Why I hope we could do better than the Castellani complexity map

In response to this question on twitter (click link to see the full thread)…

…some of my thoughts on the challenges of the (rich in content, developed over the years) complexity map that is very popular. One of a continuing theme of me noodling on points of origin and confluence around #cybernetics, #complexity, and #systemsthinking – in fact, one broad field, I think…

So, first of all, what do I know? I’m not an academic, though I’ve dabbled at playing at it. I’m obsessive/passionate, but I haven’t done all the reading (few have), but anyway… (and I’ve included here learning that I have got from others better qualified than me, but all mistakes are mine, I haven’t named them because it’s a series of ongoing conversations and I don’t think they want to be engaged in pointless controversy).

Also, it’s a harder argument to make because as I’m arguing *congruence and continuity*, rather than difference, and people are used to argument about distinctions. My view is that #systemsthinking, #cybernetics, and #complexity are all part of the same family, with the same roots, the same family resemblances, and wherever you try to make a divide it is going to be proven artificial, because it is going to sweep *in* many things avowedly under a different label, and sweep *out* many things under the same label. More of complexity is realist, more of systems thinking is dispositional, more of cybernetics is dispositional, whatever.

Most people trying to make the distinction simply are sweeping in what they like, paper-tigering the rest, and therefore mischaracterising the ‘out group’ and giving ahistorical and unscientific boundaries. The distinction is often made in ignorance, but sometimes intentionally ‘wrecking synergy to stake out territory’, and either way, it does scholarship in the field a disservice.

Good word on this from Gerald Midgely https://www.facebook.com/groups/774241602654986/permalink/2067256553353478/

This is not to say that there are not tribes, sticking to their narrow ways in happy ignorance or denial of the systems/cybernetics/complexity world outside their window… nor that there aren’t truly intellectually curious and open people who see no boundaries and find value across the whole domain – in fact, most people who don’t already have an intellectual stake in seeing boundaries, and some who do, see the value across the piece also.

But the four quadrants of thinking threats are always there! https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ritpobdoexr5qy/four%20quadrants%20of%20thinking%20threats.pdf?dl=0

On the maps itself, I’d say that ‘systems’ is a common property of all circles in Castellani’s map, even more than complexity.

Then:

  • The claim that complexity theory came up with the ideas of self-organisation, autopoeisis and emergence is simply untrue, it feels like blatant appropriation of existing work – likewise Bak’s ‘self organised criticality’ (he coined the term but not the concept)
  • Strange attractors – there’s something like this too in Ashby’s Design for a brain, and of course Heinz von F’s eigenforms, 1981.
  • Timelines and connections are dubious (but – to be fair – admittedly simplified and ‘one perspective’). And also it gets very mushy in the 21st Century – too soon to attempt anything scholarly here, one might say.
  • Nonlinear in late 70s? Seems ridiculous.
  • Scaling and self-similarity in the 1980s? These are all a lot earlier.
  • Weaver in ‘complex systems theory’ not cybernetics? Yes, he defined ‘complexity’ in 1948 (not the late 60s or early 70s as it seems here), but he was a core cybernetician.
  • Pitts too.
  • And for some reason, Stafford Beer is placed in the 90s and under systems science, not cybernetics?
  • No mention of the modern origins of all of this in the Macy conferences?
  • No mentioned of Santa Fe being predicated on the work of Ashby in the 1940s
  • Prigogine was the president of the international society of systems science…
  • Would be nice to see Professor Derek Pugh who we think first coined ‘systems thinking’ c1970.
  • Can’t see cellular automata in their – von Neumann 1950s, Varela 1988 and Liber Sogya, 16th Century (https://stream.syscoi.com/2019/05/14/tables-of-soyga-the-first-cellular-automaton-anders-sandberg/)

More historic quotes here https://stream.syscoi.com/2019/10/28/some-quotes-on-the-theme-complexitythinking-is-systemsthinking-is-cybernetics/

Our attempt to honestly attempt a mapping of the concepts, with precedents and antecedents, including thinkers, at https://kumu.io/koryckaa/scio-sysbok-v1 – but very incomplete and partial as of present!

Bunch of maps which I tend on first glance and intuitively to think are more rigorous here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/oo9x5tlcdpmb75a/systems%20maps.zip?dl=0

Patrick Hoverstadt and others are shortly coming out with a book on the core systems laws, which could be hugely impactful. Meanwhile, a limited version of these from www.systemspractice.org is more or less in the public domain (https://www.dropbox.com/s/ycmq9udawhydohx/SCiO%20-%20systems%20laws%20v0.2.pdf?dl=0) through workshops and development of the systems thinking practitioner apprenticeship – https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/systems-thinking-practitioner/

Or you could look to Len Troncale’s systems process theories and his set of isomophisms – see https://ingbrief.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/20160728-1110-len-troncale-systems-processes-theory-spt-and-its-prospects-as-a-general-theoretical-core-for-a-science-of-systems-and-sustainability-isss-2016-boulder/ – I’d love to get Len’s full slides from the Bertalanffy lecture at ISSS 2019.

Or go back to Gerald Midgley’s encyclopedia, or the other mega-systems reference guide.

And David Ing gives a masterful meta-perspective overview of the scale of the task in this 2011 presentation https://stream.syscoi.com/2019/04/21/2011-07-22-isss-incoming-presidential-address-coevolving-innovations-david-ing/

My point is that unless something uses some of these principles, it’s either not systems thinking – or it’s something *amazing* and new(ish). If it relies principally on these core ideas, it’s systems thinking(/cybernetics/complexity).

What any serious attempt in this space shows, IMHO, is the unity across and diversity within the field of cybernetics / systems thinking / complexity. i.e. if it works with, builds on, or adds to key systems laws, it’s in the field. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. And the rest is about predispositions, applications, interests, emotional tendencies, and tribalism.

 

 

 

 

 

#socent

SCIO DACH CAMP 2019 – video and short summary – next camp 10/10/2020

Posted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/posts/%F0%9F%8C%80michael-frahm-65220573_scio-dach-camp-2019-activity-6586907932149985280-xiKk

🌀Michael Frahm

🌀Michael Frahm

vom hashtaginnovationszentrum Aalen für die Unterstützung
SAVE THE DATE für das nächste Camp in Wintherthur mit Dr. Michael Pfiffner am 10.10.2020
https://lnkd.in/dz9B7fd Great time and a lot of input at the bar camp for systems practice with Patrick Hoverstadt Hamid Rahebi Markus Orengo Wolfgang Lassl Alexander Leitz Carola Roll, M.Sc. Ralf-Eckhard Türke Dr. Michael Pfiffner Bernhard Sterchi Andrea Weierich #systems #complexity #scio thanks to #stattys Mikko Mannila and from the Andreas Ehrhardt #innovationszentrum Eels for the support SAVE THE DATE for the next camp in Wintherthur with Dr. Michael Pfiffner on 10.10.2020

 

See the video

Source: SCIO DACH CAMP 2019

https://spark.adobe.com/video/6E01th3EbIE4d

 

Systems Community of Inquiry is back up!

https://stream.syscoi.com/
THE place for all things #systemsthinking, #cybernetics, #complexity and such (if it’s missing – join up and add it!)

Harald Kreher on LinkedIn – Russell Lincoln Ackoff: 10-week countdown to his 100th birthday (12 February 1919). Remembrance. Reverence. Reflection.

Go and follow Harald on LinkedIn for more.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/rla100-russell-lincoln-ackoff-10-week-countdown-his-100th-kreher/

#RLA100. Russell Lincoln Ackoff: 10-week countdown to his 100th birthday (12 February 1919). Remembrance. Reverence. Reflection.

Harald Kreher

Professor Russell Ackoff was a great scholar, educator, consultant … and much more. Intellectual and pragmatic. Logician, mathematician, philosopher, … , systemist.

He was and excelled at so many things. One could fill an encyclopedia with #s trying to do him justice. The following I want to choose – feeling awkward about it as I am fairly old-fashioned and myself not too at-, dis-, ex-tracted 😉 by what some filters and algos suggest to be of relevance, based on keywords. Nevertheless, today I give in a little because I think Russ had deserved that he catches attention by more than those who watch out for reference to his vast body of contributions anyway.

#RLA100 #RLA #Ackoff #management #systems #systemsthinking #systemspractice #whole #holistic #purpose #inquiry #orientation #principles #approach #mindset #education #learning #future #design #interaction #philosophy #perspective #theory #practice #sensemaking #complexity #purposeful #human #mess #methodology #logic #method #strategy #organisation #process #efficiency #effectiveness #foundation #essence #DIKW #knowledge #understanding #wisdom #intellect #humour #flaws #entertainment #enlightenment #professionals #linkedin #tribute #differentiation #analysis #synthesis #relevance #rigour #remembrance #reverence #reflection

Few could nail an issue as cogent as he. Right on point. Yet always circumspective, bringing together contents and context – and consequences.

His sharp mind was accompanied by a sharp tongue that chiselled sentences of precision to stand the test of time. And hishumour was just as sharp.

Those who experienced him live will agree. Those who experience(d) him via books or (better to get a feel for the type of personality and clarity of deliverance) videos, regularly are stunned, along the lines of:

Brilliant. How clear. So succinct. Spot on.

So much of his understanding and wisdom is of fundamental essence. Theory and practice has developed, of course. But all development needs a sound, sturdy foundation.

Russ’ foundation is rock solid. Timeless.

A source and guide for sensemaking and design of interactive, complex human systems. And he has been at knowledge and understanding thereof long before systems – in the wider sense of the word – became fashionable. Fashionable industry would (to expand reference to architecture) benefit from more knowledge of the statics and understanding of the pillarsit builds on.

I would hold that lack thereof is one of the main reasons why (modern) systems approaches often are used on and understood from a process level/perspective only. Organisation and strategy fall short. And efforts then may bring short-term efficiency, but no long-term effectiveness.

Systems therefore is not a tool or a theory for normed (or even certified meticulous step-by-step) application, but a mindset and philosophy – as much as a holistic and wholesome practice.

  • It is a construct and method to inquire into, engage with, and design the complex world.
  • It is a frame of orientation to manage messes and complexity.
  • It has principles and guidelines, not rigid rules or (standard operating) procedures.
  • It is user-dependent and changes with user and usage.
  • It is a methodology, an approach that follows the logos of method.

Russell Ackoff has taught and influenced many. In academia, industry, and public sector. In many different countries. In continental Europe he is unfortunately less known than in the English-speaking world.

To all those not RLA fans yet, but curious to learn about and more so from him, I would recommend (from the many publications of his) the following two. They are both entry level to and summary of his wisdom (reference to the DIK-Understanding-W pyramid):

“Management in Small Doses” and “Ackoff’s F/laws The Cake”

Both absolute gems, treasure chests of decades of experience as teacher and practitioner in

quintessential Russ style:

  • entertaining
  • educational
  • enlightening
  • effective
  • elegant

Russ’ ability to explain was compelling.

LinkedIn is a platform for professionals. The ones I regularly exchange with are all applying some form of systems thinking in their practice. However, not all were familiar with RLA and the pile of gems he left behind. Where I made reference to his works, spread the word, instilled pieces of his insights, was a (hope so) non-intrusive and friendly “missionary”, I can honestly and with joy report,

not one (sic!), who did not take to Russ and saw relevance for their own work.

I noted in recent weeks there was an increase of mention of and reference to him on the LinkedIn platform. The body of his work is substantial in every sense of the word. I am aware much has long been shared and stated. Still, I see his approaching centennial as an appropriate time to contribute to rekindling the torch and honouring his legacy.

What would Y O U would like to share as your learning from and reverence to him?

A quote, an insight, an anecdote … that has relevance for you. Something that you associate with him. Whether you provide your own or complement what others share – it is about paying tribute.

Personally, I shall for each of the 10 weeks until his 100th birthday send every Tuesday a little aspect or wisdom (sequence not by priority) that I relate to Russ, something I aim to reflect and embody in my own work. Here is my first in the 10-week countdown:

The fundamental difference betweenanalysis, taking things apart ANDsynthesis, seeing the whole & its purpose, which defines the purpose of the parts.

He was a master of differentiation and maybe that aspect of logic and clarity is a key differentiator that made him so special and relevant.

Russ made a difference. His intellectual rigour and sharpness is missed, for sure. And then, the man himself: demanding, yet caring.

  • A loss – yes.
  • A legacy – yes.
  • A thankful remembrance, reverence, reflection – yes!

For those contacts I know they had truly close bonds with Russ, having been long-time collaborators, business partners and friends, I take the liberty to tag them: #jamshidgharajedaghi #johnpourdehnad

Complexity in health policy. Brief notes – Greg Fell

A great overview and introduction to #complexity (and therefore #systemsthinking… and #cybernetics) in #public health

part one linked below – https://gregfellpublichealth.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/complexity-in-public-health-part-1/

part two – https://gregfellpublichealth.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/complexity-in-public-health-part-2-actions-to-take-responses-to-complex-problem/
Complexity in health policy, part 2. Actions to take & responses to complex problems

part three – https://gregfellpublichealth.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/interventions-to-influence-system-change/
Interventions to influence SYSTEM change. Complexity part 3

Sheffield DPH

Complexity in public health

I went to an excellent meeting in the Spring at the Health Foundation led by Prof Rutter on complexity. It’s the new “thing” don’t you know. It made my brain hurt. A lot.

Much to reflect on. This blog covers the points I took from the meeting, and subsequent reflections

Part 1 – what’s the issue. some background, some definitions and the problem that is the starting premise

1. What do we mean by complexity

A complex system cannot be explained merely by breaking it down into its component parts because those parts are interdependent: elements interact with each other, share information and combine to produce systemic behaviour.

They exhibit ‘non-linear’ dynamics produced by feedback loops in which some forms of energy or action are dampened (negative feedback) while others are amplified (positive feedback).

It is impossible to precisely predict what changes might happen as a…

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#complexity, #cybernetics, #public, #systemsthinking