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SIG Session [clear filter]
Tuesday, August 4
 

16:30 CEST

Systems Research: How Do We Discover What We Need to Know, According to Whom, and for What Purpose?

The idea of the Anthropocene, an era in which human presence and behavior have become the most important factors of change on the Earth, increases long-standing questions about research.  How do we discover what we need to know according to whom and for what purpose? 

At a time in which the most troubling problems are often labeled as systemic (e.g. global financial relationships, environmental concerns, weather-related catastrophes, etc.) there is a need to reevaluate the ways in which we learn about and model the worlds in which we live. Increasingly, thought leaders recognize that critical thinking and positivistic approaches, while valuable, are insufficient to comprehensively and constructively address the most pressing issues of our time. It is not enough to diagnose problems through reductionist approaches. As the urgency of issues related to governing the Anthropocene becomes more prevalent, Systems Research is gaining increased attention across and beyond the Systems Sciences.

Most research is still judged by the tenants of traditional science, which include the isolation of variables in controlled settings, measurement and quantitative analyses of data, and extrapolation of findings to a wider universe (i.e. beyond the studied samples).  Qualitative research methods (including phenomenology, grounded theory, action research, and others) offer alternative approaches for studying humans, but are considered to be less rigorous than quantitative methods in many academic realms.  Methods such as System Dynamics attempt to capture relationships between variables, but are often limited (in this case, primarily to feedback between variables in the form of stocks and flows).

An equally challenging problem is the degree to which knowledge remains defined within long-standing disciplines, with little capacity for transcending those barriers.  At best, each discipline tends to project its own views and knowledge as somewhat universal principles. Most research is still judged by the tenants of traditional science, which include the isolation of variables in controlled settings, measurement and quantitative analyses of data, and extrapolation of findings to a wider universe (i.e. beyond the studied samples).  Qualitative research methods (including phenomenology, grounded theory, action research, and others) offer alternative approaches for studying humans, but are considered to be less rigorous than quantitative methods in many academic realms. 

Governing the Anthropocene requires not only systemic understanding but systemic leadership. Systems Research is part of a portfolio of systemic approaches to help leaders and stakeholders assess, design, develop, implement, and evaluate programs for effective governance of the Anthropocene.

At the IFSR Conversation (2014), an inquiry by a team of systemicists delved into questions related to the need, value, definition, and distinctions of Systems Research. The Systems Research Team’s (SRT) work focused on a compelling question, “What distinguishes Systems Research from other forms of research?” This question propelled the Conversation in multiple directions; however, two threads predominated – those that were divergent (e.g. the broad scope of the Systems Sciences) and those that were convergent (e.g. definition of rigorous research and modeling). As a result, the SRT’s Conversation began to scope out the breadth and depth of this subject. The SRT proposed a framework for examining several questions related to designing, developing, conducting, and evaluating Systems Research. Ultimately, the SRT proposed another compelling question for the future work of the SRT and the Systems community, “What can WE provide to enhance the quality and impact of Systems Research?”

To address this latter question, two additional provocative questions concerning Systems Research have emerged:

What is missing in current research approaches that systems approaches can bridge?

Why does it matter?

This presentation will address these questions by exploring the literature that has addressed the distinguishing dynamics of systemic approaches to research and problem solving. This retrospective will be the foundation for interactive dialogue with ISSS participants attending this session. The intention is to develop a leadership path for Systems Research and its role in more effective governance of the Anthropocene.


Moderators
avatar for Shankar Sankaran

Shankar Sankaran

Professor, University of Technology Sydney
Vice President Research and Publications, International Society for the Systems Sciences.SIG Chair: Action Research (see below for information)Shankar Sankaran specialises in project management, systems thinking and action research. He is a Core Member of a UTS Research Centre on... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Mary Edson

Mary Edson

President, maredson.s3@gmail.com
Mary Edson is President of the International Federation for Systems Research.  As a Scholar/Practitioner whose major interests are in Complex Adaptive Social Systems, she teaches courses in Executive Leadership, Strategic Project Management, and Talent Management including Diversity... Read More →
avatar for Gary Metcalf

Gary Metcalf

OS faculty, Saybrook University
President, International Federation for Systems ResearchGary S. Metcalf received a PhD in Human Science in 2000 at the Saybrook Graduate School. His doctoral research was conducted under the mentorship of Béla H. Bánáthy, focused on Social Systems Design and Organizational Development.Metcalf... Read More →


Tuesday August 4, 2015 16:30 - 17:00 CEST
Elk Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

17:00 CEST

Can We Use Maturana's Theory of Autopoiesis to Enhance Checkland's Soft Systems Methodology?

Amongst the systemic methodologies available to systems practitioners, Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is one of the most used problem structuring methods. However, some critics have argued that it has serious shortcomings particularly in the initial phases when SSM attempts to structure the situation and when deciding which areas of a problematic situation are deemed to be selected as relevant. Also, issues of power and dominance are left to the SSM practitioner’s own devises; the tools offered, e.g.: rich pictures and the three analyses are only sketched guidelines/models and in some cases not useful and arguable difficult to operationalise. Furthermore, during and after an SSM intervention, during  the process debating changes, when SSM advises to implement ‘culturally desirable’ and ‘systemically feasible’ changes offers the concept of “accommodation” a key and subtle feature of SSM , the researcher is left with a vague idea about as to how to use it, leaving a frustrating gap in the methodology.  

As it has widely reported in the management science and system literature, Soft Systems Methodology operates under what is called the interpretivism paradigm. The main tenets of this paradigm are that reality is complex; it is socially constructed; and a product of continues people’ interactions (interpretivist Ontology); also it assumes that the observer is not independent that is: a point of view (perspective) influences whatever is studied. Under this paradigm, the aim of any intervention is therefore to understand reality through interpretative process in which meaning is attributed (anti-positivist epistemology). No perspective exhausts the richness of reality or distorts the nature of things; each view is unitary not global.

While Checkland approach lies certainly in the interpretivist camp, the philosophical implications of Maturana work are more difficult to frame. Maturana theories of cognition imply certainly an antirealist ontological position. Epistemologically, he claims that the world as we experience (or constitute) is a subject depend and that that objective knowledge (or transcendental knowledge as he labels it) is impossible. For some commentators, his position is inconsistent and rather than confining him into the constructivism, he can be better understood as critical realist. For others his radical claims denying the existence of any independent reality (make him a candidate of radical constructivism. In this paper, and for the purposes of contrasting the two approaches and seeking synergies between them, we will adopt the most widely argument of placing him in the constructivism camp.

The work of Maturana and Varela  on the nature of living, the biological nature of cognition and knowledge have been having a far reaching influence on the systems and various others fields. It has been argued that Maturana’s ideas lean more to a constructivist paradigm.  We argue that SSM popularity and some reportedly shortcoming in its application seems to be a consequence of the interpretivism position, and we proposed to address this by bringing concepts developed around  Maturana’s theory of autopoiesis (ToA) and Biology of Cognition (BoC).

This paper attempts to address SSM limitations and attempts to enhance the above SSM applications, by exploring how two key concepts from Maturana’s ToA and BoC namely: (i) Structured-Determined Systems; and (ii) Organizational Closure might help to overcome the limitations and complement Checkland's SSM process. In this paper, we propose a SSM autopoietic framework in which the above concepts are grafted in the well-known SSM 7-steps. This is a work in progress work and in this paper, we present the framework together with a number of questions to reflect as a way to refine the model before using it in practice. We hope to use the model in a real world situation later on.

Keywords: Autopoiesis; SSM; Biology of Cognition; Accommodation; decision process


Moderators
avatar for Shankar Sankaran

Shankar Sankaran

Professor, University of Technology Sydney
Vice President Research and Publications, International Society for the Systems Sciences.SIG Chair: Action Research (see below for information)Shankar Sankaran specialises in project management, systems thinking and action research. He is a Core Member of a UTS Research Centre on... Read More →

Speakers
AP

Alberto Paucar-Caceres

Manchester Metropolitan University
ISSS Regular


Tuesday August 4, 2015 17:00 - 17:30 CEST
Elk Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

17:30 CEST

Method for Promoting ICT Engineering Safety

In this paper, a method is proposed for promoting ICT engineering safety learning from crisis management. The current majority of methodologies for ICT use reductionist approach (i.e. lack of holistic view). Therefore, we need more holistic methodologies to realize system safety, and system safety should include human factors. In particular, ICT engineering arena human factors play a crucial role in promoting ICT system safety. The Tokyo stock exchange was crushed on 1st of November 2005 by an operation error, which had a severe impact on the global. The human factors (operator error, maintenance engineers’ error, etc.) cause severe impact to not only ICT systems but also social systems (nuclear plant systems, transportation systems, etc.). A JR West train derailed and overturned on  25th April 2005 due to driver misconduct caused the loss of 106 passengers’ lives at Kyoto in Japan. The progress of ICT technologies (i.e., cloud, virtual and network technology) inevitably shifts ICT systems into complexity with tightly interacting domains. This trend places the human factors above other elements to promote safety more than ever. The emergent property interacting between ICT and human conduct should be dealt with in order to promote system safety. Crisis management treats holistic property over partial component. We introduce a human error framework to promote a holistic view to manage system failures. An application example of ICT human error exhibits the effectiveness of this methodology. 

Key words: Risk management; Crisis management; Normal accident theory (NAT); High Reliability Organization (HRO); Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

 



Tuesday August 4, 2015 17:30 - 18:00 CEST
Elk Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany