An invitation as a keynote presenter at the 2018 International Conference on Smart Cities and Urban Design (SCUD) was initiated on a recommendation by Susu Nousala to the program chair WU Jing. Blending the conference theme with my recent doctoral research, I proposed the topic “Innovation Learning for Sustainability: What’s smarter for urban systems”? For a 30-minute slot, the agenda was covered in three sections:
1. Smarter Systems
2. Sustainability + Service Systems Science
3. Innovation Learning
The first section derived from the history of smarter cities and the cognitive era from IBM, blended with the co-respondence of Tim Ingold. The second section considered sustainability from an ecological anthropology approach, then service systems and commitments. The third section drew in the normative framework from Open Innovation Learning.
For streaming, the video is accessible on Youtube.
For offline devices, downloadable audio is available, including a digitally boosted volume version.
5. Industrial value chain c.f. Co-producing offering
While the lecture slides were the same for two class sections spaced 2 days apart, the verbal content varies as spontaneous flow. On both days, agenda point 4 (Teleology c.f. Teleonomy) was cut short to jump to a few ideas in point 5. (On the second day, a question from a student led back to point 4). Read more...(664 words, 1 image, estimated 2:39 mins reading time)
The term proactive, in comparison to reactive, only dates back to 1964.  #AbrahamZaleznik, a professor of organizational psychodynamics and practicising psychoanalyst, cited Chester Barnard in the distinction for managers performing in nonexecutive and executive functions. Building on Sigmund Freud’s later development of energy cathexes, with emotional energy towards (i) ideas, (ii) persons, or a (iii) fusion of the two, the predisposition of a manager influences priorities. These may (or may not) be altered through (executive) education.
A central objective of … training efforts [within and outside of universities] is to modify behavior, usually interpersonal, according to some set of norms that relate to organizational effectiveness or improved individual and group performance.
The purpose of this paper is to raise for inquiry the adequacy of existing notions of what interpersonal competence is, how it relates to the manager’s job, and the best means for helping managers achieve this competence. [Zaleznik (1964) p. 156]
Executive functions ensure the organization operates as a cooperative system through specialized authority; nonexecutive functions include technical activities of the organization that might be carried out by others. Read more...(2378 words, 1 image, estimated 9:31 mins reading time)
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 by C. West Churchman.
This scorecard metaphor shows up in the second of five ways of knowing (i.e. inquiring systems)
Chapter 3 is “The World as a Formula: The Second Way of Knowing”. A case study commonly used in business school education is described.
To illustrate the use and meaning of the Analytic-Deductive IS in a social realm, we’ll apply it to a situation that on the surface at least is as “simple” as the question that occupied us in the last chapter. There is a somewhat dated yet classic case in the Harvard Business Review that provides a perfect depiction of the Analytic-Deductive IS.  Four men are running for the presidency of a fictitious life insurance company, Zenith Life. Background information on their strengths and weaknesses, families, career history, skills, and so on, is given for all four, although we do not receive the same information for each of them. Thus, we know more about one candidate in one category than we do about another. Also, the history and current nature of Zenith Life itself, its prospects and problems, its opportunities as well as threats, are described. The central question of the case is, “Which of the four candidates is best qualified to head Zenith Life, given both its past history and its current condition?” [pp. 41-42]
 Abraham T. Collier, “Decision at Zenith Life,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1962, Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 139-157
In all the years that we have given this seemingly “simple case” to scores of students and executives, the typical response has remained remarkably the same. Almost every student and executive — whether they worked individually on the case or in small groups — built a single, simple model that selects one and only one of the candidates as best for Zenith Life. The models are virtually the embodiment of Analytic-Deductive reasoning whether the students and executives were aware of this or not; in most cases, they were not.
The models essentially work as follows. A set of attributes that are characteristic of leadership is determined or specified: for instance, how charismatic each of the candidates is; their capacity to inspire others; the ability to formulate a vision of what Zenith Life needs to be in the coming decade; to present one’s ideas in a direct and persuasive manner so that others will want to join on; a clear sense of ethics and the ability to make decisions that are ethical and moral; their past job performance — job history, personality, and so on. Other variables such as”family support” were also included. Each candidate is then scaled on each attribute to the degree that the individual either embodies or possesses it. Typically, a score of “1” represents the absence of a particular attribute or poor performance on it, whereas “10” indicates the complete possession of an attribute or high performance. On more sophisticated models, the attributes are weighted differently so that, for example, the category “ethics” might be rated three times more important than one’s score in the area of “past job performance.” The “best candidate” to run Zenith Life is then selected on the basis of who has the highest score on all the attributes and their weightings. [p. 42]
So, the scorecard would look something like this: Read more...(2062 words, 1 image, estimated 8:15 mins reading time)
Should we do, or not-do? Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:
There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.
(1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
(2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.
For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].
Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these. Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:
1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.
These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.
For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:
Appendix. Doing or not-doing in management can be placed philosophically in American pragmatism.
1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning
One way of framing doing and not-doing is around decision-making mistakes. In 1994, Ackoff was advocating strongly for organizational learning. He criticized executives who suppress the surfacing of prior errors that might preclude the recurrence of mistakes. Read more...(4736 words, 2 images, estimated 18:57 mins reading time)
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.
In October 2016, we convened a preconference workshop on “Some Future Paths for Design Professionals: DesignX and Systemic Design” at the Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium (quickly blogged as observations in the week following).
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. Read more...(399 words, 1 image, estimated 1:36 mins reading time)
Will this decade be called the "Dark Twenties", in post-pandemic economic sociology? #JohnIbbitson writes: > It took years for Western economies to fully recover from the economic shock of 2008-09. This shock is far worse. How much worse? No one can be sure. [....] > We are entering the Dark Twenties. No one knows when […]
Moderating social media context in an nuanced way may be done with a warning or caution, rather than by deleting the message or banning the individual. #HenryFarrell at #WashingtonPost analyzes fact-checking on POTUS. > Now, Twitter has done just this. Trump’s tweet has not been removed — but it has been placed behind a notice, […]
Our immune systems are complex, so improving resistance to disease may be puffery, writes #TimothyCaulfield . > I looked at how the phrase “boosting our immune system” is being represented on social media. This concept is everywhere right now: it is being pushed by .... But in reality, the immune system is fantastically complex and can’t be “boosted.” (Even […]
Ventures founded on growth maximization thinking unicorn might instead turn towards sustainability as camels. > Where Silicon Valley has been chasing unicorns (a colloquial term for startups with billion-dollar valuations), “camel” startups, such as those founded by leading global entrepreneurs, prioritize sustainability and resiliency.> The humble camel adapts to multiple climates, survives without food or […]
Death of the office, in pandemic times, with a larger perspective back in history. > Offices have always been profoundly flawed spaces. Those of the East India Company, among the world’s first, were built more for bombast than bureaucracy. They were sermons in stone, and the solidity of every marble step, the elegance of every […]
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 […]
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 […]
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).
While many outside of the field of architecture like the #ChristopherAlexander #PatternLanguage approach, it's not so well accepted by his peers. A summary of criticisms by #MichaelJDawes and #MichaelJOstwald @UNSWBuiltEnv is helpful in appreciating when the use of pattern language might be appropriate or not appropriate.
Systems thinking should include not only thinking about the system, but also its environment. Using the term "field" as the system of interest plus its influences leaves a lot of the world uncovered. From the multiple definitions in the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics , there is variety of ways of understanding "field".
In web conference, #HermanDaly says #EcologicalEconomics used to get attacked from the right, now it's from the left. Panel @revkin @jon_d_erickson @ktkish @sophiesanniti #TimCrowshaw #KatieHorner livestreamed #sustainwhat .Read more ›
Social ecology and environmental psychology described @dstokols @Social_Ecology , interviewed by @katiepatrick . References #WilliamsJames on attention. Book on Social Ecology in the Digital Age released in 2018.Read more ›
Concerns on #personaldata should be reframed as interpersonal, says @sheldrake , less the nodes and more the edge connections. “I want to take back control” superficial, @hartzog says control doesn’t scale. Agency is about negotiation in the world, more rhizomatic…Read more ›
Doing science should be wayfinding (pathfinding), says #TimIngold , gaining grounding in the art of paying attention, towards research as the pursuit of truth. Truth is more than objective facts, where science and art are embraced with materials, so that we can see the quality inside the natural world as it forms, rather than as […]
We should be more vigourous, says @MazzucatoM , in debating differences between value extraction and value creation, and between profits and rents. Lecture at Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford U., January 2019Read more ›