Health Systems Research and Critical Systems Thinking: The case for partnership | Michael C. Jackson, Luis G. Sambo | 2019/08

On LinkedIn, Dr Mike Jackson OBE posted
“I remain fed up with the many people who, following on from Peter Senge, continue to reduce systems thinking (ST) to system dynamics (SD). In my recent book ‘Critical Systems Thinking and the Management of Complexity’ (Wiley, 2019) I detail ten ST approaches of which SD is only one. The paper I have just finished and put on Research Gate (co-authored with Luis Sambo) argues that the error of reducing ST to SD is also dangerous. It has held back the field of health systems research (HSR) and limited its capability to intervene successfully to help with the multi-dimensional wicked problems found in health systems. Critical Systems Thinking, it is suggested, can help liberate HSR from its shackles.”

David has here picked up some ‘choice comments’ from the article at

In brief. David Ing.

If we don’t first know “what is system is”, how do we approach an intervention? #MichaelCJackson OBE and Dr. #LuisGSambo appreciate the difference between “systems thinking” (plural) and “system dynamics” (singular), and suggest expanding theory with Critical #SystemThinking in Health Systems Research.

An ignorance of history is, if anything, even more pronounced among those authors in [Health Systems Research] influenced by complexity theory and the concept of ‘complex adaptive systems’. [….]

Most authors employing complexity theory in HSR seem to believe that it sprung forth fully formed from nothing or has somehow supplanted other bodies of work in systems thinking.

Such a poor appreciation of the history makes it almost inevitable that HSR will draw upon a restricted part of the systems and complexity tradition in developing its theories. In fact, it is the system dynamics and ‘complex adaptive systems’ strands that have come to dominate HSR at the expense…

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