THE origins of THE systems approach


Tracing the tracks of C. West Churchman

Last month I reread (and blogged) Churchman’s ‘The Systems Approach’ (1968) and was surprised to see that between the lines it contained practically the whole of the dialectical systems approach (the systems approach) as it finally took shape in 1971 (The design of inquiring systems) and 1979 (Enemies of the systems approach). In ‘The Systems Approach’ Churchman describes in fact how the dialectical systems approach emerged from the scientific systems approach (the “systems approach”) and operations research, something he had been working on very successfully from 1941 onward and the 1950s in particular, culminating in his ‘Introduction to Operations Research’ (IOR, Wiley, 1957; co-written by Russ Ackoff and Leonard Arnoff, one of the big guys behind Ernst & Young). Interestingly and speaking in a general sense, many of the ideas of ‘The Systems Approach’ of 1968 can be traced back in…

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