Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Root Metaphors and World Hypotheses | ST-ON 2023-01-09

Researching the philosophical foundations of systems theory to understand the meanings of “causal texture, contextualism, contextural” from the Tavistock legacy led to philosopher Stephen C. Pepper.

The philosophical lineage and contributions of Pepper were the focus for the January online meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario.  A deep reading of Pepper’s work (over a month!) was digested on a wiki site on the Open Learning Commons at .  That is better as a reference resource than an easy explanation.

The online meeting began with usual self-introductions.  After 15 minutes, a quick overview of the wiki site was reviewed, interjected with clairifying questions by Zaid Khan, and moderation monitoring by Dan Eng.  Participants were engaged in making sense of the World Hypotheses as a precursor to systems thinking, continuing for well over an hour.

This recording of the session is available on Youtube, as well as on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
January 9
[20230109_ST-ON RootMetaphorsWorldHypotheses_1920x900.m4v]
(HDPlus 1920×900 952kbps 958MB)

[20230109_ST-ON RootMetaphorsWorldHypotheses_640x300.m4v]
(640×300 162kbps 281MB)

[on the Internet Archive]

A standalone audio was extracted from the video.

January 9
[20230109_ST-ON RootMetaphorsWorldHypotheses.mp3]

Participation in this discussion was intended more to provoke thought and conversation about philosophical framings inherent in the evolution of systems thinking, than to explicate with the intricacies of an American pragmatist taking a position against logical positivism in the 1940s.… Read more (in a new tab)

World Hypotheses, Contextualism, Systems Methods

The first Systems Thinking Ontario session for 2023 is scheduled for January 9, on “Root Metaphors and World Hypotheses”.  This is philosophical content, for which a guided tour and discussion will be better than attempting a solo reading of the World Hypotheses wiki on the Open Learning Commons.  Upon announcing the session on social media, I was honoured to receive a response from Michael C. Jackson, OBE.

Very interesting, David. And great that you are bringing Pepper and Emery/Trist back into centre of debates about systems thinking – where they belong.

Thanks, also, for drawing attention to my 2020 discussion of world hypotheses.

Sociotechnical thinking went through a brief ‘mechanical systems’ phase (Trist and Bamforth) before discovering von Bertalanffy and embracing organicism. It is also true that both Trist and Emery later claimed to have moved beyond organicism and embraced contextualism.

My own view is that they did not succeed and that organicism continued to dominate in the L22 work and even in the later socio-ecological work.

I recently had an exchange with Merrylyn Emery on this who, of course, says I am wrong and that her and Fred’s later work is clearly contextualist.

My argument, which I still adhere to, can be found in the chapter on sociotechnical thinking in my ‘Critical Systems Thinking and the Management of Complexity’. It is this chapter Merrylyn objected to. She is still very active in Australia.

Read more (in a new tab)

Reifying Systems Thinking towards Changes | ST-ON 2022-10-17

The October online meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario presented an opportunity for an update on progress made by the Systems Changes Learning Circle by 2022.  A slide deck had been prepared an in-person seminar at the Universitat de Barcelona Graduate Programmes in Business, organized by Ryan C. Armstrong, one week earlier.  Our regular monthly meeting, centered in Toronto, allowed a more leisurely pace, and a better affordance for capturing the session for playback.

The agenda provided the background history leading to the Systems Changes Learning Circle, and then focused on the practical approach to “doing” on our pilot engagement.

A. Rethinking Systems Thinking
B. Doing: Hub + 4 spokes
C. Thinking: Action learning for facilitators
D. Making: Systematic methods via multiparadigm inquiry
E. Ongoing learning opportunities

The meeting followed our usual practice of having participants introduce themselves. About 10 minutes in, the presentation on Parts A and B then started.  At 47 minutes, we took a pause for questions and comments.  At 1h14m, the presentation on Parts C, D, and E resumed.  At 1h32m, the presentation was completed, and more questions and comments were taken to the meeting ending at 1h51m.

This recording of the session is available on Youtube , as well as on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 17
(HDPlus 1920×900 643kbps 616MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

A standalone audio was also created during the meeting.… Read more (in a new tab)

Knowing Better via Systems Thinking | U. Barcelona 2022-10-10

Just before starting a trip to Spain, I received an invitation from Ryan C. Armstrong at the Universitat de Barcelona Business School to give some lectures.  The students in the bachelor’s programme in international business had a short mention of systems thinking in the first lecture of the operationa management class.  With that brief entry, this lecture was an opportunity to introduce a broader view of the traditions of systems thinking, in addition to the practices, theories, and methods under development by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in Toronto.

Having studied business myself at undergraduate and graduate levels, I can empathize with this audience.  The essential theme for these students is often:  why should I care about systems thinking?; and what is systems thinking? 

A. Knowing better
B. Systems thinking (one description)
C. Traditions (some favoured)
D. Contemporary approaches (in progress)
E. Ongoing learning opportunities

The presentation took about 40 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for questions and comments.

This audio augmented with slides is available on Youtube , as well as on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 10
[20221010_UBarcelona_Ing KnowingBetterViaSystemsThinking_HD.m4v]
(HD 1280×720 2460kbps 1020MB)
[on the Internet Archive]
[20221010_UBarcelona_Ing KnowingBetterViaSystemsThinking_QHD.m4v]
(QHD 640×360 682kbps 331MB)

The original audio was processed through a noise gate to remove some echo, followed by an audio compressor.

October 10
[20221010_UBarcelona_Ing KnowingBetterViaSystemsThinking.mp3]

This lecture was at the end of the visit to Barcelona, after the Creative Systemic Research Platform Institute Symposium. … Read more (in a new tab)

Four system traps, in undesirable regimes

While the adaptive cycle and panarchical connections reflect the possiblity of movement from one stable state to another, it’s possible to get “stuck” in a disfavoured trap.  Social ecological systems involve both natural systems and human systems.

After widespread recognition of the 2002 Panarchy book, reflections in 2010 revealed further development of the theory and practice.

Applying Resilience Theory

[….]  The theory has shifted focus away from managing for particular equilibria to the management of regimes, as described below.

Managing Regimes

Adaptive capacity has been defined in the ecological literature as the ability to manage resilience (Gunderson 2000, Walker et al. 2004). Humans manipulate ecological systems to secure goods and services and in doing so leave the system more vulnerable to change, by eroding ecological resilience (Holling and Meffe 1996). Ecological resilience is difficult to assess and measure a priori and is often known only after the fact — that is, the complexities, nonlinearities, and self-organized processes that generate regime shifts or ecological phase transitions are generally understood only after a shift has occurred, and then only partly. Even so, humans do manage for adaptive capacity. Those management actions can be categorized as those that are aimed at buffering the impact of disturbances (Berkes and Folke 1998, 2002), those that accelerate recovery and renewal, and those that attempt to choose and manage transitions among alternative regimes.

Regime management has two key components that must be actively managed. Quite simply, they revolve around two basic questions: (1) “What kind of system do we want?”

Read more (in a new tab)

Types of learning, with panarchical change as (i) incremental, (ii) lurching, and (iii) transformational

In order to appreciate the influence of resilience science and panarchy on ongoing research into systems changes, revisiting foundational works sometimes resurfaces insights.  In the 2002 Panarchy book, Chapter 15 provides a summary of findings.

In the course of the project hat led to this volume, we identified twelve conclusions (Table 15-1) in our search for sustainable futures. Those conclusions are reviewed in this section. [p. 395]

Table 15-1. Summary Findings from the Assessment of Resilience in Ecosystems, Economies, and Institutions [p. 396]
Summary Statement Conclusion
Multistable states are common in many systems. 1. Abrupt shifts among a multiplicity of very different stable domains are plausible in regional ecosystems, some economic systems, and some political systems.
The adaptive cycle is the fundamental unit of dynamic change. 2. An adaptive cycle that aggregates resources and periodically restructures to create opportunities for innovation is a fundamental unit for understanding complex systems from cells to ecosystems to societies to cultures.
Not all adaptive cycles are the same, and some are maladaptive. 3. Variants to the adaptive cycle are present in different systems. These include physical systems with no internal storage, ecosystems strongly influenced by external pulses, and human systems with foresight and adaptive methods to stabilize variability. Some are maladaptive and trigger poverty and rigidity traps.
Sustainability requires both change and persistence. 4. Sustainability is maintained by relationships among a nested set of adaptive cycles arranged as a dynamic hierarchy in space and time-the panarchy.
Read more (in a new tab)
  • RSS (Mastodon)

    • daviding: “Web video on "The Sustainable Development Goals: Origins, Co…” May 25, 2023
      Web video on "The Sustainable Development Goals: Origins, Context, and Perspectives" with Ned #NenadRava from @UN @JointSDGFund in discussion with #SystemsThinking Ontario. #SDGs #Sustainability #Development
    • daviding: “> Leading #TVO Today’s Asian Heritage Month lineup for May 2…” May 7, 2023
      > Leading #TVO Today’s Asian Heritage Month lineup for May 2023, TVO Original Big Fight in Little Chinatown premieres on TVO, TVO Today, YouTube and smart TV services on Tuesday, May 9 at 9 pm ET.
    • daviding: “Rereading the introduction to the 1969 _Systems Thinking: Se…” May 3, 2023
      Rereading the introduction to the 1969 _Systems Thinking: Selected Readings_ Penguin paperbook surfaces some choices by the editor #FredEEmery that I hadn't previously appreciated. #SystemsThinking #LivingSystems #opensystems
    • daviding: “The "doable dozen" is a phrase that #BjornLomborg picked up …” April 27, 2023
      The "doable dozen" is a phrase that #BjornLomborg picked up from #JordanPeterson on the April 3 interview. The list is now more complete at Halftime for the Sustainable Development Goals microsite at> The 12 best policies to scale up, that our experts have identified, cover a wide range of areas: tuberculosis, education, maternal and […]
    • daviding: “A series of articles by #BjornLomborg with leading media out…” April 27, 2023
      A series of articles by #BjornLomborg with leading media outlets has been lined up. This article in Forbes sets a direction. > But in 2015, when the world replaced the #MDGs [#MillenniumDevelopmentGoals], things went wrong. World leaders could again have chosen to focus on a few, crucial targets. They could even have kept the same […]
  • RSS on IngBrief

    • Introduction, “Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, volume 2”, edited by F. E. Emery (1981)
      The selection of readings in the “Introduction” to Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, volume 2, Penguin (1981), edited by Fred E. Emery, reflects a turn from 1969 when a general systems theory was more fully entertained, towards an urgency towards changes in the world that were present in 1981. Systems thinking was again emphasized in contrast […]
    • Introduction, “Systems Thinking: Selected Readings”, edited by F. E. Emery (1969)
      In reviewing the original introduction for Systems Thinking: Selected Readings in the 1969 Penguin paperback, there’s a few threads that I only recognize, many years later. The tables of contents (disambiguating various editions) were previously listed as 1969, 1981 Emery, System Thinking: Selected Readings. — begin paste — Introduction In the selection of papers for this […]
    • Concerns with the way systems thinking is used in evaluation | Michael C. Jackson, OBE | 2023-02-27
      In a recording of the debate between Michael Quinn Patton and Michael C. Jackson on “Systems Concepts in Evaluation”, Patton referenced four concepts published in the “Principles for effective use of systems thinking in evaluation” (2018) by the Systems in Evaluation Topical Interest Group (SETIG) of the American Evaluation Society. The four concepts are: (i) […]
    • Quality Criteria for Action Research | Herr, Anderson (2015)
      How might the quality of an action research initiative be evaluated? — begin paste — We have linked our five validity criteria (outcome, process, democratic, catalytic, and dialogic) to the goals of action research. Most traditions of action research agree on the following goals: (a) the generation of new knowledge, (b) the achievement of action-oriented […]
    • Western Union and the canton of Ticino, Switzerland
      After 90 minutes on phone and online chat with WesternUnion, the existence of the canton of Ticino in Switzerland is denied, so I can’t send money from Canada. TicinoTurismo should be unhappy. The IT developers at Western Union should be dissatisfied that customer support agents aren’t sending them legitimate bug reports I initially tried the […]
    • Aesthetics | Encyclopaedia Britannica | 15 edition
      Stephen C. Pepper was a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, on the entry for Aesthetics.
  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • RSS on

    • 2023/05 Moments May 2023
      Spring full of cultural and family activities.
    • 2023/04 Moments April 2023
      Sightseeing one day in Vilnius, then variable weather in spring in Toronto.
    • 2023/03 Moments March 2023
      Right ring finger in splint discouraged activities, yet last week of month saw flying through Vienna to an intensive research visit to Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania.
    • 2023/02 Moments February 2023
      Recovery from bike collision with automobile hit-and-run reduced exercise, while continuing social activities.
    • 2023/01 Moments January 2023
      Family time for solar new year and lunar year, otherwise at home writing a journal manuscript for a deadline, and focused on improving wellness.
    • 2022/12 Moments December 2022
      December was full of birthday, wedding, seasonal holiday events, and then family congregated in town to share time together.
  • RSS on Media Queue

    • 2021/06/17 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2
      Following the first day lecture on Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1 for the Global University for Sustainability, Keekok Lee continued on a second day on some topics: * Anatomy as structure; physiology as function (and process); * Process ontology, and thing ontology; * Qi ju as qi-in-concentrating mode, and qi san as qi-in-dissipsating mode; and […]
    • 2021/06/16 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1
      The philosophy of science underlying Classical Chinese Medicine, in this lecture by Keekok Lee, provides insights into ways in which systems change may be approached, in a process ontology in contrast to the thing ontology underlying Western BioMedicine. Read more ›
    • 2021/02/02 To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems | Zeynep Tufekci with Ezra Klein | New York Times
      In conversation, @zeynep with @ezraklein reveal authentic #SystemsThinking in (i) appreciating that “science” is constructed by human collectives, (ii) the west orients towards individual outcomes rather than population levels; and (iii) there’s an over-emphasis on problems of the moment, and…Read more ›
    • 2019/04/09 Art as a discipline of inquiry | Tim Ingold (web video)
      In the question-answer period after the lecture, #TimIngold proposes art as a discipline of inquiry, rather than ethnography. This refers to his thinking On Human Correspondence. — begin paste — [75m26s question] I am curious to know what art, or…Read more ›
    • 2019/10/16 | “Bubbles, Golden Ages, and Tech Revolutions” | Carlota Perez
      How might our society show value for the long term, over the short term? Could we think about taxation over time, asks @carlotaprzperez in an interview: 92% for 1 day; 80% within 1 month; 50%-60% tax for 1 year; zero tax for 10 years.Read more ›
    • 2020/07/13 “Making Growing Thinking” |Tim Ingold (web video)
      For the @ArchFoundation, #TimIngold distinguishes outcome-oriented making from process-oriented growing, revisiting #MartinHeidegger “Building Dwelling Thinking”. Organisms are made; artefacts grow. The distinction seems obvious, until you stop to ask what assumptions it contains, about the inside and outside of things…Read more ›
  • Meta

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
    Theme modified from DevDmBootstrap4 by Danny Machal