Monday, March 23, 2015

Five System Principles

Every system is a construct of the mind. System wisdom is more as philosophical wisdom rather than just scientific intelligence.

Either business or the nature world is a complex and hyper-connected system. The systems view looks at the world in terms of relationships and integration. Systems are integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller units. The general systems principle Von Bertalanffy (A system thinking pioneer) introduced in his book: “General System Theory” (1968) refers to the concept of a scientific object that is restricted to acquiring resources to specific actions (some objective or value). Due to the "VUCA" nature of the digital world, system thinking has emerged as a popular digital thinking process to deal with today’s challenges. But what are the underlying system principles? and how to applying them for problem-solving?


1. Interaction: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. "A System is not the sum of its parts, but the product of the interaction of those parts." -Russ Ackoff.  So the macro level of system analysis includes: identify system/subsystem input/output boundaries for a system, as well as external variables to the system that can and cannot be controlled; identify the subsystem interactions; data collection on subsystem input or output; modeling and analysis of the system or subsystems.


2. Emergence: Complex systems are rife with unintended consequences. It captures reality, the reality that systems have what are known as "emergent properties," properties of the whole that are not properties of the parts. Not understanding this is responsible for virtually all of our social and societal problems. Emergence is a universal phenomenon that can be defined mathematically in a very general way. This is useful for the study of scientifically legitimate explanations of complex systems, defined as hyperstructures. A requirement is that the observation mechanisms are considered within the general framework.


3. Adaptability: The system is open so that information or energy flows in and out. Systems that are continuously open to new information from the environment and circulate the information within the system will continuously change in response.  New information enters into the feedback loops and influences the behavior of the individuals, and thus the overall behavior of the system adapts to the external environment.


4. Nonlinearity: Small changes in the initial conditions or external environment have large, unpredictable consequences in the outcomes of the system—also known as the “butterfly effect.” We tend to think linearly, yet complex systems tend to be non-linear and thus hard to predict by humans. Hence, non-linear thinking is emerged as a system thinking process to handle nonlinearity. Human thought characterized by expansion in multiple directions, rather than in one direction, and based on the concept that there are multiple starting points from which one can apply logic to problems. Non-linear thinking is less constrictive – letting the creative side of you run rampant because of its inherent lack of structure.


5. Coherence: A fixed average phase relationship is maintained between the spins and waves of components seems to be the key property to emphasize. The coherence of the internal state is supported by the coherence of the medium containing the states and the coherence of the components of the medium. These coherences communicate and have boundaries. The boundaries are maintained by attractions and repulsions. Pask calls the boundary of a coherence "the hard carapace".


So every system is a construct of the mind. Every system is like three sides of a con, this side, that side and the integrative relationship between them. Using math, the formula looks like
"(this, that) interaction = whole." But system wisdom is more as philosophical wisdom rather than just scientific intelligence, for example: “Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants.” And systems thinking focuses on a long-term approach. (Today's problems come from yesterday's "solutions."). Therefore, it is a wisdom worth pursuing.

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