Re: Individuals & Systems Thinking LO1289

Tobin Quereau (
Thu, 18 May 1995 09:11:57 -0500 (CDT)

Replying to LO1234 --

On 16 May 1995, Doug Seeley wrote:


> (For me, the contrast between objectivizing systems thinking and
> participative systems thinking is like the difference between "bird's eye
> view" games and "viewpoint" games wherein your experience is from within
> the game model. I have avoided the word "virtual" here, the other term is
> older, because the context of the discussion is real thinking, real models
> which influence systems behaviour. oops, maybe that is the point to
> thinking and modelling, they actually are virtual??)

Maybe we could say that thinking and modeling are "virtually real!"

> When We leave out the role of participation, do We not ensure that: i) We
> will use a purely descriptive approach to decisions, interventions and
> advice...leading to ii) an objectivication of all the individuals of the
> system, which can then be abstracted... iii) leading to decision-making
> and board level strategies which are not moral and ethical... iv) and
> reinforce a commercial culture which pursues its "objectivied missions"
> independent of the individual lives which must be lived... and hence, v)
> independent of what sustains the lives of individuals and the planet ??
> In other words, by leaving out the role of individuals in our roles as
> systems thinkers and actors, are we not co-conspirators in ensuring the
> survival of some abstract system based upon virtual ideas at the expense
> of actual human fulfillment??
> If this is so, then how can We ensure that individual participation is
> acknowledged in all systems levels in an organization??

An excellent question, Doug, and one which brings up for me the tendency I
have to leave "myself" out of the "systems" that I am examining.... We
already know that we can't measure something without affecting what we
measure (from the "indeterminancy theory" or some such principle). I think
the more that we can see that there is _no_ way to exclude
people--especially ourselves--from "systems analysis", the more likely we
are to retain an awareness of "morals and ethics" which was part of the
thrust of your posting and the others you had referenced.

The creative use of "participation" which you suggest seems to be the most
effective tool for acknowledging this "reality". The more we can get
input, interaction, and responsiveness from those within a "system", the
more effective and "accurate" the picture of the organization or system
will be. In the tug and pull of interaction, it is also less likely that
we will be able to discount our own participation in the "reality" we are
"observing" _and_ intervening in!

Now as to your question, I would say there is _no_ way we can "ensure"
that individual participation will be acknowledged at all levels in an
organization. We _can_ struggle to be aware of ourselves and others as we
explore systems and _model_ for those we interact with what that looks and
feels like. Helping others to reflect on, play with new possibilities for,
and see the effects of such an awareness in action is probably the most we
can expect.

At least it seems so to me....

Tobin Quereau