Underlying many of the approaches to “systems change” is teleology – “a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal”. Moving beyond social systems into other domains (e.g. biology, ecology) raises questions about whether nature has an end or purpose.
An alternative philosophy is based on teleonomy – “the quality of apparent purposefulness and of goal-directedness of structures and functions in living organisms”. This came up in a recent meeting. I then had some online communications with @Zemina .
The philosophy of science that I’ve taken on is not teleology – goal-directed behavior – but teleonomy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleonomy – that essentially means that you don’t work from the future-backwards, but that you are able to program options for your future.
See more in source.
I note with interest that in David’s Open Innovation Learning book (a section of the post signposts to a section of this for more), he points to Aristotle’s four causes:
Aristotle offered four explanations of why in four causes:
(i) material cause (that out of which)
(ii) the formal cause (the account of what it-is-to-be)
(iii) the efficient cause (the primary source of change or rest)
(iv) the final cause (the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done
This is pretty powerful stuff to play around with, and reminds me of my distinction, for organisations, between
(1) espoused purpose – the mission statement
(2) de facto purpose or POSIWID – the actual behaviour and outcomes which the organisation is producing (see forthcoming podcast interview with Allenna Leonard for more on this) an
(3) deep, meaningful purpose – the empowering purpose to which the organisation could aspire (usually neither of the above)