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Systems Thinking and Futures Studies (Systems Thinking Ontario, 2013-02-21)

The pre-reading of Emery (1967), “The Next Thirty Years: Concepts, Methods and Anticipations” was introduced as a challenging article for the second meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario on Feb. 21, 2013.  The theme for the evening was “Systems Thinking and Future Studies”, so there was some irony in looking backwards to 1967 to have a discussion on looking forward.

In my role as reviewer in Systems Thinking Ontario sessions, I would prefer to try to stick to the text rather than adding editorializing.  However, since this Emery (1967) article is particular rich, I tried to provide some additional context to make the reading easier.

Fred Emery is especially known for his work with the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, as one of the pioneers of the field we know today as organization science, including organization development and organization design.  In 1967, systems thinking was new:  The Systems Approach would be published by West Churchman in 1968, and On Purposeful Systems by Ackoff and Emery would follow years later in 1972.  The Club of Rome was founded in 1968.  In this article, Emery was thinking about how systems thinking frames viewing the future.

I. Prediction and Planning; II. Conceptual Bases for Predicting the Future

In I. Prediction and Planning, the systems of interest are in the social sciences.  The longer history of systems thinking prior to 1967 would have been a stronger cybernetics orientation.  The research from the Tavistock Institute on the socio-psychological, socio-technical and socio-ecological systems perspectives would have been fresh.  … Read more (in a new tab)

The pre-reading of Emery (1967), “The Next Thirty Years: Concepts, Methods and Anticipations” was introduced as a challenging article for the second meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario on Feb. 21, 2013.  The theme for the evening was “Systems Thinking and Future Studies”, so there was some irony in looking backwards to 1967 to have a discussion on looking forward.

In my role as reviewer in Systems Thinking Ontario sessions, I would prefer to try to stick to the text rather than adding editorializing.  However, since this Emery (1967) article is particular rich, I tried to provide some additional context to make the reading easier.

Fred Emery is especially known for his work with the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, as one of the pioneers of the field we know today as organization science, including organization development and organization design.  In 1967, systems thinking was new:  The Systems Approach would be published by West Churchman in 1968, and On Purposeful Systems by Ackoff and Emery would follow years later in 1972.  The Club of Rome was founded in 1968.  In this article, Emery was thinking about how systems thinking frames viewing the future.

I. Prediction and Planning; II. Conceptual Bases for Predicting the Future

In I. Prediction and Planning, the systems of interest are in the social sciences.  The longer history of systems thinking prior to 1967 would have been a stronger cybernetics orientation.  The research from the Tavistock Institute on the socio-psychological, socio-technical and socio-ecological systems perspectives would have been fresh.  … Read more (in a new tab)

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    • 1969, 1981 Emery, System Thinking: Selected Readings
      Social Systems Science graduate students in 1970s-1980s with #RussellAckoff, #EricTrist + #HasanOzbehkhan at U. Pennsylvania Wharton School were assigned the Penguin paperback #SystemsThinking reader edited by #FredEEmery, with updated editions evolving contents.
    • 1968 Buckley, “Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral Scientist: A Sourcebook”
      Resurfacing 1968 Buckley, “Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral Scientist: A Sourcebook” for interests in #SystemsThinking #SocioCybernetics #GeneralSystemsTheory #OrganizationScience . Republication in 2017 hardcopy may be more complete.
    • Wholism, reductionism (Francois, 2004)
      Proponents of #SystemsThinking often espouse holism to counter over-emphasis on reductionism. Reading some definitions from an encyclopedia positions one in the context of the other (François 2004).
    • It matters (word use)
      Saying “it doesn’t matter” or “it matters” is a common expression in everyday English. For scholarly work, I want to “keep using that word“, while ensuring it means what I want it to mean. The Oxford English Dictionary (third edition, March 2001) has three entries for “matter”. The first two entries for a noun. The […]
    • Systemic Change, Systematic Change, Systems Change (Reynolds, 2011)
      It's been challenging to find sources that specifically define two-word phrases -- i.e. "systemic change", "systematic change", "systems change" -- as opposed to loosely inferring reductively from one-word definitions in recombination. MartinReynolds @OpenUniversity clarifies uses of the phrases, with a critical eye into motives for choosing a specific label, as well as associated risks and […]
    • Environmental c.f. ecological (Francois, 2004; Allen, Giampietro Little 2003)
      The term "environmental" can be mixed up with "ecological", when the meanings are different. We can look at the encyclopedia definitions (François 2004), and then compare the two in terms of applied science (i.e. engineering with (#TimothyFHAllen @MarioGiampietro and #AmandaMLittle, 2003).
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