Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Eight infographics on Systems Methods (UToronto iSchool 2018)

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.

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

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.

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

Developing Systems Thinking: The new problem solving methods, Nadine Finlay, Hadley Staite

Group 3 (Amanpreet Bains and Ritchie Singh) oriented towards “The Systems Tool-kit for Wicked Problems”.  Across the range problems that might be encountered in the domains of (i) environment, (ii) voting, (iii) poverty and (iv) education, they liked:  Dialogue Mapping (for communication, collaboration or participation); Soft Systems Methodology (for rich pictures); Idealized Design vs. Interactive Planning (for what we want right now); and Viable System Model and Generative Pattern Language (for urban planning).

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

The Systems Tool-kit for Wicked Problems, Amanpreet Bains, Ritchie Singh

Group 4 (Kyrie (Kaiyu) Wang and Bohan Yang) portrayed a view of “Systems Thinking” selected from the variety of methods in the course.  They liked Viable System Model (for organizational adaptation); Service Systems Thinking (for value co-creation); Generative Pattern Language (as solutions in the future); Soft Systems Methodology (for the learning cycle); and Dialogue Mapping (for recording arguments).

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

Systems Thinking, Kyrie (Kaiyu) Wang, Bohan Yang

Group 5 (Jolene Hurtubise and Omar Khattab) depict a “Systems Thinking Tree” with Natural Systems in the roots (at the bottom), Structured Systems and Semi-structured Systems in the trunk, and Loosely Structured Systems in the branches.

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

The Systems Thinking Tree, Jolene Hurtubise and Omar Khattab

Group 6 (Richard Ovcharovich and Katherine Policicchio) synthesized a Worldview reflecting on the Information Workshop on “Systems Thinking”,  incorporating Panarchy (from the Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems reference) with Object Process Methodology, Viable Systems Model and CATWOE (from Soft Systems Methodology), in a variety of colours footed with a legend.

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

Worldview: Systems Thinking Workshop, Richard Ovcharovich and Katherine Policicchio

Group 7 (Mingyi Ma and Dami (Oluwadamilola) Oludumila) surfaced key ideas that resonated with them in the introductory lecture on Systems Theory, Dialogue Mapping, Soft Systems Methodology, Viable System Model, Service Systems and Generative Pattern Language.

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

Systems Thinking, Systems Design, Mingyi Ma and Dami (Oluwadamilola) Oludumila

Group 8 (Karen Fingas and Michal Telem) reflected on “Systems Thinking: A Student’s Path”, sequentially building up knowledge from the first day lecture on Systems Theory, the second day on Object Process Methodology and Dialogue Mapping,  then Idealized Design, Viable System Model and Generative Pattern Language.

[manual browser links to infographic for widths: 600px900px]

Systems Thinking: A student's path, Karen Fingas and Michal Telem

On the last day in class, the groups each took about 10 minutes to step through the above infographics, so there’s an additional richness not captured in artifacts.  From the diagrams, however, it’s clear that each group (and each student) appreciated the systems methods in a different way.

My leading the INF1005H section for January and February is a story in itself.  In mid-December, the originally scheduled professor became unavailable to teach, so I was asked if I could fill in on the first section.  He would return in March and teach the second section.  Since I have previous experience teaching Systems Thinking in Finland, I was able to put together an entirely new course emphasizing systems methods, within the four-week lead time.

This was before I injured my Achilles tendon in a parkour adventure on the family day we annually schedule on my birthday!  Fortunately, my spouse is understanding, attentive, and patient.  We learned to use Uber and Lyft to get to the university campus, and borrowed a wheelchair whereby she could accelerate my mobility around the Robarts Library and iSchool complex.

This teaching opportunity also closed a long-running learning loop on sequencing a multi-term educational program on systems thinking.  In fall 2010 and spring 2011, I had taught on Systems Thinking and Sustainability in the Creative Sustainability program at Aalto U.  In that period, I was 80% full-time in my day job.  I didn’t get a chance to revise the course when I returned to 100% full-time in the day job.  The course leaders (Aija Staffans, Katri Pulkkinen and Susu Nousala, with program director Tiina Laurila) decided that full-on systems theory starting at the deep end wasn’t the best way for students to learn.  They resequenced the courses into (i) teaming; (ii) mindset; (iii) systems thinking 1 (methods); and (iv) systems thinking 2 (theory), before entering into (v) thesis finalization.  In February 2016, I led the penultimate course, Systems Thinking 2 that emphasizes systems theory.  The open question was:  how much could Systems Methods be taught before a full appreciation of Systems Theory?  This teaching opportunity at the UToronto iSchool validated that teaching systems methods without full knowledge of systems theory is possible and practical.  Covering the wide survey of systems methods had the side effect of making students more critical about their practices, leading to a questions that might be closed out with a final systems theory course.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • RSS qoto.org/@daviding (Mastodon)

    • New status by daviding June 23, 2019
      Single Large or Several Small (SLOSS) sees a systems approach where individuals care for their property in a way that benefits all. > ... while emphasizing connectivity may help threatened species be more resilient, Dr. Fahrig says that it should not be taken as a reason to disregard small pockets of nature that are not […]
    • New status by daviding May 19, 2019
      Fit the people around an organization; or an organization around the people? Working backwards, say @MitroffCrisis + #HaroldLinstone, from current concrete choices to uncertain futures, surfaces strategic assumptions in a collective decision, better than starting with an abstract scorecard to rank candidates. The Unbounded Mind is an easier-reading follow-on to The Design of Inquiry Systems […]
    • New status by daviding April 28, 2019
      Our house is on the edge of a flood plain. We know this, because the end of our street in Toronto Riverside was at Lake Ontario, before landfill in the early 1900s. Not everyone knows about what's under the place where they live. "Poor flood-risk maps, or none at all, are keeping Canadian communities in […]
    • New status by daviding April 26, 2019
      An open education system encourages scholarship that embraces perspectives from around the world. The Scholar Rescue Fund is a hopeful initiative that, in a perfect world, wouldn't have to exist. "Canada playing major role as safe haven for at-risk academics from strife-torn countries" | Danielle Edwards | April 23, 2019 | Globe & Mail at […]
    • New status by daviding April 25, 2019
      Moving from coal to green energy for Dong (nee Danish Oil and Natural Gas) started in 2008, leading to an CEO change in 2012, to a 2017 divestment of fossil-fuel bases businesses. Perseverance can pay off, but patience goes through trials. "A tale of transformation: the Danish company that went from black to green energy" […]
  • RSS on IngBrief

  • RSS on Media Queue

  • RSS on daviding.com

    • 2019/05 Moments May 2019
      Family time, empty nest, short trip to conference nearby, friends at home.
    • 2019/04 Moments April 2019
      End of a 23-day visit in Shanghai, readjusting to Eastern Time with the many lecture, meetup, friends and family distractions of Toronto.
    • 2019/03 Moments March 2019
      Month of intensive lectures and research meetings, in Toronto and then in Shanghai, with social breaks on local excursions to clear minds.
    • 2019/02 Moments February 2019
      Reduced exercise outside with a cold and snowy February, with excursions out of the house to warm places with family, friends and colleagues.
    • 2019/01 Moments January 2019
      January in Toronto has lots of intellectual offerings and artistic exhibitions to attract the curious out of warm homes, through cold and snow.
    • 2018/12 Moments December 2018
      Tried to have a normal month, with a busy social calendar of birthdays, a funeral plus Christmas season, while daily temperatures hovered just above freezing.
  • 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