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Being a scholar-practitioner, humble inquiry, human and non-human systems

With recent invitations to mentor graduate students, I’ve had to more strongly assert my identity as a scholar-practitioner.  It’s now been over 10 years since I “graduated” from a career at IBM of 28 years.  University students are often amused to discover that, besides having spent a lot of time around universities, I first entered a Ph.D. program in 1982.  When I met my future spouse, I was a doctoral student.  Many years later, I’m still a doctoral student.

My colleagues in the Systems Changes Learning Circle have surfaced an interest in humility.  This reminds me that in spring 1982, I met with Edgar Schein in his office at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  (In the end, I was #2 on a list of 1 for admission into the doctoral program on information systems research, so my life took a different path).

The ties from organization development back into systems theory surfaced in a 2021 interview with Ed Schein.

— begin transcript of Rainey and Schein (2021) —

[35:30 Chris Rainey] Ed, I’ve seen you speak quite a few times, now, about diagnosis versus intervention. Could you share more of your thoughts on this, because I found it very interesting.

[35:42 Ed Schein] Well, I think, the thing that we haven’t yet come to terms with, is a phrase that important philosopher by the name of [Sir Geoffrey] Vickers stated, is the human systems are different.… Read more (in a new tab)

With recent invitations to mentor graduate students, I’ve had to more strongly assert my identity as a scholar-practitioner.  It’s now been over 10 years since I “graduated” from a career at IBM of 28 years.  University students are often amused to discover that, besides having spent a lot of time around universities, I first entered a Ph.D. program in 1982.  When I met my future spouse, I was a doctoral student.  Many years later, I’m still a doctoral student.

My colleagues in the Systems Changes Learning Circle have surfaced an interest in humility.  This reminds me that in spring 1982, I met with Edgar Schein in his office at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  (In the end, I was #2 on a list of 1 for admission into the doctoral program on information systems research, so my life took a different path).

The ties from organization development back into systems theory surfaced in a 2021 interview with Ed Schein.

— begin transcript of Rainey and Schein (2021) —

[35:30 Chris Rainey] Ed, I’ve seen you speak quite a few times, now, about diagnosis versus intervention. Could you share more of your thoughts on this, because I found it very interesting.

[35:42 Ed Schein] Well, I think, the thing that we haven’t yet come to terms with, is a phrase that important philosopher by the name of [Sir Geoffrey] Vickers stated, is the human systems are different.… Read more (in a new tab)

The Systems Movement: Engaging Communities with Traditions and Diversity, Gary S. Metcalf (ST-ON 2021-01-11)

To appreciate how systemicists worldwide collaborate, Gary S. Metcalf joined Systems Thinking Ontario for a conversation.  Gary served as president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences 2007-2008, and of the International Federation for Sysrtems Research 2010-2016.  From 2003 to 2018, he was a graduate instructor in Organizational Systems and Research on the faculty of Saybrook University.

The Systems Movement “may be characterized as a loose association of people from different disciplines of science, engineering, philosophy, and other areas, who share a common interest in ideas (concepts, principles, methods, etc.) that are applicable to all systems and that, consequently, transcend the boundaries between traditional disciplines.” (George Klir, Facets of Systems Science, 2001).

After the standard round of introductions, the conversation began with Gary speaking a little about his background, and how he came to the systems community after graduate studies in family therapy (in the web video, at about 22m42s in).  Participants were invited to ask questions and make comments freely.

The video file are archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
January 11
(2h04m)
[20210111_ST-ON_GarySMetcalf.m4v]
(nHD 281kbps 366MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who prefer digital audio on mobile devices, the audio was extracted as M4A from the video.

Audio
January 11
(2h04m)
[20210111_ST-ON_GarySMetcalf.m4a]
(113MB)

Since this talk, Gary has added to his writing and editing scholarly non-fiction works, with a new direction in science fiction. … Read more (in a new tab)

To appreciate how systemicists worldwide collaborate, Gary S. Metcalf joined Systems Thinking Ontario for a conversation.  Gary served as president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences 2007-2008, and of the International Federation for Sysrtems Research 2010-2016.  From 2003 to 2018, he was a graduate instructor in Organizational Systems and Research on the faculty of Saybrook University.

The Systems Movement “may be characterized as a loose association of people from different disciplines of science, engineering, philosophy, and other areas, who share a common interest in ideas (concepts, principles, methods, etc.) that are applicable to all systems and that, consequently, transcend the boundaries between traditional disciplines.” (George Klir, Facets of Systems Science, 2001).

After the standard round of introductions, the conversation began with Gary speaking a little about his background, and how he came to the systems community after graduate studies in family therapy (in the web video, at about 22m42s in).  Participants were invited to ask questions and make comments freely.

The video file are archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
January 11
(2h04m)
[20210111_ST-ON_GarySMetcalf.m4v]
(nHD 281kbps 366MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who prefer digital audio on mobile devices, the audio was extracted as M4A from the video.

Audio
January 11
(2h04m)
[20210111_ST-ON_GarySMetcalf.m4a]
(113MB)

Since this talk, Gary has added to his writing and editing scholarly non-fiction works, with a new direction in science fiction. … Read more (in a new tab)

Beyond the Tavistock and S-cubed legacy

While it’s important to appreciate the systems thinking foundations laid down by the Tavistock Institute and U. Pennsylvania Social Systems Science (S3, called S-cubed) program, practically all of the original researchers are no longer with us.  Luminaries who have passed include Eric L. Trist (-1993), Fred E. Emery (-1997), and Russell L. Ackoff (-2009).  This does not mean that systems research has stopped.

One individual who participated in it all is David L. Hawk.

We have been continuously been collaborators ever since.  DLH served as the thesis advisor for Aalto University on my Open Innovation Learning research.… Read more (in a new tab)

While it’s important to appreciate the systems thinking foundations laid down by the Tavistock Institute and U. Pennsylvania Social Systems Science (S3, called S-cubed) program, practically all of the original researchers are no longer with us.  Luminaries who have passed include Eric L. Trist (-1993), Fred E. Emery (-1997), and Russell L. Ackoff (-2009).  This does not mean that systems research has stopped.

One individual who participated in it all is David L. Hawk.

We have been continuously been collaborators ever since.  DLH served as the thesis advisor for Aalto University on my Open Innovation Learning research.… Read more (in a new tab)

Systemic design agendas in education and design research

Research can take some time to wend through reflection, reviews and revisions.  An article coauthored with Susu Nousala and Peter Jones took about 2 years to formal publication.

While a working paper can be more open-ended, a scientific publication seeks greater closure.  From the conclusion, here’s a paragraph that wasn’t in our original 2016-2017 writing.

The RSD5 DesignX workshop provided for continuity and discourse building between members of various design programmes, practices and allegiances. It was a not intended as a venue for specifically articulating and defining the design research agendas linking DesignX with systemic design studies or with these agendas. Further development of these enquiries through other workshops and discourses will extend the continuity of the discussion and evolve something of a common language, if not a corpus, to better fulfil the potential of design research agendas in systemic design.

The RSD5 workshop held in Toronto October 2016 resulted in a rich body of conversations amongst participants that is only partially reflected in this summary.

Read more (in a new tab)

Research can take some time to wend through reflection, reviews and revisions.  An article coauthored with Susu Nousala and Peter Jones took about 2 years to formal publication.

While a working paper can be more open-ended, a scientific publication seeks greater closure.  From the conclusion, here’s a paragraph that wasn’t in our original 2016-2017 writing.

The RSD5 DesignX workshop provided for continuity and discourse building between members of various design programmes, practices and allegiances. It was a not intended as a venue for specifically articulating and defining the design research agendas linking DesignX with systemic design studies or with these agendas. Further development of these enquiries through other workshops and discourses will extend the continuity of the discussion and evolve something of a common language, if not a corpus, to better fulfil the potential of design research agendas in systemic design.

The RSD5 workshop held in Toronto October 2016 resulted in a rich body of conversations amongst participants that is only partially reflected in this summary.

Read more (in a new tab)

Learning data science, hands-on

For the Quantitative Methodologies for Design Research (定量研究方法) course for Ph.D. students at Tongji University in spring 2017, Susu Nousala invited me to join the team of instructors in collaborative education in Shanghai.  Experts were brought in during the course to guide the graduate students.

My participation in the course over two days had three parts:  (a) preparing a lecture outline; (b) orienting the students; and (c) equipping the students with tools.

(A) Preparing a lecture outline

While I’m comfortable with the mathematics underlying statistical analysis, I have a lot of practical experience of working with business executives who aren’t.  Thus, my approach to working with data relies a lot on presentation graphics to defog the phenomena.  While the label of data science began to rise circa 2012, I’ve had the benefit of practical experience that predates that.

In my first professional assignment in IBM Canada in 1985, data science would have been called econometrics.  My work included forecasting country sales, based on price-performance indexes (from the mainframe, midrange and personal computer product divisions) and economic outlooks from Statistics Canada.  Two years before the Macintosh II would bring color to personal computing, I was an early adopter of GRAFSTAT: “An APL system for interactive scientific-engineering graphics and data analysis” developed at IBM Research.  This would eventually become an IBM program product by called AGSS (A Graphical Statistical System) by 1994.… Read more (in a new tab)

For the Quantitative Methodologies for Design Research (定量研究方法) course for Ph.D. students at Tongji University in spring 2017, Susu Nousala invited me to join the team of instructors in collaborative education in Shanghai.  Experts were brought in during the course to guide the graduate students.

My participation in the course over two days had three parts:  (a) preparing a lecture outline; (b) orienting the students; and (c) equipping the students with tools.

(A) Preparing a lecture outline

While I’m comfortable with the mathematics underlying statistical analysis, I have a lot of practical experience of working with business executives who aren’t.  Thus, my approach to working with data relies a lot on presentation graphics to defog the phenomena.  While the label of data science began to rise circa 2012, I’ve had the benefit of practical experience that predates that.

In my first professional assignment in IBM Canada in 1985, data science would have been called econometrics.  My work included forecasting country sales, based on price-performance indexes (from the mainframe, midrange and personal computer product divisions) and economic outlooks from Statistics Canada.  Two years before the Macintosh II would bring color to personal computing, I was an early adopter of GRAFSTAT: “An APL system for interactive scientific-engineering graphics and data analysis” developed at IBM Research.  This would eventually become an IBM program product by called AGSS (A Graphical Statistical System) by 1994.… Read more (in a new tab)

Curriculum Making for Trito Learning

Slides and audio of our joint talk at the RSD5 Symposium on the experiences and learning about leading systems thinking courses are now available.

Over five years, the Creative Sustainability program evolved from pilot into full practice with a series of courses.  In reflection, the course instructors better learned how to guide students through teaming, mindset, methods and theory.

The presentation is titled “Curriculum Making for Trito Learning: Wayfaring along a meshwork of systems thinking”.  With such a dense title for the Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium, our aim was to explain what those chosen words meant.

Audio [20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito.mp3]
(29MB, 29m44s)
[20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito_3db.mp3]
(volume boosted 3db, 29MB, 29m44s)
[20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito6db.mp3]
(volume boosted 6db, 29MB, 29m44s)
Video HD (29m44s)
H.264 MP4 [1280×720 384Kbps m4v]
(89MB)
[1280×720 5000Kbps m4v]
(96MB) [on archive.org]
WebM [1280×720 279Kbps webm]
(89MB)
[1280×720 384Kbps webm]
(197MB)

The streaming media adds the slides to the audio presentation.  In person, in Toronto, we had two instructors from the course speaking: David Ing and Susu Nousala.

Here’s the officially published abstract:

In winter 2016, the Systems Thinking 2 course in the Creative Sustainability (CS) program at Aalto University was led by one of the original curriculum developers from 2010. Over five years, the core CS curriculum had evolved, allowing the level of learning amongst student to advance to a higher level. While this winter 2016 cohort of students was challenged by the intensiveness of the course, satisfaction in the learning appeared to be high.

Read more (in a new tab)

Slides and audio of our joint talk at the RSD5 Symposium on the experiences and learning about leading systems thinking courses are now available.

Over five years, the Creative Sustainability program evolved from pilot into full practice with a series of courses.  In reflection, the course instructors better learned how to guide students through teaming, mindset, methods and theory.

The presentation is titled “Curriculum Making for Trito Learning: Wayfaring along a meshwork of systems thinking”.  With such a dense title for the Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium, our aim was to explain what those chosen words meant.

Audio [20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito.mp3]
(29MB, 29m44s)
[20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito_3db.mp3]
(volume boosted 3db, 29MB, 29m44s)
[20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito6db.mp3]
(volume boosted 6db, 29MB, 29m44s)
Video HD (29m44s)
H.264 MP4 [1280×720 384Kbps m4v]
(89MB)
[1280×720 5000Kbps m4v]
(96MB) [on archive.org]
WebM [1280×720 279Kbps webm]
(89MB)
[1280×720 384Kbps webm]
(197MB)

The streaming media adds the slides to the audio presentation.  In person, in Toronto, we had two instructors from the course speaking: David Ing and Susu Nousala.

Here’s the officially published abstract:

In winter 2016, the Systems Thinking 2 course in the Creative Sustainability (CS) program at Aalto University was led by one of the original curriculum developers from 2010. Over five years, the core CS curriculum had evolved, allowing the level of learning amongst student to advance to a higher level. While this winter 2016 cohort of students was challenged by the intensiveness of the course, satisfaction in the learning appeared to be high.

Read more (in a new tab)
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