What is Systems Thinking? LO6250

Bob Williams (bobwill@actrix.gen.nz)
Wed, 27 Mar 1996 20:34:50 +1200

Ginger Shaffer wrote in LO6235:-

>I find when I comprehend an archetype, I re-live past experiences that
>apply and interpret the memory using the new understanding. The amount of
>information available to me doesn't change, but I derive more meaning from
>what I observed. For me, I it's like replaying a video. I see the
>scenes, I re-hear the dialog, I understand why people behaved the way they
>did. Then I look for the turning point and I recreate the scene with new
>dialog, new information sometimes. Then I "suppose" a different outcome
>to occur. Collectively, this becomes a new memory I apply to any similar
>circumstance I may find myself in. But to answer your question, it's a
>series of pictures modified by imagination and clarified by the new

Me too, but Don Schon cautions us in our use of metaphors. Like any
theory (which metaphors are in some ways), we can make the mistake of
believing that the metaphor explains reality rather than giving us a tool
to understand reality.

It is for this reason that in some cases I prefer Peter Checkland's soft
systems methodology to Peter Senge's archetypes. The Checkland
methodology makes the abstract nature of the metaphor obvious, and in
comparing it with reality asks us to learn from the difference between the
metaphor and reality. The methodology also encourages you to develop lots
of different possible metaphors (or root definitions he calls them), to
further heighten the learning.

Unless I am mistaken, the methodology, although quite well known in the
UK, European, and Australasian learning organisation, systems thinking,
and action research circles, is relatively unknown in North America. I am
willing to be corrected. If you are intrigued then the book which best
describes its development over the past 25 years is "Soft Systems
Methodology in Action" by Peter Checkland and Jim Scholes (Wiley 1990).



"Only Connect" - E.M. Forster


bobwill@actrix.gen.nz (Bob Williams)

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>