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What Systems Thinkers Can Learn From Historical Synthesis | Dr. Michael Bonner | Systems Thinking Ontario 2023-11-13

For the November 2023 Systems Thinking Ontario session, historian and policy advisor Dr. Michael Bonner was invited for an interview by Zaid Khan.  In organizing the sessions, we’re trying to avoid the trap of systems thinking becoming a discipline, through learning with a sweeping-in process.

The session opened on a map of The Sassanid Empire c. 620 CE, also known as Second Persian Empire, a high point for the Iranian civilizations before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th–8th centuries.

As the web conference participants introduced themselves, the number of responses with a strong background in history was low.  Zaid led the interview of Michael with some probing questions:

  • How did you come to the study of history and its overlap with your work?
  • Can you draw on the methods that help historians to ask the right questions when historians are dealing with multiple worldviews?
  • How do you relate between the two modes of analytical and synthetic thinking?
  • How do historians grapple with drawing boundaries around the areas/topics of study that they look at?
  • In historical synthesis, at what point does the author may form a narrative that captures their analysis and synthesis?
  • How did you approach the narratives – clarity, beauty, order – that you form in your latest book In Defense of Civilization?

Further into the meeting, others were invited to join in with their questions and comments.

This recording of the session is available on Youtube, as well as on the Internet Archive .… Read more (in a new tab)

For the November 2023 Systems Thinking Ontario session, historian and policy advisor Dr. Michael Bonner was invited for an interview by Zaid Khan.  In organizing the sessions, we’re trying to avoid the trap of systems thinking becoming a discipline, through learning with a sweeping-in process.

The session opened on a map of The Sassanid Empire c. 620 CE, also known as Second Persian Empire, a high point for the Iranian civilizations before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th–8th centuries.

As the web conference participants introduced themselves, the number of responses with a strong background in history was low.  Zaid led the interview of Michael with some probing questions:

  • How did you come to the study of history and its overlap with your work?
  • Can you draw on the methods that help historians to ask the right questions when historians are dealing with multiple worldviews?
  • How do you relate between the two modes of analytical and synthetic thinking?
  • How do historians grapple with drawing boundaries around the areas/topics of study that they look at?
  • In historical synthesis, at what point does the author may form a narrative that captures their analysis and synthesis?
  • How did you approach the narratives – clarity, beauty, order – that you form in your latest book In Defense of Civilization?

Further into the meeting, others were invited to join in with their questions and comments.

This recording of the session is available on Youtube, as well as on the Internet Archive .… Read more (in a new tab)

Systems Thinking, 1969 | David L. Hawk, John Pourdehnad | Systems Thinking Ontario 2023-06-12

The 1969 publication of Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, edited by Fred E. Emery as a Penguin Modern Management paperback, can be regarded as a milestone.  The articles date from the 1940s to the 1960s, when the first wave of systems thinking was on the rise.

For the June session of Systems Thinking Ontario, we stepped through a wiki digest of the book highlights, with two invited discussants.  David L. Hawk (Ph.D. 1973) and John Pourdehnad (Ph.D. 1982) were both graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.  In the Social Systems Science program led by Russell Ackoff, eminent visitors such as Fred Emery were frequent guest lecturers.

This session covered some basic idea in sections of the book, filled with colour commentary on personal history associated with systems researchers in the 1970s.

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

Video H.264 MP4
June 12
(1h55m)
[20230612_ST-ON SystemsThinking1969_FHD.mp4]
(FHD 1920×1080 914kbps 861MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

A standalone audio was also created during the meeting.

Audio
June 12
(1h55m)
[20230612_ST-ON SystemsThinking1969.m4a]
(106 MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Here is the original abstract sent in advance.


It’s been over 50 years, since the publication of the first edition of Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, a Penguin Modern Management paperback reader edited by Fred E. Emery.

From the selected readings, have we moved beyond that milestone? … Read more (in a new tab)

The 1969 publication of Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, edited by Fred E. Emery as a Penguin Modern Management paperback, can be regarded as a milestone.  The articles date from the 1940s to the 1960s, when the first wave of systems thinking was on the rise.

For the June session of Systems Thinking Ontario, we stepped through a wiki digest of the book highlights, with two invited discussants.  David L. Hawk (Ph.D. 1973) and John Pourdehnad (Ph.D. 1982) were both graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.  In the Social Systems Science program led by Russell Ackoff, eminent visitors such as Fred Emery were frequent guest lecturers.

This session covered some basic idea in sections of the book, filled with colour commentary on personal history associated with systems researchers in the 1970s.

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

Video H.264 MP4
June 12
(1h55m)
[20230612_ST-ON SystemsThinking1969_FHD.mp4]
(FHD 1920×1080 914kbps 861MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

A standalone audio was also created during the meeting.

Audio
June 12
(1h55m)
[20230612_ST-ON SystemsThinking1969.m4a]
(106 MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Here is the original abstract sent in advance.


It’s been over 50 years, since the publication of the first edition of Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, a Penguin Modern Management paperback reader edited by Fred E. Emery.

From the selected readings, have we moved beyond that milestone? … 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
(54m07s)
[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.

Audio
October 10
(54m07s)
[20221010_UBarcelona_Ing KnowingBetterViaSystemsThinking.mp3]
(71.6MB)

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)

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
(54m07s)
[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.

Audio
October 10
(54m07s)
[20221010_UBarcelona_Ing KnowingBetterViaSystemsThinking.mp3]
(71.6MB)

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)

Ecological Economics and Systems Thinking | Katie Kish + David Mallery | (ST-ON 2021-10-18)

In the 1980s, ecological economics seemed to be mostly economists extending their work towards environmental and resource concerns.  In the 2020s, ecological economics is seeing a new generation first schooled in other disciplines such as environmental studies or one of the social sciences, then coming into economics.  Programs that encourage the new perspective include the  Economics for the Anthropocene partnership, and Leadership for the Ecozoic network.  Emerging scholars can bring a new research agenda.

This is what I’ve been learning through the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE).  To bring some of that perspective to the Systems Thinking Ontario community, I invited Katie Kish and David Mallery for a conversation.

This video has been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 18
(1h41m)
[20211018_ST-ON EcologicalEconomics_Kish_Mallery_FHD.m4v]
(FHD 1547kbps 1.19GB) [on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
October 18
(1h41m)
[20211018_ST-ON EcologicalEconomics_Kish_Mallery.mp3]
(35.5MB)

Here is the content from the original announcement.

For this session, Katie Kish and David Mallery will lead a discussion on Ecological Economics in two parts.

(1) Where is Ecological Economics going with Systems Thinking?

  • In the “Critical Pluralism” paper (see below), the newest generation of EE scholars is portrayed as taking a regenerative approach to research and learning. This is best navigated with critical pluralistic approaches well-developed in systems thinking. The shift might be better supported through a wider set of systems tools, which might also have complementary effects on systems methodologies.
Read more (in a new tab)

In the 1980s, ecological economics seemed to be mostly economists extending their work towards environmental and resource concerns.  In the 2020s, ecological economics is seeing a new generation first schooled in other disciplines such as environmental studies or one of the social sciences, then coming into economics.  Programs that encourage the new perspective include the  Economics for the Anthropocene partnership, and Leadership for the Ecozoic network.  Emerging scholars can bring a new research agenda.

This is what I’ve been learning through the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE).  To bring some of that perspective to the Systems Thinking Ontario community, I invited Katie Kish and David Mallery for a conversation.

This video has been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 18
(1h41m)
[20211018_ST-ON EcologicalEconomics_Kish_Mallery_FHD.m4v]
(FHD 1547kbps 1.19GB) [on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
October 18
(1h41m)
[20211018_ST-ON EcologicalEconomics_Kish_Mallery.mp3]
(35.5MB)

Here is the content from the original announcement.

For this session, Katie Kish and David Mallery will lead a discussion on Ecological Economics in two parts.

(1) Where is Ecological Economics going with Systems Thinking?

  • In the “Critical Pluralism” paper (see below), the newest generation of EE scholars is portrayed as taking a regenerative approach to research and learning. This is best navigated with critical pluralistic approaches well-developed in systems thinking. The shift might be better supported through a wider set of systems tools, which might also have complementary effects on systems methodologies.
Read more (in a new tab)

Reordering Our Priorities Through Systems Changes Learning (RSD9, 2020/10/14)

For the first of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, Zaid Khan led a session for the Relating Systems Thinking and Design RSD9 Symposium.  Our team had developed a set of reference slides for the three workshops, from which content that would most resonate with the audience could be selected.  RSD attracts designers across practitioner and academic communities, with leadership formalized in 2018 as the Systemic Design Association.

Zaid introduced this workshop with a caution as work-in-progress, as 2 years into a 10-year journey.  We orient towards developing practical systems methods well-founded in theoretical depth, better tested in applications with willing participants.  We all learn together.

The flow for the workshops were short orientations on out progress to date, with two breakout sessions for discussions.  In the web video , the plenary discussions are included, and breakout conversations edited out.

The video file is available on the Internet Archive, for those who prefer a downloadable option.

Video H.264 MP4
October 14
(58m52s)
[20201014_RSD9_SystemsChanges.m4v]
(HD 1022kbps 512MB) [on the Internet Archive]

The digital audio has been transcoded to MP3 for those who prefer to just listen.

Audio
October 14
(58m52s)
[20201014_RSD9_SystemsChanges.mp3]
(54MB)

Here is the original description for the session.

— begin paste —

The idea of “systems change” has risen in popularity over the past few years. To make this more than just another buzzword, how might we approach it?

Read more (in a new tab)

For the first of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, Zaid Khan led a session for the Relating Systems Thinking and Design RSD9 Symposium.  Our team had developed a set of reference slides for the three workshops, from which content that would most resonate with the audience could be selected.  RSD attracts designers across practitioner and academic communities, with leadership formalized in 2018 as the Systemic Design Association.

Zaid introduced this workshop with a caution as work-in-progress, as 2 years into a 10-year journey.  We orient towards developing practical systems methods well-founded in theoretical depth, better tested in applications with willing participants.  We all learn together.

The flow for the workshops were short orientations on out progress to date, with two breakout sessions for discussions.  In the web video , the plenary discussions are included, and breakout conversations edited out.

The video file is available on the Internet Archive, for those who prefer a downloadable option.

Video H.264 MP4
October 14
(58m52s)
[20201014_RSD9_SystemsChanges.m4v]
(HD 1022kbps 512MB) [on the Internet Archive]

The digital audio has been transcoded to MP3 for those who prefer to just listen.

Audio
October 14
(58m52s)
[20201014_RSD9_SystemsChanges.mp3]
(54MB)

Here is the original description for the session.

— begin paste —

The idea of “systems change” has risen in popularity over the past few years. To make this more than just another buzzword, how might we approach it?

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)

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    • 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 […]
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    • 2024/03 Moments March 2024
      More work than play for first part of month, in anticipation of trip to Vancouver to visit family.
    • 2024/02 Moments February 2024
      Chinese New Year celebrations, both public and family, extended over two weekends, due to busy social schedules.
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