Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Theoretical Grounds, Pragmatic Grounds: Methods for Reordering our Priorities through Systems Changes Learning (ST-ON 2020/10/19)

For the second of three workshops by the Systems Changes Learning Circle in October 2020, we convened a session for the monthly Systems Thinking Ontario meeting.  The focus of this workshop was a review of progress to date on methods by the scholarly team, informed by the adoption and use by the field team.

The framing of this presentation centered on developing methods that have validity balanced between theoretical grounds (i.e. it seems right based on logic and science) and pragmatic grounds (i.e. it works when applied in practice).

This workshop had more of a “teach-the-teachers” style to it, explaining the deeper choices in concepts, terms and techniques.  Compared to the other two workshops, this audience has a stronger grasp of systems theory.  Many regular attendees have attended meetings over the past 5 years.

In the web video , the presentation slides were mostly covered sequentially.  Attendees clarified their understandings with questions posed towards the end.

The video file are downloadable from the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
October 19
(FHD 806kbps 790MB) [on the Internet Archive]

For those who like digital audio on-the-go, the session has been transcoded to MP3 .

October 19

This session extended prior presentations on Systems Changes, with the benefit of the RSD9 version oriented towards designers having been completed just a few days earlier.  The freshness of that experience encouraged a reflections on ideas that had gone over over well fort the designers, as well as some examples and metaphors that may need to be rethought.… 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
(HD 1022kbps 512MB) [on the Internet Archive]

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

October 14

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?

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Strategic Communications + The Brand Stack, Zaid Khan + David Akermanis (ST-ON 2020/09/14)

Two Major Research Projects (MRPs) — they might be called master’s theses elsewhere — by Zaid Khan and David Akermanis reflect the Systemic Design agenda within the OCADU program on Strategic Foresight and Innovation (SFI).    To graduate, all SFI students complete an MRP.  With many subjects and techniques covered during SFI studies, only a few exercise Systemic Design at their core.

The September session of Systems Thinking Ontario came shortly after the defence of the two MRPs in August.  As we had suspended convening in person during 2020, our monthly meeting was conducted online.  This afforded recordings to be shared more widely.

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

Video H.264 MP4
September 14
(FHD 785kbps 293MB) [on]

The digital audio originally in M4A format has also been transcoded to MP3.

September 14

Here is the original description for the Systems Thinking Ontario September 14, 2020, session.

— begin paste —

Strategic Communications + The Brand Stack

A Major Research Project at OCADU is roughly equivalent to a Master’s Degree thesis (with some administrative differences). To start off the new academic year, we will have fresh presentations following the successful defences in the Strategic Foresight & Innovation Program at OCADU over the last month, by Zaid Khan and David Akermanis.

(1) A Systems-Oriented Approach to Strategic Communications — Zaid Khan

Systemic Design has emerged as both a theory and a practice that integrates design thinking and systems thinking to help designers cope with complex social systems.… 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)

Socio-Technical Systems, Service Systems Science

In order to move forward, the Systems Changes Learning Circle has taken a step backwards to appreciate the scholarly work that has come before us.  This has included the Socio-Psychological Systems, Socio-Technical Systems and Socio-Ecological Systems perspective, from the postwar Tavistock Institute for Human Relations.  The deep dive on “Causal texture, contextualism, contextural” takes us back to 1934-1935 articles by Pepper, Tolman and Brunswik.  These influenced Fred Emery and Eric Trist in their famous 1965 article.

In Trist’s later years (i.e. between 1977-1985, when he was in Toronto at York University, with the Action Learning Group). the younger researcher with whom he was collaborating most was Calvin Pava.  There is a great summary of Pava’s work and life in Austrom and Ordowich (2019).

Through some fortunate coordination, I was able to meet Doug Austrom in Indianapolis in August 2018, having discovered a preprint of the article, just a few days before I was to travel to Iowa.

In our conversation, I discovered that as Austrom, after completing his doctoral dissertation at York U. in 1982, received an appointment as a postdoctoral researcher.  Austrom was interested in Quality of Life, and Trist was interested in Quality of Working Life.  This led to many conversations.  Austrom and Trist never published anything together, as Trist was wrapping up his project with the Ontario Ministry of Labour.  Austrom has since had an entire career in Socio-Technical Systems, consulting to the current day.… Read more (in a new tab)

Causal Texture of the Environment

For those who haven’t read the 1965 Emery and Trist article, its seems as though my colleague Doug McDavid was foresighted enough to blog a summary in 2016!  His words have always welcomed here, as Doug was a cofounder of this web site.  At the time of writing, the target audience for this piece was primarily Enterprise Architecture practitioners.   [DI]

Causal Texture of the Environment

Published on February 4, 2016

Doug McDavid

This post is a quick summary (or reminder) of a seminal piece of work by Fred Emery and Eric Trist, which I personally think should be required reading for EA practitioners. We occasionally hear about outside-in thinking, and inside-out thinking, and this paper is a very good place to start to focus on these styles of thought about the architecture of enterprise.

The paper I’m referring to is named “The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments”*. Emery and Trist pioneered the idea of sociotechnical systems at the Tavistock Institute in London in the 1950s. There’s a lot that can be said about organizations as sociotechnical systems. For instance, it’s worth noting this quote from Wikipedia (as of 3 February, 2016):

“Sociotechnical theory … is about joint optimization, with a shared emphasis on achievement of both excellence in technical performance and quality in people’s work lives. Sociotechnical theory … proposes a number of different ways of achieving joint optimisation. They are usually based on designing different kinds of organisation, ones in which the relationships between socio and technical elements lead to the emergence of productivity and wellbeing.”

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