Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

West Churchman (1913-2004) was a Ph.D. supervisor to some luminaries in the systems sciences, including  Russell L. Ackoff, Ian Mitroff, Harold G. Nelson and Werner Ulrich.  Churchman’s 1979 book, The Systems Approach and Its Enemies, is unfortunately out of print, and is only readable on the web if you already have the text to search on.  Here, some excerpts will be surfaced that may encourage readers to seek a copy in a local library.

Preface

[….] This book is just another step in the search for the meaning of generality, in this case a general design of social systems.

There are lots of themes that can be used to describe this search. Perhaps the best one is the discovery that the usual dichotomy of x or not x never seems to display the general, because neither of the above is always so prominent an aspect of the general social system. Thus there is an immense part of social systems reality that is none of the following popular dichotomies in the current literature: rational-irrational, objective-subjective, hierarchical-nonhierarchical, teleological-ateleological, deductive-nondeductive reasoning (for example, inductive or dialectical), ineffable-effable.

June 23rd, 2018

Posted In: systems

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Recordings of the book launch proceedings are now available as a web video playlist, and downloadable files.

Open Innovation Learning: Theory building on open sourcing while private sourcing was first released as a perfect bound softcopy and an open access PDF in November 2017.  In February 2018, the ePub and Mobi editions were put online.

On February 21, a special session of Systems Thinking Ontario invited friends and colleagues to celebrate the publication that had taken most of the past three years in full-time research and writing.  The recordings are available in 4 parts:

  • 1. Welcome, by Peter Jones
  • 2. Self-introductions by attendees in the audience
  • 3. Highlights of the book, presented by David Ing
  • 4. Commentary by Stephen Perelgut and Tim Lloyd, followed by questions from the audience

With family, friends and colleagues attending, this was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

1. Welcome, by Peter Jones

As the official host of Systems Thinking Ontario at OCADU University, Peter Jones served as the master of ceremonies.

The files are also available for download onto a mobile device.

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Peter explained the Nordic tradition of presenting dissertation research in a venue open to the public. While this gathering was not so formal, my participation with Systems Thinking Ontario and OCAD University made this assembly a natural session.

June 2nd, 2018

Posted In: innovation, pattern language, services, systems

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Learning only a single systems method is reductive.  A course that exposes breadth in a variety of systems methods encourages students to reflect on their circumstances-at-hand, and their explicit and implicit influences on guiding others in projects espousing systems thinking.  This was a premise behind the structuring of “Systems Thinking, Systems Design“, an Information Workshop (i.e. 6-week elective quarter course) offered to master’s students at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information (iSchool).

The first class day had a short course introduction focused on the history of the systems sciences, and a minimal orientation to the most basic concept in systems theory.  Then, for the four class days that followed, student groups led 8 presentation-facilitations on a research reference cluster (with the instructor on standby as a subject matter expert on the content).  The topics included:

  1. Object Process Methodology
  2. Dialogue Mapping
  3. Idealized Design
  4. Soft Systems Methodology
  5. Viable System Model
  6. Resilience in Socio-Ecological Systems
  7. Service Systems
  8. Generative Pattern Language

After each of the four days, students wrote Personal Appreciation Diary Logs (blog posts), mostly on the open web.  These provided feedback to the instructor for commentary (and some remediation) at the beginning of the subsequent class meeting.  We could review common understandings, difficulties and misconceptions about systems methods.

For the last (sixth) class meeting, each student group was asked to “prepare and present an infographic poster on their impressions about the system approaches most relevant to their research”.  The conclusions reflected different interests, experiences and orientations amongst the iSchool students.

Group 1 (Megan Ferguson and Anna Lutsky) focused on a question most relevant to their immediate career direction:  “How can librarians use systems thinking and modeling to plan for the future, enhance library services and better assist patrons?”  They emphasized Soft Systems Methodology, Service Systems, and Dialogue Mapping.

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Systems Thinking for Librarians: Megan Ferguson, Anna Lutsky

Group 2 (Nadine Finlay and Hadley Staite) selected “Developing Systems Thinking” with “The new problem solving methods”.  They liked Object Process Methodology, Idealized Design, Dialogue Mapping, and Service Systems.

May 21st, 2018

Posted In: systems

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Positioning “A Pattern Language” more like “Creating Order of”, then “The Timeless Way of Building” more like “Negotiating Order with”, was a productive framing to discuss the systems theory inside Christopher Alexander’s thinking (as well as positioning “The Nature of Order“).

The purpose of a workshop on “Negotiating Order with Generative Pattern Language” at PLoP 2017 was to open up discussions that could deepen the foundational understanding in linkages between pattern language and systems thinking. At least three of us routed to Vancouver BC for a Monday morning start, in a quick trip from the Purplsoc meeting in Austria that finished on Saturday.  The PLoP program emphasizing writers’ workshops meant that our 90-minute dialogue didn’t conflict with any presentations.

On the audio recording, active participants in the sensemaking included Helene Finidori and Christian Kohls.  With a more relaxed pace, the open time after the slides were completed allowed some pattern language novices to also have questions answered.

PLoP 2017

The frame for discussion was slides that had previously been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

The digital audio recording has been matched up with slides, for a less ambiguous viewing as a web video.

March 10th, 2018

Posted In: pattern language, systems

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Pattern language is not for wicked problems, said Max Jacobson, coauthor with Christopher Alexander of the 1977 A Pattern Language: Towns, Building, Construction.  In addition, the conventional definition of an Alexandrian pattern as “a solution to a problem in context” when applied to social change might better use the term “intervention”, rather than “solution”.

These are two of the major ideas that emerged at Purplsoc 2017 conference last October.  A 90-minute workshop was run in parallel with other breakouts.

For about the first hour, vocal participants included Max Jacobson (who had given a plenary talk on “A Building is not a Turkish Carpet“), Christian Kohls (who gave a plenary talk on “Patterns for Creative Space“) and Peter Baumgarnter (one of the Purlpsoc chairs).

As an impetus to discussion, we stepped through slides that had been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

For people who would like the next-best experience to being there, the slides have now been matched up with the digital audio recording, for viewing as a web video.

For devices decoupled from the Internet, downloadable video files are portable.

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March 3rd, 2018

Posted In: pattern language, philosophy, systems

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What if a pattern language was opened up to contemporaneous research into wicked problems, the systems approach, ecological epistemology, hierarchy theory, and interactive value?  This 30-minute presentation at Purplsoc 2017 last October aimed to provide a broader context to a social change community focused on works of Christopher Alexander.

This talk was a complement to “Pattern Manual for Service Systems Thinking” presented a year earlier, at PUARL 2016.  Last year, the agenda was centered on the approach from Christopher Alexander, and divergences due to the changing in domain from the built environment to service systems.

The slides on the Coevolving Commons are dense.  I had showed them at the poster session in the day preceding, and promised to spend more time speaking to them in the workshop scheduled for the next day.

For 2017, the view looked beyond Alexander, to related research both at Berkeley, and elsewhere in the systems community.  The agenda was in 3 major sections (here expanded with more detailed overview of the middle section):

  • 1. What is multiparadigm inquiry?
  • 2. Where have (and might have) (1960s-2010s) paradigms influenced generative pattern language?
    • a. Over 50 years, Christopher Alexander and coauthors evolved concepts and language in built environments

January 19th, 2018

Posted In: pattern language, services, systems

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