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Coevolving Innovations

... in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Updated: 2018-01-20T02:40:36Z


Multiparadigm Inquiry Generating Service Systems Thinking


Expanding pattern language to service systems through multiparadigm inquiry sweeps in research by scholars contemporaneous to Christopher Alexander.What if a pattern language was opened up to contemporaneous research into wicked problems, the systems approach, ecological epistemology, hierarchy theory, and interactive value?  This 30-minute presentation at Purplsoc 2017 last October aimed to provide a broader context to a social change community focused on works of Christopher Alexander. This talk was a complement to “Pattern Manual for Service Systems Thinking” presented a year earlier, at PUARL 2016.  Last year, the agenda was centered on the approach from Christopher Alexander, and divergences due to the changing in domain from the built environment to service systems. The slides on the Coevolving Commons are dense.  I had showed them at the poster session in the day preceding, and promised to spend more time speaking to them in the workshop scheduled for the next day. style="border: none;" src="" width="640" height="360"> For 2017, the view looked beyond Alexander, to related research both at Berkeley, and elsewhere in the systems community.  The agenda was in 3 major sections (here expanded with more detailed overview of the middle section): 1. What is multiparadigm inquiry? 2. Where have (and might have) (1960s-2010s) paradigms influenced generative pattern language? a. Over 50 years, Christopher Alexander and coauthors evolved concepts and language in built environments b. At Berkeley: Churchman, Rittel and Alexander taught in 1960-1970s i. “Systems Generating Systems”, Alexander (1968) ii. “The Systems Approach and Its Enemies”, (Churchman, 1979) iii. “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”, (Rittel + Weber, 1973) c. Architecture ~ problem-seeking. Design ~ problem-solving d. Wicked problems led to IBIS and argumentation schemes e. Systems approach led to assumption surfacing, postnormal science f. Pattern language has risen in agile, groups, public sphere g. Ecological epistemology led to interaction design + affordances h. Hierarchy theory led to panarchy and resilience science i. Interactive value is in the shift to a service economy 3. Why might a pattern language project or community pay more attention to its paradigm? The slides have now been matched up with the digital audio recording, for viewing as a web video. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> The classroom was acoustically favourable, and audio recordings are downloadable. Audio Digital audio (31m04s) [20171020_Purplsoc_Ing mp3] (29MB) [20171020_Purplsoc_Ing 3db mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 29MB) Downloadable video files may be better for devices that disconnect from the Internet. Video H.264 MP4 WebM Digital video (31m14s) [20171020 Purplsoc Ing HD  m4v] (HD 592Kbps 134MB) [20171020 Purplsoc Ing nHD m4v] (nHD 495Kkps 111MB) [20171020 Purplsoc Ing HD webm] (HD 430Kbps 96MB) [20171020 Purplsoc Ing nHD webm] (nHD 196Kbps 44MB) My speaking was rapid, covering a lot in 30 minutes.  For the more patient, the paper written for the proceedings may be easier to follow. Approaching service systems from a multiparadigm approach expands the relevant body of research for pattern language beyond the original domain in just built environments.   [...]

Christopher Alexander, Horst Rittel, C. West Churchman


Christopher Alexander (pattern languages), Horst Rittel (wicked problems) and C. West Churchman (the systems approach) were neighbours on campus at U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s and 1970s. What might we synthesize from their joint wisdom?At U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s, Christopher Alexander, Horst Rittel and C. West Churchman could have had lunch together.  While disciplinary thinking might lead novices to focus only on each of pattern language, wicked problems and the systems approach, there are ties (as well as domain-specific distinctions) between the schools. Circa 1968-1970: Christopher Alexander, Horst Rittel, West Churchman West Churchman joined Berkeley in 1957, and initiated master’s and doctoral programs in operations research at the School of Business Administration.   From 1964 to 1970, Churchman was associate director and research philosopher at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, directing its social sciences program.  After his retirement in 1981, Churchman taught in the Peace and Conflict Studies program for 13 years. Horst Rittel came to the Berkeley College of Environmental Design in 1963, the same year that dean William Wurster recruited Christopher Alexander.  In 1973, Rittel split his time between Berkeley and the architecture faculty at the University of Stuttgart, where he founded the Institut für Grundlagen der Planung. Christopher Alexander became a cofounder of the Center for Environmental Structure at Berkeley in 1967, gradually moving outside of the university by 2000. The tie between Churchman and Rittel are well-documented, in a 1967 article in Management Science. Professor Horst Rittel of the University of California Architecture Department has suggested in a recent seminar that the term “wicked problem” refer to that class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing. The adjective “wicked” is supposed the describe the mischievous and even evil quality of these problems, where proposed “solutions” often turn out to be worse than the symptoms. [p. B-141] This idea of “wicked problems” would eventually be published by Rittel and Webber in 1973. The ties between Christopher Alexander and West Churchman are more elusive, however.  In 1967, Alexander published “Systems Generating Systems” as part of an exhibit display.  In addition to the original article, Molly Steenson’s 2014 dissertation provided historical context.  In a Facebook discussion thread, Helene Finidori asked about where she might “find a synthetic critical view of Christopher Alexander’s work and it’s evolution, and potentially its contradictions too”.   I responded … David Ing (April 16, 2017, 6:46pm) If you’re looking for the “synthetic, critical view of Christopher Alexander’s work and its evolution”, you’ve now already read them. Both Steenson and I read the original documents (back to the formation of the Center for Environmental Structure), and have used the content. There may be a few details in my dissertation, but if you really want to get to that level of detail, you’ll have to do the ground work, too. The “critical” part is the challenge, as it requires that the criticism take an opposing position. My position is based on the pursuit of service systems thinking, which may or may not be your position. On “not so much about patterns themselves ….” Alexander doesn’t describe “pattern” as much as “pattern language”. This goes back to Notes on the Synthesis of Form, and then evolves from there. To catch the nuances, you’ll have to keep in mind that Alexander himself was learning the ideas, and what he wanted to say, so the words and meaning changed over time. Thus “quality without a n[...]

Open Innovation Learning and Open Data


Surfacing after months of dissertation-writing, an invitation to speak at an Open Data Häme freed up some ideas to potentially have more practical application.Making my dissertation relevant to non-academics calls for a change in style.  An invitation to speak at the Open Data Häme workshop, following announcement of funding by the European Regional Development Fund, gave a venue to unveil some normative theory-building from my research potentially useful in the real world. This talk was fewer slides, and more talk.  With 9 content slides to cover in about an hour, the agenda was: 1. Why does open data mean open sourcing (with commercial potential)? 2. When did open data begin? What’s the history? 3. How do behaviours change with open innovation learning? The slides had been posted on the Coevolving Commons in advance of the event. style="border: none;" src="" width="640" height="360"> The slides has now been matched up with the digital audio recording, for viewing as a web video.  Another voice in the mix is Minna Takala, as a Senior Advisor at Häme Regional Council. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The audio recording was exceptionally clear, and is downloadable (so boosted volume is probably unnecessary). Audio Digital audio (1h03m08s) [20170810_Hame_Ing mp3] (58MB) [20170810_Hame_Ing 3db mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 58MB) [20170810_Hame_Ing 6db mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 58MB) Alternatively, downloadable video files may be better for people on the move. Video H.264 MP4 WebM Digital video (1h03m08s) [Hame_Ing_HD  m4v] (HD 325Kbps 238MB) [20170810_Hame_Ing_nHD m4v] (nHD 109Kkps 97MB) [20170810_Hame_Ing webm] (HD 470Kbps 212MB) [20170810_Hame_Ing nHD webm] (nHD 177Kbps 80MB) The first part of the talk places open data in the larger context and trend towards the behaviour of open sourcing, and open innovation. Open sourcing enables visibility into system internals, in contrast with private sourcing that makes internals opaque.  The rise of open sourcing became more noticeable with the advent of open source licensing in software, but can generalized outside of technology with an example of raising and catching salmon. The second part of the talk extracts from the detailed context work in my dissertation.  Open data in government was first driven as a requirement from the EU, towards making economic reporting transparent.  Its popularity rose first in the UK, and then in the U.S.A. The third part of the talk described how open innovation (and open data) takes conscious action, rather than just happening overnight.  I skipped over three descriptive theories, to focus on three normative theories — towards the interest of “what do I do with this research?” The written dissertation is a formal scientific document that I expect only the truly diligent will ever read.  An approach of multiparadigm inquiry leads to even more esoteric philosophical distinctions, useful to the completists.  For the more typical person working in business and/or projects, my talks may be more accessible and understandable. [...]

Learning data science, hands-on


Collaborating for two days in the Quantitative Methodologies for Design Research (定量研究方法) course at Tongji University led to dealing with practical issues of technology and research design.For the Quantitative Methodologies for Design Research (定量研究方法) course for Ph.D. students at Tongji University in spring 2017, Susu Nousala invited me to join the team of instructors in collaborative education in Shanghai.  Experts were brought in during the course to guide the graduate students. My participation in the course over two days had three parts:  (a) preparing a lecture outline; (b) orienting the students; and (c) equipping the students with tools. (A) Preparing a lecture outline While I’m comfortable with the mathematics underlying statistical analysis, I have a lot of practical experience of working with business executives who aren’t.  Thus, my approach to working with data relies a lot on presentation graphics to defog the phenomena.  While the label of data science began to rise circa 2012, I’ve had the benefit of practical experience that predates that. AGSS: A Graphical Statistical System (1994) In my first professional assignment in IBM Canada in 1985, data science would have been called econometrics.  My work included forecasting country sales, based on price-performance indexes (from the mainframe, midrange and personal computer product divisions) and economic outlooks from Statistics Canada.  Two years before the Macintosh II would bring color to personal computing, I was an early adopter of GRAFSTAT: “An APL system for interactive scientific-engineering graphics and data analysis” developed at IBM Research.  This would eventually become an IBM program product by called AGSS (A Graphical Statistical System) by 1994. Metaphor Computer Systems workstation In 1988, I had an assignment where data science would have been called marketing science.  I was sent to California to work in the IBM partnership with Metaphor Computer Systems. This was a Xerox PARC spin-off with a vision that predated the first web page on the World Wide Web by a few years.  These activities led me into the TIMS Marketing Science Conference in 1990, cofounding the Canadian Centre for Marketing Information Technologies (C2MIT) and contributing chapters to The Marketing Information Revolution published in 1994. This journey led me to appreciate the selection and use of computer-based tools for quantitative analysis.  Today, the two leading platforms in “Data Science 101” are Python (a general purpose language with statistical libraries), and the R Project for Statistical Computing (a specialized package for data analysis and visualization).  Both are open source projects, and free to download and use on personal computers.  I tried both.  R is a higher level programming language more similar to the APL programming language that gets work done more quickly.  For statistical work, I recommend R over Python (although APL is a theoretically better implementation). Intro to R Programming, Big Data University, Feb. 22, 2017 Since I live in Toronto, I attended the February session of Data Science with R – Bootcamp in person, at Ryerson University.  There, I was watched Polong Lin leading a class through R using the Jupyter notebook, both in (i) an interactive version, and (ii) a printable version.  Students had the choice to either follow Polong (i) actively, in a step-by-step execution in the Cognitive Class Virtual Lab (formerly called the Data Scientist Workbench) with a cloud-based R session through their web browsers, or (ii) passively, reading the static printable content. Polong was helpful in guiding us with course resources that would be available in Shanghai.  In North America, we have with course materials, and as a cloud computing platform (that includes R and Python).  For China, there are parallel sites at bigdataun[...]

Innovation Learning and Open Sourcing: IoT + Cloud + Cognitive


A lecture involving contemporary technologies was presented for the theme of "New Developments of Systems Thinking: From IoT to AI" at the 10th International Symposium on Service Systems Science.The theme of “New Developments of Systems Thinking: From IoT to AI” at the Tenth International Symposium on Service Systems Science presented an opportunity to look at changes currently happening with contemporary technologies.  For a short talk, my agenda focused on three assertions: 1. Open innovation learning, through open sourcing while private sourcing, has grown from 2001 to become mainstream 2. Significant Internet of Things, cloud platforms and cognitive computing initiatives involve commercial and noncommercial contributors 3. Creators, makers and remixers should consciously choose and declare conditions for derivative works The relevance of the research for my dissertation (currently in review at Aalto University) became a frame for examining IoT, cloud and cognitive.  With both commercial and noncommercial contributors working alongside each other, content creators and makers should think ahead to conditions they wish to place on others who may derive from their works.  The previously posted slides on the Coevolving Commons have been synchronized with the digital audio recording. style="border: none;" src="" width="640" height="360"> The lecture and subsequent questions-and-answers are available online as web video. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> For those who just want to listen, downloadable audio files (some with digitally boosted volume) are an option. Audio Digital audio (51m38s) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_InnovationLearning mp3] (50MB) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_InnovationLearning_3db mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 50MB) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_InnovationLearning_6db mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 50MB) Alternatively, downloadable video files allow watching in disconnected mode. Video H.264 MP4 WebM March 8 (complete, 1h41m14s) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_HD_487Kbps m4v] (HD 487Kbps 186MB) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_nHD_197Kbps m4v] (nHD 197Kkps 76MB) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_HD_347Kbps webm] (HD 347Kbps 134MB) [20170329_TiTech_Ing_nHD_131Kbps webm] (nHD 131Kbps 51MB) The annual symposiums at Tokyo Tech, hosted by Kyoichi (Jim) Kijima and Hiroshi Deguchi, have been a continuing opportunity to share ideas on services systems science for a decade.  Maintaining relevance with contemporaneous issues is an opportunity to mutually stretch the boundaries of our collective knowledge. [...]

Acts of representation with systems thinking (OCADU 2017/03)


Web video and audio from lectures from the March 8 and 9 sessions of OCADU Strategic Foresight and Innovation sessions are available to complement the slides previously posted.For the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University, the lecture slides were the same for both the full-time cohort on March 8 and part-time cohort on March 9, while the oral presentation varied.  The target, in about 90 minutes, was to cover at least 4 of 5 sections, from: 1. Architecting designing 2. Service systems ← production systems 3. Affordances pattern language 4. Ecological anthropology ← teleology 5. Inquiring systems methods The students were alerted that some of the arrows in the section headings were double-headed, and some were single-headed — with specific meanings.  For each day, the classroom audio was recorded.  That digital audio has now been synchronized with slides that had previously been posted on the Coevolving Commons. style="border: none;" src="" width="640" height="360"> This session was #8 of 15 lectures for the OCADU SFI students.  They had already done some basic reading on systems approaches.  Since they were working towards a Major Research Project (a lighter weight form of a thesis) for their Master of Design degree, my overall agenda for this lecture was to have them reflect on acts of representation.   Systems have already been represented to them in a variety of forms:  textually, orally and visually.  For their Major Research Projects, they would be creating detailed representations, as ways of having their audience appreciate the in-depth study of the world and issues selected for the term. The recordings of the lecture and students’ questions are available online as web videos in a playlist. On March 8, the full-time students were on a pacing more attentive to time.  The audio, with synchronized slides, runs 1 hour and 41 minutes. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> On March 9, the part-time students asked more questions so a break was taken after covering the first three sections, at 1 hour and 27 minutes. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The concluding 42 minutes of March 9 covered the fourth section, and jumped over most of the fifth section. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Mobile listeners may prefer an audio file downloadable on a device.  Some versions with digitally boosted volume are provided. Audio March 8 (complete, 1h41m) [20170308_0840_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking.mp3] (93MB) [20170308_0840_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 93MB) [20170308_0840_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_6db.mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 93MB) March 9 (part 1 of 2, 1h27m) [20170309_0840_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking.mp3] (80MB) [20170309_0840_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 80MB) [20170309_0840_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_6db.mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 80MB) March 9 (part 2 of 2, 0h42m) [20170309_1030_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking.mp3] (39MB) [20170309_1030_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 39MB) [20170309_1030_OCADU_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_6db.mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 39MB) On long journeys, downloadable video files with slides may provide a richer experience. Video H.264 MP4 WebM March 8 (complete, 1h41m14s) [20170308_0840_OCADU_Ing HD m4v] (HD 579Kbps 439MB) [20170308_0840_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v] (nHD 142Kkps 108MB) [20170308_0840_[...]

Service Systems Thinking, with Generative Pattern Language (Metropolia 2016/12)


A 3-hour class was an opportunity to have students appreciate generative pattern language more concretely, and to collaborate on initially writing some examples.Teaching methods in a master’s class is different from lecturing on theory.  There’s more emphasis on how, with why subsequently provided as the need for that arises.  Since I had given a dense 20-minute theoretical talk in the month earlier, the invitation from Satu Teerikangas to the program in International Service Business Management was an opportunity to stretch out at a more leisurely pace with students, as they’re preparing for thesis work. The 3 hours class was conducted in parts: (A) Introductory lecturing for 85 minutes on … 1. Architecting versus designing 2. Alexandrian example → services (B) Faciliated learning, for 55 minutes, with an … 3. Exercise:  trying out pattern language (C) Contextual lecturing for 23 minutes, on … 4. Systems thinking + service systems 5. Ignorance and errors The classroom interaction was recorded in audio, and is complemented by slides that had been posted on the Coevolving Commons. For people who prefer the real-time experience of being in a classroom, video and audio are provided, below. (A) Introductory lecturing Covering the first 17 slides took 85 minutes.  While the students in Finland are fluent in English, speaking slower aids comprehension.  Satu had invited a teacher observer to watch my style in class.  Afterwards, she remarked on my impromptu telling of a joke about ham and eggs, which is known as a fable on the chicken and the pig.  To be more precise on this story, here’s a better-researched version of the original by Bennett Cerf, published in many American newspapers in October 1964, syndicated by King Features. A pig and a chicken, alleges W. R. Grady, were promenading down a Fort Worth thoroughfare when the chicken suddenly proposed, “Let’s stop in at yonder beanery and eat some ham and eggs.” “A thoughtless and repugnant suggestion,” was the pig’s reaction. “Kindly remember that for you a dish of that sort is a mere contribution. For me it means a total commitment.” When I am in person and able to see the eyes of students, I sometimes pause for listeners to catch up, or climb down the ladder of abstraction.   Here are audio recordings, synchronized with slides. width="800" height="450" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The video is #1 of 2 available on Youtube.  Alternatively, listeners on the move may prefer a downloadable version. Audio [20161202_0910_Metropolia_Ing_S2TPatternLanguage.mp3] (82MB, 1h24m59s) [20161202_0910_Metropolia_Ing_S2TPatternLanguage_3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 82MB, 1h24m59s) [20161202_0910_Metropolia_Ing_S2TPatternLanguage_6db.mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 82MB, 1h24m59s) Video HD (1h24m59s) H.264 MP4 [1280×720 306Kbps m4v] (262MB) [1280×720 310Kbps m4v] (285MB) WebM [1280×720 105Kbps webm] (139MB) [1280×720 826Kbps webm] (639MB) A break from the lecture was taken as coffee arrived. (B) Faciliated learning To try out the activity of creating a pattern language, I guided students through understanding the form presented on slide 17.  Here’s what they saw on the big screen. (i) Pattern label An interaction phrased as a present participle (ii) Voices on issues (who and what) Archetypal roles of stakeholders, with concerns and interests posed as questions (iii) Affording value(s) (how and why) Objects and/or events that enable modes of practised capacities for independent or mutual action (iv) Spatio-temporal frames (where and when) Occasions at which dwelling in issues and affordances are salient and at hand (v) Containing systems (slower[...]

Pattern Manual for Service Systems Thinking


At the PUARL Conference 2016, a short presentation was made on a position paper on a pattern language for service systems thinking, submitted to the proceedings.At the PUARL Conference 2016, a proposal was made on adapting pattern language for service systems thinking.  In 1967, Christopher Alexander published Pattern Manual at the founding of the Center for Environmental Structure, describing a pattern format for physical built environments.  While we can learn a lot from the nearly 50 years work originating at the CES, service systems have features beyond physicality that suggest reconsidering some of the foundations of pattern language. An article for discussion was accepted into the proceedings for the PUARL conference.  The 20-minute presentation quickly covered the following topics: 1. Pattern Manual 1967 + Service Systems 2. Alexandrian example → services 3. Methods clarified since 1973 4. A new format:  amplifying, rephilosophizing, reinterpreting prior doxa 5. Generating and legitimizing in communities Slides have been added over the audio recording to produce a video presentation. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Audio [20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T.mp3] (20MB, 20m19s) [20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T_3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 20MB, 20m19s) [20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T_6db.mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 20MB, 20m19s) Video HD (20m19s) H.264 MP4 [1280×720 384Kbps m4v] (70MB) [1280×720 5000Kbps m4v] (76MB) WebM [1280×720 110Kbps webm] (34MB) [1280×720 826Kbps webm] (153MB) For people who prefer visuals at their own pace, the slides are posted on the Coevolving Commons.  The video is available on Youtube. Here’s the officially published abstract: What is properly required to take the learning on generative pattern languages from the built environment and software development communities, to a world of service system thinking? This position paper winds back to early days of Center for Environmental Studies, and presents an alternative view on the 1968 Multi-Service Center work, informed by 21st century developments in service systems science. The conventional format for a pattern language has settled into a three-part rule of relations between context, problem and solution. An alternative format of (i) voices on issues (who + what), (ii) affording value(s) (how + why), and (iii) spatio-temporal frames (where + when) is proposed, with a straw man example. Methods from the 1985 Eishin campus project, published in 2012, are compared against practices that have become common in agile development. The conceptual shifts from built environment to service systems thinking are expressed as (i) amplifications, (ii) rephilosophizations, and (iii) reinterpretations. The generation and legitimization of pattern languages is considered across a community, with a shift from publishing in books on paper to collaborating with online technologies such as wiki. At the 2014 PLoP and the 2015 PURPLSOC conferences, the idea of extending the pattern language for environment structure into a new domain of service systems thinking was introduced. In 2016, this idea has been further developed as a baseline for further discussion Following on from the presentation at Purplsoc in July 2015, and he article revised for the proceedings of PLoP 2014,  I’m looking forward to opportunities to discuss these ideas further. [...]

Curriculum Making for Trito Learning


The presentation at RSD5 by David Ing and Susu Nousala is available as streaming video, downloadable video and audio, and printable slides.Slides and audio of our joint talk at the RSD5 Symposium on the experiences and learning about leading systems thinking courses are now available. Over five years, the Creative Sustainability program evolved from pilot into full practice with a series of courses.  In reflection, the course instructors better learned how to guide students through teaming, mindset, methods and theory. The presentation is titled “Curriculum Making for Trito Learning: Wayfaring along a meshwork of systems thinking”.  With such a dense title for the Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium, our aim was to explain what those chosen words meant. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Audio [20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito.mp3] (29MB, 29m44s) [20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito_3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 29MB, 29m44s) [20161015_RSD5_Ing_Nousala_CurriculumMakingTrito6db.mp3] (volume boosted 6db, 29MB, 29m44s) Video HD (29m44s) H.264 MP4 [1280×720 384Kbps m4v] (89MB) [1280×720 5000Kbps m4v] (96MB) WebM [1280×720 279Kbps webm] (89MB) [1280×720 384Kbps webm] (197MB) The streaming media adds the slides to the audio presentation.  In person, in Toronto, we had two instructors from the course speaking: David Ing and Susu Nousala. Here’s the officially published abstract: In winter 2016, the Systems Thinking 2 course in the Creative Sustainability (CS) program at Aalto University was led by one of the original curriculum developers from 2010. Over five years, the core CS curriculum had evolved, allowing the level of learning amongst student to advance to a higher level. While this winter 2016 cohort of students was challenged by the intensiveness of the course, satisfaction in the learning appeared to be high. Following the phenomenological ecological practice theory of Tim Ingold, curriculum making should not be framed primarily as a transmission of information, but instead as a togethering environment where knowledge reproduces amongst the learners. Becoming an authentic systems thinker has each individual progressing on a unique line, wayfaring through an education of attention. Each learner builds on his or her distinct prior experience to stake a position on new ideas, observe the positions of others, and describe a new synthesis in a meshwork of knowledge. The Systems Thinking 2 course was launched with a orientation where students groups were given 3 weeks to digest references into a group position. Each group then guided classmates through ideas that resonated for them, often amplified through metaphorical stories and exercises. Challenge groups inquired on the positions staked, surfacing deeper questions in dialectic. Each student was then to write a short blog post within a day or two on his or her learning, encouraged on public online web sites where the instructor would comment. Concluding the course, the student groups each prepared an infographic highlighting the most salient content not just of their original positions, but of their appreciation of systems thinking across all they had heard within the past three weeks. In the logical categories developed by Gregory Bateson, the value of Systems Thinking 2 is in elevating students to becoming trito learners, beyond the levels of proto learning and deutero learning in the prior core courses. These skills are expected to help reduce the commission of errors of the third kind (E3) and fourth kind (E4), in a meta-system of inquiry described by Ian Mitroff. Patricia Kambitsch created a sketchnote during the presentation. For people who prefer visuals at their own [...]

Some Future Paths for Design Professionals: DesignX and Systemic Design


At RSD5 on October 13, 2016, a preconference workshop on "Sketching Some Future Paths for Design Professionals: DesignX and Systemic Design" led to conversations that produced some initial artifacts.Design professionals were attracted at the RSD5 (Relating Systems Thinking and Design) Symposium to a preconference workshop on October 13 at OCADU in Toronto, with the following abstract: Since 2014, an international collaborative of design leaders has been exploring ways in which methods can be augmented, transitioning from the heritage legacy focus on products and services towards a broad range of complex sociotechnical systems and contemporary societal problems issues. At last year’s RSD4 Symposium, DesignX founder Don Norman presented a keynote talk on the frontiers of design practice and necessity for advanced design education for highly complex sociotechnical problems. He identified the qualities of these systems as relevant to DesignX problems, and called for systemics, transdisciplinarity and the need for high-quality observations (or evidence) in design problems.   Initial directions found were proposed in the first DesignX workshop in October 2015, which have been published in the new design journal She Ji.  In October 2016, another DesignX workshop will be held at Tongji University in Shanghai, overlapping with the timing of the RSD5 Symposium. We propose to sustain the relationships between RSD and DesignX with this RSD5 half-day workshop, to explore the relationships between systemic design, existing educational programs and the DesignX agenda. We invite RSD participants engaged in both of these contexts to join in a collaborative discussion aimed at further developing the design and education agendas in these discourse communities. We aim to capture experiences and insights from design leaders, educators and practitioners in Toronto, as input, validation and/or suggestions for further development of the DesignX direction. The morning started with 26 participants, who were briefed on the context for discussion, and given some instructions on a suggested approach. The participants broke up into 5 groups for an open discussion over 90 minutes, and then gave brief verbal recaps supported by flipcharts on which that had collaborated.  For the impatient, here are some initial summaries expressing voices on emergent issues, that may serve as a basis for further inquiry. Group 1‘s discussion centered on social designers: For a design professional, what can a community of practice do to develop our roles as social leaders on multidisciplinary teams for change? Group 2‘s discussion centered on design educators: For a design educator, what specialized expertise requires preparatory knowledge and practices enable participants (citizens) to engage and lead transformations extended from the lab and studio to the arena and agora? Group 3‘s discussion centered on designers working in policy: For designers working in policy, what can and should they do that others can’t do? Group 4‘s discussion centered on designers engaged with stakeholders: For designers engaged with stakeholders (customers to planet), what are the value(s) associated with the products and services cocreated in the bigger system? Group 5‘s discussion centered on design learners: For design learners, what is the best way to continue ongoing learning with real life that includes learning by failing? Comments on refining these questions are welcomed at the foot of this post, or through private communications. Context Susu Nousala chaired the workshop.  The agenda was to explore together what people know, think, feel and experience about the field of design in relation to the DesignX and Systemic Design initiatives.  On the wall was a shrub (initially envisioned[...]

My failed relationship with Windows (10)


My relationship with Microsoft Windows has been like a girlfriend who doesn't always respect me.Dear Microsoft: After a 4-year separation with Windows 7, the constructive divorce that you’ve set for Windows 10 on July 29, 2016 will come into force.  I’ve just spent 30 hours trying to make things work.  I know that Lenovo says that the Windows 10 upgrade should work, but we’re spending so little time together that I don’t have energy to keep fighting. We never really got married.  There was a time that I was spending up to 12 hours per day with you.  Our relationship has a long history: 1. Courtship (1992-1996) 2. Shotgun wedding (1996-2008) 3. Open relationship (2008-2012) 4. Separation (2012-2016) 5. Divorce (2016) Over the past few days, the messages you’ve been giving me have been more than frustrating. On the Thinkpad X200, you told me “We couldn’t install Windows 10”,  and “0xC1900101 – 0x20017 The installation failed in the SAFE_OS phase with an error during BOOT operation” five times over 24 hours. The BIOS is up to date and antivirus was removed.  I tried with both the automated installation and Media Creation Tool on USB, both with and without the online updates.  There were also long “Checking for update” delays, where I had to intervene. Maybe upgrading on older Core 2 Duo Penryn computer isn’t worthwhile.  I then turned my newer computer, a Core i7 Ivy Bridge. Trying on the Thinkpad X230 Tablet, you told me “Something happened”.  “Sorry, we have having trouble determining if your PC can run Windows 10”.  This computer is on the “Lenovo supported systems list for Windows 10 Upgrade“, so is the trouble my fault or your fault? You led me to the Windows Update Troubleshooter, which found that the “Service Registration is missing or corrupt”.  The automated install didn’t fix everything, so I spent 15 minutes copying-and-pasting commands manually into a terminal window.  Thanks, that fixed the Service Registration problem. However the “Something happened” message is unchanged. I’m not new to intense relationships.  I have to admit to not being fully committed to Microsoft for some decades. 1. Courtship (1992-1996)  From 1985, I was a mainframe computer guy (VM/CMS).  By 1986, the PC revolution led to connecting to IBM VNET through PC-DOS 3.3. In 1988, I got a taste of the future as one of the first working with Metaphor Computer Systems, predating the PowerPC Macintosh computers from Apple.  I bought into the Taligent vision from 1992 (around the same time that NeXTSTEP was being developed). By 1992, the OS/2 32-bit version had debuted, in addition to Workplace Shell, I could work with Windows 3.1.  I preferred “Windows 3.1 on OS/2” over “Windows 3.1 on DOS”, and both could get along. 2. Shotgun wedding (1996-2008) The demise of OS/2 by 1996 led IBM to internally adopt Windows 95.  From there, the rise of Windows XP in 2001 led to automated installations through the ISSI (IBM Standard Software Installer).  Like most people in the world, I became a user of Microsoft Office 97, XP and 2000.  I didn’t have to worry about the operating system, because there was a central help desk supporting 30,000 employees on the same platform. 3. Open relationship (2008-2012) With Windows XP ending sales in 2008, I hedged my bets by easing over to open software platforms.  With IBM offering an Open Client for Linux, I could configure an option to switch back and forth between Windows XP and Red Hat Enterprise Linux on a dual-booting computer.  By 2010, the introduction of the Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx release to the Open Client for Debian Community opened u[...]

Systems Coevolving: Sciences, Service, Smarter, Cognitive


A lecture for the Urban Systems course at Aalto University led to tracing the history before Smarter Cities, and some recent directions.Video and audio recordings of my lecture for the Urban Systems course at Aalto University in February have now been produced.  While I was in Finland teaching in another department, I was asked to lecture on Smarter Cities. Here’s the abstract that was sent in advance: The popularization of the Smarter Cities movement coincided with IBM’s campaign originating from 2009. The Smarter Cities ideas was an outgrowth from the Smarter Planet initiatives, which had emerged from the IBM Global Innovation Outlooks beginning in 2004. This speaker was a consultant at IBM involved in Smarter Cities engagements, while simultanously conducing research into Service Systems Science. The evolution of ideas both outside and inside IBM are reviewed, through a history of (i) systems sciences; (ii) service science, management, engineering and design (SSMED), (iii) service systems science; and (iv) smarter planet and smarter cities. Looking forward, the prospects for the (v) cognitive era and a (vi) service systems thinking is outlined. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Audio [20160210_Aalto_UrbanSystems_Ing_SystemsCoevolving.mp3] (79MB, 1h22m24s) [20160210_Aalto_UrbanSystems_Ing_SystemsCoevolving_plus3db.mp3] (volume boosted 3db, 79MB, 1h22m24s) Video HD (1h22m09s) H.264 MP4 [1280×720 417Kbps m4v] (270MB) [1280×720 3779Kbps m4v] (2.3GB) WebM [1280×720 316Kbps webm] (270MB) [1280×720 3604Kbps m4v] (2.4GB) As a quicker reference, the slides may be useful if fast-forwarding to a specific section is desired. The slides are available on the Coevolving Commons.  The video is available at on Youtube. [...]

Eight infographics from “Systems Thinking 2” (2016)


Infographics were created by eight groups in the Systems Thinking 2 course in the Master's Programme in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.Concluding 3 intensive weeks of content immersion, eight student groups created infographics of the ideas that resonated with them from the “Systems Thinking 2” class in the Creative Sustainability program at Aalto University.  Each group had been given 3 weeks in advance to prepare content to lead a learning discussion, staking a position on a list of references.  As students participated in the intensive sessions, the broader contexts reshaped those positions into a broader appreciation of the breadth of systems thinking. The initial positions and concluding syntheses were: 1. Appreciative systems, futures → Into the Future with Systems Thinking 2. Boundary, inquiry, perspectives → Systems thinking — synthesis 3. Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance → Systems Thinking from learning and knowledge making perspective 4. Dialogue, engagement, intervention → Systems thinking from a dialogue perspective 5. Ecosystems, collapse, resilience → What is the purpose of understanding the differentiation between complexity and complicatedness in systems thinking 6. Coevolution, turbulence, anticipatory systems → Anticipatory systems, turbulence and coevolution 7. Living systems, viable systems, metabolism → How to make STEW (Systems Thinking Endless Wisdom) 8. Social-ecological systems, regime shifts → Systems? No problem! The ending infographics represent a synthesis of the content from the course, each group having traced a different path. To rebalance team sizes, a few individuals migrated to a different group.  Some anchored more on the content they had led, while others chose to strengthen linkages to other ideas. 1. Appreciative systems, futures → Into the Future with Systems Thinking Group 1 read through a cluster of references on appreciative systems and futures and a map of the basic ideas to produce a presentation slide set. The concluding infographic by Fahimeh Foutouhi, Petra Tammisto, Riikka Ikonen, Marta Jaakkola and Anna Muukkonen additionally swept in dialogues, learning, social ecological systems, complex systems and anticipatory systems. See the Into the Future with Systems Thinking infographic as 900px width or as 600px width. 2. Boundary, inquiry, perspectives → Systems thinking — synthesis Group 2 worked through a cluster of references on boundary, inquiry and perspectives and a map of the basic ideas to produce a presentation slide set. The concluding infographic by Miguel Fonseca, Annina Lattu and Jennifer Pitkänen put a higher emphasis on learning (a cluster of references led by Group 3), wrapping in ideas of resilience, turbulence, anticipatory systems on top the content for which they were primarily responsible. See the Systems thinking — synthesis infographic as 900px width or as 600px width. 3. Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance → Systems Thinking from learning and knowledge making perspective Group 3 focused on a cluster of references on learning categories, postnormal science and ignorance and a map of the basic ideas to produce a presentation slide set. The concluding infographic by Emma Berg, Melanie Wolowiec and Lilli Mäkelä added in participation, judgement and anticipation, with larger contexts of cultural systems and biotic systems.  Additionally, they charted a reference timeline of the articles from the course depicting the importance of the content longitudinally. See the Systems Thinking from learning and knowledge making perspective infographic as 900px width or as 600px width. 4.[...]

Education of the average Canadian worker and the Fourth Industrial Revolution


An interview question at the World Economic Forum by Fareed Zacharia, asked of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, led to looking into Canadian educational attainment and prospects for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.The average Canadian worker has (at least) some college or university education.  This fact is counter to presumptions in a question on the first day at the World Economic Forum by Fareed Zacharia, in an interview with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  Zacharia asked: What do you say to the average worker in Canada, who may not have a fancy college degree — and I’m thinking about the average worker in America or in Europe, as well — who looks out at this world and says “I don’t see what globalization is doing for me.  The jobs are going to South Korea and China and Vietnam and India.  Technology is great, but I can’t afford the new iPad Pro, and more importantly, this technology means that it increasinly makes me less valuable.  Why shouldn’t I be angry and involved the politics of progress?” The response by Trudeau spoke to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the theme of the Davos conference.  He didn’t actually respond to the presumption on education. In a national picture of educational attainment: In 2012, about 53.6% of Canadians aged 15 and over had trade certificates, college diplomas and university degrees. This was an increase of 20.9 percentage points since 1990. Learning – Educational Attainment, Employment and Social Development Canada … says “The Indicators of Well-Being in Canada (2016)“, by Employment and Social Development Canada. In the Economic Indicators for Canada, Between 1999 and 2009, the proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education in Canada increased from 39% to 50%. In 2009, Canada had the highest proportion of the adult population with tertiary education among all reporting member countries of the OECD. By comparison, the 2009 OECD average was 30%. Population aged 24 to 64 with college or university education and their employment rate, Canada, provinces and territories, and selected OECD countries 2009 … says Statistics Canada in “Educational Attainment and Employment: Canada in an International Context (February 2012)“. If there’s going to be another industrial revolution, an educated population should be better positioned for it.  What’s the fourth industrial revolution?  The World Economic Forum describes “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond“: The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Navigating the next industrial revolution Revolution Year Information 1 1784 Steam, water, mechanical production equipment 2 1870 Division of labour, electricity, mass production 3 1969 Electronics, IT, automated production 4 ? Cyber-physical systems There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponent[...]

Systems Thinking 2 course, Aalto University, February 2016


The course outlines and maps for Systems Thinking 2, a course in the Master's Program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, is available on the open web for sharing.As part of the Master’s Program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, I’ll be in Finland for 3 weeks in February, as an instructor.  I’m doing this as a favour for Katri Pulkkinen, who has been teaching the course since 2010, and felt that she needed some extra time to work on her Ph.D. dissertation. Systems Thinking 2 follows in a series of compulsory courses, each with specified learning outcomes: Creative Teamwork: “The course focuses on working methods co-operation practices within the studies and the professional field of sustainability”. Creating the Mindset of Sustainable Societies: “To create the common ground of sustainability studies and to learn to deal with different scopes of sustainability concept in complex environments. Understanding mindsets and sustainable societies: what this means in political, governmental, business, organizational, individual and groups/community levels”. Systems Thinking 1: “Learning the basics of the systems thinking approach in the context of sustainability. The students who have participated actively in the intensive course will be able to use the basic vocabulary and concepts of the systems thinking approach. The students also develop their skills in working and presenting ideas in multi-disciplinary teams”. Systems Thinking 2: “Learning how systems thinking can be applied in questions of sustainability in different fields. During this intensive course, the students familiarize themselves with different ways of using the systems approach to tackle problematic situations. The aim is to understand both the versatility of the systems approach and the importance of choosing the right systems tools for each case. The students learn to interpret and present systems thinking ideas and to apply them to their own field”. The official content of the course is delivered in intensive sessions: During this intensive course, the students study materials from different sources and make presentations to the course, using a peer learning method. The reading materials cover several ideas of systems thinking applications. The intensive course consists of 4-5 days of lectures, team work and presentations, and individual learning diary and a final essay. On January 12, my colleagues Susu Nousala and Glen Forde launched the course in a 2-hour session with orientation materials.  The course content is available on the open Internet at, and has been evolving over the past week. The 25 students have been organized into 8 groups.  Each group is preparing to stake a position on a research reference cluster, to lead an hour discussion for the class.  The systems concepts have been specified as: Cluster 1:  Appreciative systems, futures Cluster 2:  Boundary, inquiry, perspectives Cluster 3:  Learning categories, postnormal science Cluster 4:  Dialogue, engagement, intervention Cluster 5:  Ecosystems, collapse, resilience Cluster 6:  Coevolution, turbulence, anticipatory systems Cluster 7:  Living systems, viable systems, metabolism Cluster 8:  Social-ecological systems, regime shifts After the lead group has staked its position, the discussion will continue with two additional groups challenging the presentation that they’ve just seen. The list of research references is large.  The intent of the course is not that everyone should read everything, but instead that much of the sensemaking will occur during t[...]

Synergy, parts, wholes


The common understanding of synergy, related to a whole being more than the sum of its parts, could benefit by some deeper thinking.Synergy is a term that is sometimes used by laymen that could use some more clarification.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines synergy as: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects: ‘the synergy between artist and record company’ Origin: Mid 19th century: from Greek sunergos ‘working together’, from sun- ‘together’ + ergon ‘work’. A common understanding is that synergy means that “a whole that is more than the sum of its parts”.  Since I’ve said that “Systems thinking is a perspective on parts, wholes, and their relations”, a richer appreciation may come through working through a selective history on parts and wholes.  Let’s step through: 1. Wholes as composites differentiating from mechanical addition (Smuts 1926) 2. Gestalt psychology “different from” and “something else than” (Koffka 1935) 3. Levels as “hierarchization” or “progressive organization (or individualization)” (von Bertalanffy 1932-1949 via Drack 2009) 4. Normative model of work group synergy (Hackman 1987) 5. Logical type in hierarchy theory (Allen 2008) A challenge in appreciating a whole is: what is meant by more than?  In addition, is there a possibility for a whole to be less than the sum of its parts?  The formalization of systems theory (in the modern sense) didn’t really rise until the 1950s, so rather than going back to ancient Greek philosophers, let’s start in the 20th century. 1. Wholes as composites differentiating from mechanical addition (Smuts 1926) Holism was coined as a term in the 1920s.  Jan Smuts was an amateur botanist, better known as a statesman, soldier and prime minister (1919-1924, 1939-1948) of South Africa.  The Encyclopedia Britannica writes: Until he went to school at the age of 12, Smuts lived the life of a South African farm boy, taking his share in the work of the farm, learning from nature, and developing a life-long love of the land. Many years later, when asked by an American botanist why he, a general, should be an authority on grasses, Smuts replied, “But my dear lady, I am only a general in my spare time.” Smuts’ career in politics and passion for botany shows up in appreciating a whole as more than mechanism.  In the 1926 book Holism and Evolution, he wrote: The whole is not a mere mechanical system. It consists indeed of parts, but it is more than the sum of its parts, which a purely mechanical system necessarily is. The essence of a mechanical system is the absence of all inwardness, of all inner tendencies and relations and activities of the system or its parts. [….] A whole, which is more than the sum of its parts, has something internal, some inwardness of structure and function, some specific inner relations, some internality of character or nature, which constitutes that more. And it is for us in this inquiry to try to elucidate what that more is. The point to grasp at this stage is that, while the mechanical theory assumes only external action as alone capable of mathematical treatment, and banishes all inner action, relation or function, the theory of the whole, on the contrary, is based on the assumption that in addition to external action between bodies, there is also an additional interior element or action of bodies which are wholes, and that this element or action is of a[...]

Intellectual virtues; architectural programming; agile delivery and action research


A lecture for a service science class at the iSchool at University of Toronto used a slide deck recently prepared for presentation in Finland, but started at a different point with a philosophical emphasis.For a class on Service Science at the U. of Toronto iSchool Master of Information program,  Kelly Lyons granted me the luxury of 2 hours of time.  In a relatively small classroom, she asked me to enable more interaction with the students.  With an orientation more towards theory in service science, I decided to use the slides for “Service Systems Thinking: An Introduction” that I had presented earlier in the month in Finland, but to start in a different place.  Thus, the lecture began in part 6, with three topics: 6.1 Intellectual virtues 6.2 Architectural programming 6.3 Agile delivery, action research This discussion opened with science as episteme, techne and phronesis.  The context of architectural programming as problem seeking opened up a conversation about what researchers and practitioners are doing with service science.  Towards concreteness in methods, the transition from structured methods to agile development was compared with action research. Here are audio recordings of the lecture, in two parts.  (Video is so much more work!) Part 1 Audio [20151026_1830_UToronto_Ing_IntroServiceSystemsThinking_1.MP3] (67MB, 1h09m57s) Part 2 Audio [20151026_1950_UToronto_Ing_IntroServiceSystemsThinking_2.MP3] (43MB, 44m47s) After the philosophical introduction, circling back to the beginning of the slide deck placed more emphasis on understanding the perspective of bringing systems thinking into service science.  We then rolled through content that has been (or will be covered) in the course, from a different orientation. In the audio, there’s some banter back and forth with Kelly Lyons, who has been active in service science since its beginning.  While she paces students through content over a semester, I unfortunately only lecture occasionally at universities, so I cover a lot of ground.  Making digital recordings available is a favour for listeners who prefer to use a pause button to think and reflect. [...]

Negotiating order with a GPS


A morning commute through rush hour Toronto traffic led to reflections on negotiating order with the environment.This morning, I had a low stress commute through rush hour Toronto traffic. I programmed my GPS navigator, and then mostly decided against its recommendations. My commute time yesterday was about 75 minutes, following the GPS recommendations. Today, the drive was about 60 minutes, using the GPS as a lookahead map of unfamiliar streets, including a serendipitous circumnavigation of a park that I hadn’t previously known. Negotiating order is a way of governing where one or more parties engage with the environment to coordinate action. An alternative way of governing is social contracting towards legal order (or rules-based order), where parties delegate the directions and constraints of social activity to some (higher) authority, and accede to conditions then pre-established. Self-organizing is another way of describing negotiating order. A contractualist perspective sees parties engaging in mutual benefit schemes, towards achieving some outcomes that they can not achieve on their own. The congestion of rush hour traffic is a familiar experience for people in cities. Toronto has a record with the highest Commuter Pain Index in the world. How does a GPS (or possibility one of the future autonomous car) impact the decision on routes for a long commute? The conventional path from downtown Toronto to Markham is north and then east. An alternative path through arterial city streets is east and then north. The conventional path is a highway typically clear for the first 10 minutes, placing the driver into a congestion trap. When the driver gets sufficiently frustrated, he or she will attempt a diversion to an alternative road off the limited access highway. Unfortunately, that diversion may also be selected by other drivers, so the pain gets distributed not only to people on the main highway, but also onto all of the nearby arterial roads. An alternative path, when navigating (mostly) a grid of arterial roads, aims to stay away from the highways, and to route though traffic lights and stop signs. In Toronto, the grid of roads is supplemented by a few diagonal paths, as some roads follow the landscape where Lake Ontario and the rivers were already in place before the roads were paved. Today, upon encountering a construction zone, and then an streetcar breakdown, I had the freedom to move away from the obstacles. The GPS enabled me to see more than a few blocks ahead, so I was able to anticipate and avoid dead ends in unfamiliar territory. A future in autonomous cars leads to a question as to whether computer programming can (i) only solve a problem in congestion for vehicles with that capability, and/or (ii) dissolve a problem for all drivers, whether they do or not use electronic navigation devices. Russell Ackoff originally published on these distinctions: By a problem we mean a situation that satisfies three conditions: First, a decision-making individual or group has alternative courses of action available; second, the choice made can have a significant effect; and third, the decision maker has some doubt as to which alternative should be selected. There are three kinds of thing that can be done about problems — they can be resolved. solved. or dissolved. Resolving To resolve a problem is to select a course of action that yields an outcome that is good enough, that satisfices (satisfies and suffices). We call this approach clinical because it relies heavily on past experience and current trial and error for its inputs. It is qualitatively, not qu[...]

Towards a federated social web


I, David Ing, pledge to post on diaspora* with the #systemsthinking tag, if at least 5 people join me.Systems Thinking World — a LinkedIn group with dialogue from over 19,000 members — ceased to exist by October 28, 2015.  It was a place where learners (new and old) of systems thinking came to overcome barriers, from 2009 through 2015.  A change in the terms and conditions at LinkedIn led to the group owner to move on.  The scale of worldwide participation in Systems Thinking World was significant, and the journey was the subject of a presentation at ISSS DC 2014. While cleaning house, the Facebook Group formerly known as Systems Thinking World came into the hands of a new owner, and was retitled (at least temporarily) as The Ecology of Systems Thinking.  The new owner has a more open approach, and has authorized additional members to be administrators (including me).  The group had changed temporarily to be closed (i.e. content visible only to members), and Facebook won’t allow groups with more than 250 members to revert from closed to open. Is there an alternative to the centralized structure of (a) forum owner(s) and members? Actually, there is.  The diaspora* foundation has a different approach: diaspora* is based on three key philosophies: Decentralization: Instead of everyone’s data being contained on huge central servers owned by a large organization, local servers (“pods”) can be set up anywhere in the world. Freedom:   You can be whoever you want to be in diaspora*.  [….]  diaspora* is also Free Software, giving you liberty to use it as you wish. Privacy:  In diaspora* you own your data. You do not sign over any rights to a corporation or other interest who could use it. The history of the diaspora* social network platform goes back to 2010, with a Kickstarter project.  Since 2012, it has been an open source community project.  The project blog shows a continuing stream of releases, so the technical community appears to be viable. I have had a profile at since 2011, but haven’t had a reason to exercise the platform.  Maybe the demise of Systems Thinking World is a sign that it’s time for a big change.  I’ve started Systems Sciences groups on Google Plus, Facebook and LinkedIn.  I’ve been experimenting with federated wiki.  Although others may have become comfortable with ease of a corporation managing their content, I’ve always been an advocate for self-sufficiency.  So, in a learning-by-doing mode: I, David Ing, pledge to post on diaspora* with the #systemsthinking tag, if at least 5 people join me.  I will post with public visibility, and others may choose to post publicly or privately. Join me!  Signing up to diaspora* is easy.  The first decision is choosing a pod.  If you want to follow my example, you could sign up at  (The server is physically in New York.  If you normally converse in language other than English, you could pick a pod geographically closer that encourages dialogues in your native dialect).  It would be nice if you reciprocated with a real identity, and posted a photo.  You can even link your profile from Facebook, so you don’t have to fill in all of the fields. Moving an online community is not something that can (or should) be done by an individual.  However: “Never underestimate the power of a few committed individuals to change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. Margaret Mead (SGSR President, 1972-1973) The[...]

System types as purposeful, and displaying choice


On types of systems and models, I have been citing Ackoff & Gharajedaghi (1996), but have now found a 2003 paper consistent with the 1997 lecture I heard in person.Russell Ackoff has a four-way categorization of systems that I’ve found useful, and often shows up in my presentations.  I’ve had a history of citing a 1996 article that is peer-reviewed.  However, when I first saw him in person, speaking with an overhead slide projector in 1997, I recalled a slightly different language.  I’ve now discovered an article that is consistent with my memory. In 1996, Ackoff & Gharajedaghi wrote (in a language consistent with the Ackoff & Emery 1972 On Purposeful Systems book): Whatever one considers a system to be — and there is considerable agreement as to what a system is — there are obviously different ways of classifying them.  For example, they can be classified by size, by discipline (physical, biological, psychological, and so on), by location, by function, and many other ways as well.  The choice of a classification scheme normally depends on its intended use.  For our purposes — examining the consequences of mismatching systems and their models — the critical classifying variable is purpose and purpose is a matter of choice. An entity is purposeful if it can produce (1) the same functionally defined outcome in different ways in the same environment, and (2) functionally different outcomes in the same and different environments.  Although the ability to make choices is necessary for purposefulness, it is not sufficient.  An entity that can behave differently but produce only one outcome in any one of a set of different environments is goal-seeking, not purposeful.  Servo-mechanisms are goal-seeking.  In contrast, people are obviously purposeful systems, and so are certain types of social groups.  An entity can be multi-goal-seeking if it is goal-seeking in each of two of more different environments. Types of Systems and Models There are three basic types of systems and models of them, and a meta-system:  one that contains all three types as parts of it (see Table 1): Table 1: Types of systems and models Systems and models Parts Whole Deterministic Not purposeful Not purposeful Animated Not purposeful Purposeful Social Purposeful Purposeful Ecological Purposeful Not purposeful (1) Deterministic:  systems and models in which neither the parts nor the whole are purposeful. (2) Animated:  systems and models in which the whole is purposeful but the parts are not. (3) Social:  systems and models in which both the parts and the whole are purposeful. These three types of systems form a hierarchy in the following sense: animated systems have deterministic systems as their parts.  In addition, some of them can create and use deterministic systems, but not vice-versa.  Social systems have animated systems as their parts.  All three types of system are contained in ecological systems, some of whose parts are purposeful, but not the whole.  For example, Earth is an ecological sysetm that has no purpose of its own but contains social and animate systems that do, and deterministic systems that don’t.  [pp. 13-14] In the unreviewed 2003 paper, Ackoff & Gharajedaghi footnoted “1. This article is a revision and extension of an article we published earlier: “Reflections on Systems and Their Models,” Systems Research, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 1996, pp. 13-23″.  The table that appears in 2003 is different from that i[...]