disclosing a collective future system

Much of the challenge of getting an organization to move forward is in establishing a collective understanding of what the joint future might be. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of system envisioning since I participated in some OOPSLA workshops in the late 1990s. Ralph Hodgson provided me with permission to repost a workshop summary where many of the ideas first came alive for me.

The idea of vision certainly isn’t new for businesses. My concern is that many visions never materialize, and lots of effort and resources get wasted. Two factors that contribute toward success are:

  • designing a system that is feasible, and would operate if constructed; and
  • involving the appropriate community of people in definition of a future system.

The former is well-developed in idealized design, as described by Russell Ackoff. The latter follows in critical systems, as introduced by C. West Churchman and his followers.

Members of the systems community have developed approaches and techniques over the past 50 years. Although much of the world remains the same, we’re now in a different world where information and communication technologies play a larger part. We don’t necessarily know where the future is really headed … but that’s a lot of the fun.


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