How can we change the world? Exactly – join us and we’ll see!

‘to understand is to know what to do’ Wittgenstein

‘I can only know what I should do if I can first answer the question: of what story, or stories, do I find myself a part?’ MacIntyre

If you follow me, you might have heard this thing called ‘systems thinking’ or ‘complexity’ or ‘cybernetics’. It’s about:

-> knowing that to do anything, we create a frame and make sense of the picture inside – how the patterns form and connect. And knowing that redrawing that frame will allow us to see differently

-> a set of core, often counterintuitive ‘laws’ which seem to illuminate aspects of *how the world really is*

This is *humbling* stuff – because it makes you realise that the world is infinitely complex and that everyone has their own unique perspective.

And it’s powerful, practical knowledge of how to work to achieve shared outcomes in complexity.

**An invitation**

If you’d like to hang out with me and explore this, there are loads of opportunities over the next few weeks – details in the reply.

‘A cybernetician is a man who thinks about what could have happened, but did not’ Ashby

–>> what is one insight that changed the way *you* saw the world?

#complexity #systemsthinking #cybernetics #sensemaking

ross ashby thinking cap

FIVE chances to hang out with me cybernetically in the next few weeks – I’d be honoured if you’d join!

NEXT WEEK – The systemic leadership summit 2021 is a pretty amazing opportunity to hear a fantastic group of speakers (and me). Attendance is FREE on the day and you can listen back for 48 hours.
SIGN UP HERE: (affiliate link if you decide to get the upgraded package) hashtag#sls2021

For more background, see:

MONDAY – I’m presenting at the SCiO open meeting (free) on the ‘four quadrants of thinking threats’ you face if you enter into a powerful field link this:

For more background on the four quadrants, see

Monday 25 January – our informal online systems networking, hosted by me

The SERVANT LEADERSHIP SUMMIT in May – not me – but other amazing speakers – quote AntlerBoy10 to get 5% discount to you, and 5% donation to Medecins sans Frontieres.

Monday 1 February – Systems Practice development day (£20 annual membership required)

And look out for me chatting to @Dov Tsal in February too!

Bringing together some recent and old threads on #systemsthinking is #complexity is #cybernetics

Mahoo, @SystemsNinja, asked me (possibly michievously):

Hey @antlerboy tell us why complexity thinking is systems thinking, is cybernetics? Nerd face

Here’s my reply:

You tryna stop me working, or what??

I have some of this prepped, off of facebook, so here goes…

Complexity, cybernetics, and systems thinking are an extended family recognisable by a whole set of similarities (and some controversies) which draw from the same roots and influences, and share the same governing intent – understanding.

My ‘acid test’ is that I believe you cannot make a distinction between systems thinking and complexity which will not ‘sweep in’ to each ‘discipline’ something avowedly part of the ‘other’, and ‘sweep’ out from each something which claims it belongs.

some of the roots are demonstrated here:
some quotes on the theme #complexitythinking is #systemsthinking (is #cybernetics)

Look at the Macy conferences, for a start. Look at the overlaps between the early thinkers, the shared thinking, the shared learning societies.
The field is transdisciplinary (and indeed meta-disciplinary), so naturally it has diverse expression and form.

So, why do people believe there is a difference? There are indeed tribes wearing each of the three badges (and some who wear more than one) – and if you squint, you can see some differences between them. But it relies on squinting – narrowing down to what you want to focus on.

Well, there are many reasons why it suits people to say ‘my work is *this* and not *this*’ (it’s the rule of tables – if someone has a table saying ‘left side old, bad, right side new, good’ – they are trying to sell you something).

We might call it ‘wrecking synergy to stake out territory. A nice piece on that concept is here: (formatting not good as exhumed from the internet graveyard)

A good example of that is Castellani’s ‘complexity map’, which is to me a piece of fundamentally poor scholarship for this reason

There are others who I won’t name either because they’re nice people out to learn, or so argumentative as to not allow me to get to bed. (But if you search the archives for ‘curmudgeons’ and ‘popularisers’ you will find some materiel).

What tends to happen (other than simply eliding or ignoring bits of the history which show the overlap across the family resemblance) is that you pick a somewhat populist, simplistic version of the thing you want to do down, you straw-man it a bit further, and thereby produce a strangulated version of the ‘other’ (and announce This Is Wot Everyone Kno as The Thing). Then you post five or seven or 13 points showing why your brand overcomes and surpasses (usually not encompasses) the weaker, wrong part of the family. And that way we are all a little the poorer. Note that there are, in fact, many members of our extended family we potentially aren’t *that* proud of, bless their hearts… but we tolerate them and recognise they don’t represent any particular chunk of the family tree in full.

The risk of this sort of thing (‘down with this sort of thing!’) is what caused me to create the ‘four quadrants of thinking threats’ – systems / complexity / cybernetics thinkers are prone to move into one of the four corners – it’s imperative we try to full ourselves towards the middle…

(this has a modicum of discussion about the quadrants: )

See also for a magisterial take on the topic, the first comment in this link , Gerald Midgely’s excellent facebook comment at

…The constraints on that topic make a huge difference to the possible outcomes that could be concluded – so much so that diametrically opposite findings would arise from different ways of bounding the understandings of Systems and Complexity. In my view, a great PhD on this would have to start by acknowledging the diversity of paradigms (and perspectives within the paradigms) in both fields, so this is not a simplistic question of “theory A says X and theory B says Y”. So, for example, there are systems methodologies that are strong on exploring multiple perspectives, and others that are weak on this. Likewise, there are complexity approaches that are both strong and weak on perspective-taking. So a really strong analysis would, I think, look at the diversity; the various aims that the diversity of approaches are trying to achieve; the various critiques of the different approaches; and then map each approach onto that territory of aims and critiques. Once that has been done, it should be possible to look for patterns – identify how the two research fields differ in terms of number and diversity of approaches, aims that are unique in one field compared to the other, aims that are common across both fields, aims that are very strongly featured in one field, etc. If you’re serious about doing a PhD on this (or a related topic), we could talk by skype. I should flag straight away though that we don’t have funded scholarships. I have a bunch of PhD students, but most are studying part-time and paying for themselves.

For some practical examples, have a look at these two papers and tell me what you learn about the difference or not:

A good chapter IIRC:

A good series of papers IIRC:

And an enquiry:

So. All three labels are multiply defined and probably ‘essentially contested’. And, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter – there are a bunch of good ideas, which can also steer you wrong – let’s use them.

Where it hurts (us all) is when people feel a need to define their work by doing ‘systems thinking’ down – explicitly or implicitly, subtly or not – in comparing themselves to the model they hold of some crap form of systems thinking. So in fighting against this nonsense, I’m partly creating the pain which I think we should all avoid by doing our work and not putting down other disciplines. But it’s a double bind – you let the mud stick as if you deserve it, or you get down in the mud and wrastle…

I would that I have nothing ‘against’ any person who chooses to label themselves as complexity; I love to hear about and explore and share their work (and will critique it or not based on what my limited understanding suggests it deserves – lord knows there are some poor, limited, self-limiting attempts at systems thinking too – I try to help nudge them to deeper awareness always). I *believe this is all part of the same learning and exploration*, and it turns out to be much harder to make an argument for overlap across and distinctions within-not-between, than it is to straw-man something and define your thing as different. Every time I get into this argument, I discover that my antagonist has picked one view of one set of practices, and held this up as *being* the whole.

And there *are*, of course, some more or less unsatisfactory ways you could try to make a distinction (subject to the arguments above) – at a SCiO group presentation, the only true distinction people form all three ‘camps’ could divine was a set of emotional biases of practitioners. But any definition of ‘complexity’ will fall short by some standards – as I’m arguing – so I won’t go into that here. (SCiO is the systems practitioner organisation – – formerly Systems and Cybernetics in Organisation, now Systems and Complexity in Organisation cos it is undeniably trendier and why not?)

I’ll end with McCulloch on the Macy conferences:
“Even then, working in our shirt sleeves for days on end, at every meeting …. we were unable to behave in a familiar friendly or even civil manner. The first five meetings were intolerable. Some participants left in tears never to return. Margaret Mead records that in the heat of battle she broke a tooth and did not even notice it until after the meeting.”
There has never been an agreed definition, and there probably never will be.

A thousand years ago, you asked ‘Hey @antlerboy, tell us why complexity thinking is systems thinking, is cybernetics?’. The answer is there is no ‘is’ of identity (I’m borrowing Wittgestein’s ‘family resemblances’ concept), but the overlaps are so many and varied, as are the distinctions within the field, that meaningful distinctions can really only be made of small subsets across the space – or for polemical reasons.

Er, so why did you ask?

I can’t I’m being a public intellectual

Benjamin Taylor on Twitter: “Does anyone have a good link or piece of their own on ‘the problem with mental models’? Or do I have to write it? :-)” / Twitter

via 🕷BenjaminP.Taylor🇪🇺 on Twitter: “Does anyone have a good link or piece of their own on ‘the problem with mental models’? Or do I have to write it? :-)” / Twitter

Quite an enthusiastic response on twitter to this loaded question of mine. I envisage there will be many more here and when I share this on the social medias.

Lots of responses seemed to at least partially interpret ‘the problem with mental models’ in ways I had not intended:

  • assuming the mental model framing and talking about how mental models can be good or bad or limited or improved
  • informing me about the limits of mental models
  • talking about the process by which people understand and retain or develop spatial models
  • talking about the neuroscience of how the brain works in some way
  • assuming there is no real alternative to mental models (so I must be talking about
  • saying something clever about my mental model 🙂
  • arguing for or against dualism or solipsism
  • arguing about why metaphors are necessary (this is sort of relevant to my point)

My view is that the ‘mental models’ phrase, while well-intentioned and calling attention to various useful aspects of the ways people make sense, act, interact, and account for all of these things, is fundamentally misconceived and has been the basis for quite significant and misguided assumptions and activity based on falling over the inherent mistakes in the concept itself.

I won’t attempt to make my full argument here, since I am not confident I understand it yet, but/and a few preliminary points would be:

  • there are no actual models in heads
  • there is nothing like a model in heads
  • human understanding and perspectives work very differently from ‘having models’
  • the reification of this idea of ‘mental models’ deeply misleads

And that the name ‘mental model’ makes it seem that these are:

  • rational and changeable through rationality
  • in some sense a model
  • comparable/additive to others
  • extractable/reportable
  • capable of objectivisation
  • personal and owned and contained

And gives rise to the ‘whole elephant’ fallacy (as if just ‘bringing together mental models’ – or doing simplistic mapping of what people tell you is their understanding of a ‘system’ – can let everyone share the same ‘God’s eye view’).

Going back to the beginning, there’s something(s) which the ‘mental model’ concept is pointing at – individuals’ and groups ways of making sense, deciding, acting, interacting, being, and accounting for/expressing all of these things in a particular context. Yet each of these (making sense, deciding, etc) may operate in a different way – and the way people account for these or explain or narrate them may be different again. ‘Mental models’ can be a relevant simplification or Lie-to-Children in some settings, but we might be better off without one laden metaphor for this complexity and diversity, which then gets reified and leads to all kinds of misunderstandings.

Ivo Velitchkov (@kvisgaard on twitter) kindly gave both a clear definition of some of these problems:

  • That the cognition (incl. whatever happens in the brain) doesn’t work by processing representations of any kind, symbolic or other. When we ride a bike we don’t have (and don’t need) a model of the bike in our heads.

And a powerful reading list:

(they should be read in this order as each one refines and develops the arguments)

  • The Embodied Mind
  • Enaction
  • Mind in Life
  • Linguistic Bodies

Also recommended:

via Abeba Birhane on Twitter: “Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language – Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari & Hanne De Jaegher #amreading” / Twitter

(BTW, one of the responses led me to, ‘The Mental Models Global Laboratory’, which to its credit has a list of critics – – but which seems to me to be very much about the things I see as problematic! –


#2ndordercybernetics, #systemsthinking

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

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!

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


  • 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 there – von Neumann 1950s, Varela 1988 and Liber Sogya, 16th Century (

More historic quotes here

Our attempt to honestly attempt a mapping of the concepts, with precedents and antecedents, including thinkers, at – 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:

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 is more or less in the public domain ( through workshops and development of the systems thinking practitioner apprenticeship –

Or you could look to Len Troncale’s systems process theories and his set of isomophisms – see – 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

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.



some quotes on the theme #complexitythinking is #systemsthinking (is #cybernetics)

Lewes 1875: ‘The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference.’

Smuts 1890 – 1926: ‘the tendency in nature to form wholes, that are greater than the sum of its parts, through creative evolution’

‘One of the two most important ideas for the next millennium’ – Einstein

Bertalanffy developed the concepts of open systems in 1934

Ashby’s Self Organising Principle: ‘Complex systems organise themselves’

Beer: ‘the output of a complex probabilistic system (such as a society) is a function of a self regulating, self organizing organization …in which regulatory power is not vested in a ‘controller’ but in the structure of that organization itself.’

Socio-technical systems is the study of how social groups self-organise

Autopoiesis is self-organisation

The viable systems model works with autopoietic & self-organising systems

Meadows: ‘self-organizing, nonlinear feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable.’

Ashby’s 1st Circular Causality Principle: ‘Given positive feedback, radically different end states are possible from the same initial conditions’ Skyttner, 2001

Darkness Principle: ‘No system can be known completely’ Clemson, 1984 (ie ‘compressability’)

Stafford Beer: ‘It is terribly important to appreciate that some things remain obscure to the bitter end.’

Stafford Beer ‘Instead of trying to specify it in full detail, you specify it only somewhat. You then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go.’

Smuts: ‘A whole, which is more than the sum of its parts, has something internal, some inwardness of structure and function…some internality of nature that constitutes that ‘more”

Ashby: ‘the characteristic structural and behavioural patterns in a complex system are primarily a result of the interactions amongst the system parts.’

Beer: ‘Relation is the stuff of system’

Ackoff : ‘Never improve any portion of the system unless is also improves the whole.’

Iberal: ‘System stability is possible only if the system’s relaxation time is shorter than the mean time between disturbances.’

Beer: ‘If we cannot adapt, we cannot evolve. Then the instability threatens to be like the wave’s instability – catastrophic’
4th Principle of organization: ‘The operation of the first three principles must be cyclically maintained through time without hiatus or lags.’

Canon: ‘A system survives only so long as all essential variables are maintained within their physiological limits.’

Ashby: ‘The upper limit on the amount of regulation achievable is given by the variety of the regulatory system divided by the variety of the regulated system’

Varela: what is the meaning of ‘wholeness?’ This relates to two key processes. One is the process of recognizing the stable properties of wholes, by interacting with them. The other is the recognition that the stability we see arises from the self-referential, mutual, reciprocal interactions that constitute the system. Thus, the three notions I mentioned are distinction, stability and closure, and are really one and the same.

#complexitythinking, #cybernetics, #systemsthinking

OECD seeking #systemsthinking role

OECD seeking #systemsthinking role


Source: Job Description – Policy Analyst – Public Sector Reform (13032)

Policy Analyst – Public Sector Reform
(Job number 13032)

Application Closing Date: 09-09-2019, 9:59:00 PM

The OECD is a global economic forum working with 36 member countries and more than 100 emerging and developing economies to make better policies for better lives. Our mission is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. The Organisation provides a unique forum in which governments work together to share experiences on what drives economic, social and environmental change, seeking solutions to common problems.

 The  Public Governance Directorate (GOV) works to help governments at all levels design and implement strategic, data-driven-based and innovative policies to strengthen public governance, respond effectively to diverse and disruptive economic, social and environmental challenges and deliver on government’s commitments to citizens. We provide a forum for policy dialogue and exchange, common standards and principles, comparative international data and analysis to support innovation and reform across the OECD, policy reviews and practical recommendations targeted to the reform priorities of specific governments.
Through its Observatory of Public Sector Innovation and Digital Government Unit, the Public Sector Reform Division (RPS) supports government in:
  • Uncovering emerging innovative practices through collecting, mapping and analyzing innovative projects in the public sector;
  • Understanding the key drivers and determinants of innovation at individual, organizational and system level; and designing and implementing appropriate policies to foster public sector innovation at all levels;
  • Embedding innovation as the new normal by providing innovators with access to new methods and tools, and by conducting capacity building activities;
  • Designing the strategies, and developing the frameworks and capacities needed to leverage digital and/or disruptive technologies to foster the digital transformation of the public sector.
  • Establishing the governance required to use data as a strategic asset to foster more open, innovative, connected and efficient public sectors.
    In doing so, RPS works with OECD member and non-member countries and a wide range of partners – including other international organisations, academia and non-government organisations.
RPS is searching for one or more Policy Analysts to carry out the work below. The individual(s) will report to the Head of the relevant work stream.
Main Responsibilities

Research, analysis and drafting   
  • Conduct exploratory studies to map out key determinants, drivers and barriers of innovation in public sector at system level; assess the current development of a country against the OPSI emergent analytical framework, and design scenarios which can help the countries chart the way forward taking into account country context, comparative evidence from OECD member and non-member countries, and principles included in the OECD Declaration on Public Sector Innovation;
  • Lead research and analysis in the area of digital government, data-driven public sector and open data, based on the OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies, to strengthen public sector capacity to use digital technologies and data to deliver on current and emerging mandates. This includes contributing to cross-country comparative analysis, to the development of digital maturity indicators, and to OECD Reviews on Digital Government, Open Data and Data-Driven Public Sector in a specific country.
  • Contribute to the development of the analytical framework for public sector innovation, in particular deepening the understanding of the governance mechanism for each of the innovation facets of OPSI Innovation Facet Model, and contribute to build comparative evidence of how countries are designing and managing innovation portfolios;
  • Lead thematic analysis which provides new evidence on how government works on anticipating the future (anticipatory innovation governance), adopting emerging technologies (blochckain, AI, augmented reality, etc) and opening data for government transformation; trialing new approaches and problem solving methods (system approaches, collective intelligence) to solve complex challenges;
  •  Draft technical and policy documents for consideration by the OECD Public Governance Committee, and relevant networks, including the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials, the Expert Group on Open Data and the OPSI Network of National Contact Points, as well as policy briefs and other communications aimed at both technical and non-technical audiences;
  •  Lead country study and review processes, including defining overall planning, managing project timelines, overseeing the work of consultants, organising fact-finding missions with multidisciplinary teams of experts.

Liaison, representation and dissemination
  • Help build, support and maintain formal and informal GOV networks of government officials supporting the work streams indicated above including through the OPSI online platform.
  • Liaise with country officials, experts and colleagues from others OECD Directorates to support and strengthen the community of practice on innovation and digital government.
  • Stay abreast of policy issues in the innovative, digital and data-driven government policy fields as well as in the broader public governance area and ensure, as appropriate, the Directorate’s involvement in OECD wide initiatives.
  • Disseminate on the results of the work by taking up speaking roles in international seminars and events; and using social media effectively to communicate with selected audiences.
 Ideal Candidate Profile
Academic Background
  • Advanced university degree in public policy, public administration, accounting, economics, law, or similar.

Professional Experience
  • A minimum of three to five years of professional experience conducting research and analysis on public sector innovation and/or digital government, at national or international level, an international organisation or an academic institution;
  • Previous experience working at the level of national government or a demonstrated significant track record of working with public sector organisations, is preferable;
  • Demonstrated on-the-job experience of developing, introducing and implementing meaningfully new approaches or initiatives in the public sector context, using methods such as design, behavioural insights, open data, digital tools etc.) and/or significant research/academic experience with examining the policy implications of fostering an open, digital and innovative government;
  • Proven track of writing analytical pieces to different audiences including government practitioners and senior leaders; in presenting highly technical subjects in writing as well as orally to upper management or senior leaders in a compelling manner; in project management and multi-tasking would be an advantage.
  • Fluency in one of the two OECD official languages (English and French) and knowledge of the other, with a commitment to reach a good working level. Good knowledge of Spanish would be considered a strong advantage.
Core Competencies
  • For this role, the following competencies would be particularly important: Analytical thinking, Drafting skills, Flexible thinking, Teamwork, Diplomatic sensitivity, Strategic networking, and Strategic thinking.
  • Please refer to the level 3 indicators of the OECD Core Competencies.
Contract Duration
  • 12 month fixed term appointment, with the possibility of renewal.
  • Depending on level of experience, monthly salary starts at either 5,750 EUR or 7,095 EUR, plus allowances based on eligibility, exempt of French income tax.
 Please note that the appointment may be made at a lower grade based on the qualifications and professional experience of the selected applicant.
The OECD is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes the applications of all qualified candidates [who are nationals of OECD member countries, irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin, opinions or beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, health or disabilities.

The OECD promotes an optimal use of resources in order to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. Staff members are encouraged to actively contribute to this goal.


Source (and apply here): Job Description – Policy Analyst – Public Sector Reform (13032)


Systems Community of Inquiry is back up!
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.

#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 –

part two –
Complexity in health policy, part 2. Actions to take & responses to complex problems

part three –
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…

View original post 1,098 more words

#complexity, #cybernetics, #public, #systemsthinking

Google Plus (for consumers) shutdown | Oct. 8, 2018

The shutting down of one online venue for #systemsthinking on Google+ is inconvenient, yet a possibility that we have forseen.  In headlines, see:

The Systems Sciences community on Google+ at is still working, on the day after the announcement.

Gabriel Asata asked:

Any idea about how to maintain ourselves in contact and keep the production and publication of this community after Google+ shutdown?

… to which I responded …

The Systems Sciences community on Google+ should acknowledge that an open community for systems thinkers worldwide has been provided at no charge by Google, as a commercial enterprise, for many years.

In partnership with Benjamin Taylor, our community has been prepared for the possibility that Google+ might not persistent in a supporting such a platform. In January 2018, we partnered on the Systems Community of Inquiry stream at . This is an open collaboration site hosted on WordPress.COM that could be moved to an alternate provider, and is backed up on the Internet Archive (you can check at*/ ).

If you prefer to just receive headlines, syndicates to .

If you don’t like Twitter, and would like to experiment on an open source platform with a gradient of intimacy (i.e. like Google Circles), you might follow me (as an individual) at . If a critical mass of individuals sign up on that platform, perhaps we can encourage that open source platform to flourish.  (I’m also on Diaspora at , but haven’t seen much action there in the past 3 years).

This is part of a longer story, at ..

Since the original explorations in 2015, we can now see “The Federation refers to a global social network composed of nodes that talk to each other. Each of them is an installation of software which supports one of the federated social web protocols” at .  Here’s a snapshot of popularity at October 2018.

The Federation, Projects

Mastodon (which didn’t exist in 2015, as did Diaspora) now appears to have been growing in popularity.

#diaspora, #federated, #google-plus, #mastodon, #shutdown, #social-network

a bit more about this Systems Community of Inquiry and what’s posted here and what isn’t

My recent request (‘is anyone reading this’ – was posted on here and on the various social media I use. I got some good responses and thought now was a good time to provide a bit more info about my own sources and approach. More information about the site is at the bottom of this post.

I am obsessively interested in #systemsthinking, #systemschange, #systemleadership (and #systemsleadership) and all variations thereof. My sources come from google alerts,, twitter, the LinkedIn systems thinking network ( – though not systematically monitored), the systems thinking facebook groups at and, and also quite often from podcasts and many other email newsletters which I am signed up to. You’ll see many posts from complexity digest and from the systems studio newsletter – and

Laziness rules with my posting – I use the ‘press this’ wordpress applet to connect pages and content to wordpress for posting, put as much information and acknowledgement as I have time to do, then use to send them out through my linkedin and twitter feeds and the facebook groups. I no longer post to LinkedIn groups or my facebook profiles, as those social media saw fit to take away this functionality (the sort of reason why we moved this content here). Our twitter account at automatically tweets out each story.

I tend to be very inclusive, adding any systems thinking content I find that seems to have real content (that I can understand). There isn’t much I filter out – probably only the Derek Cabrera stuff, which is well covered elsewhere and with which I have some disagreements, the wilder shores of some ‘living systems’ stuff without any real content, the most technical complexity modelling stuff, and anything (that seems to me to be) utterly bonkers or incomprehensible, or repeat material without any real new content.

The intent is to put anything potentially useful here – for my part, this site is about making this contribution which I am in a position to do, and having it available openly. Anyone can curate, tag, comment, and add other content at any time, and everything is open an accessible.

More about the systems community of inquiry:

This site is partly a descendant of – you can see more of the history in this long post:
(Model report archive now hosted here at: (not all functionality works there)).

This site exists for anyone anywhere to post anything systems-thinking related and for anyone with the interest to read, share, and comment. To follow, enter your email or click to follow with wordpress on the right. To contribute, click ‘become a contributor’ above – you will need to register with wordpress.

More information is available at: