IJSS Vol 2 No. 1

IJSS Vol 2 No. 1 Jan June 2015

Editorial Preface

Welcome to the third edition of the IJSS.  In this edition, we publish six papers from six different areas of interest. But they are united by their use of Systems ideas applied in different ways. It is gratifying to publish papers that reflect upon the lessons learnt from the application of systems ideas to  ‘real world’ situations. Systems is, after all, nothing but an intellectual exercise without learning from their use. In this edition, we have an end piece in line with our policy of gathering thoughts of our wide Systems community across the globe. In this edition, we welcome a paper from Cyprus written by Harry Kogetsidis. We also have our usual book review, this edition it is a review of Fritjof Capra’s latest Book entitled The Systems View of Life.

Raul Espejo who, as many of you will know, was one of Stafford Beers VSM team in Chile writes the first paper entitled An Enterprise Complexity Model: Variety Engineering and Dynamic Capabilities. The paper is based on practical experience both of VSM and the lessons learnt in “real world” companies.  Since those early days in Chile Raul has continued to develop the ideas and this paper provides us with insights into its evolution. Raul puts forward a methodological extension of his earlier work on Viplan (Espejo, 1988, Espejo and Reyes, 2011) that is an extension of Beer’s Viable System Model (Beer, 1979, 1981, 1985). This is called the Enterprise Complexity Model (ECM). Here Raul uses Enterprise in the sense of an innovative undertaking in the private, public or mixed sectors rather than as an institutional form. ECM is a model of an enterprise’s strategies to manage the complexity that is relevant to its relationships with multiple environmental agents. An enterprise operates in a context of challenges and opportunities but these are non-trivial situations within easy control; they are complex situations whose control requires the enterprise’s ingenuity. The enterprise’s complexity is significantly smaller than that of its surroundings; its surroundings’ complexity is larger than the enterprise’s response variety. The challenge for the enterprise is to find ingenious strategies to bridge this complexity gap.

In the second paper, entitled Classical Dressage: A Systemic Analysis, we have a unique use of systems thinking in which Daune West uses AIM as a means of eliciting knowledge from an expert in the theory and practice of Classical Dressage. This paper is a good example of Systems thinking in practice that has been applied in an unusual area [for us at least], which provides us with a useful account of field research – something this journal keenly supports. West’s paper reports an application of systems theory to a complex area of human and animal endeavor. The area has a rich literature dating back to the time of Xenophon (c.380BC) and has many practitioners worldwide today. West offers a description of Classical Dressage theory and practice presented through a number of systems concepts and illustrated by means of systems tools. The analysis, which is conducted in line with the author’s interpretive systems background, illustrates how Classical Dressage can be seen as not only being concerned with the ‘correct’ training and riding of horses but also about the personal development of the trainer/rider. The paper concludes by presenting a description of the component parts of a ‘classical’ or ‘academic’ approach to equitation.  Throughout, examples from the classical equitation literature are provided to illustrate the analysis presented.

The third paper, which is clearly a theoretical research paper, is written by Jan Korn. The paper is entitled Paradigm Change From The Systemic View To Systems Science, Korn provides us with a brief personal historical description the ‘systemic view’, its shortcomings and possible use. This ‘view’ is placed in the context of ‘human intellectual endeavour’, the constituents of which are evaluated briefly from the point of view of their role and usefulness to people in a society as means of problem solving. Conventional science of physics, he argues,  turns out to be the most significant constituent with the ‘systemic view’ being of little consequence. Korn’s suggestion is for a paradigm change towards a ‘systems science’ to follow the methodology of conventional science. The new form of ‘systems science, he suggests,’ could turn out to be significant through problem solving and design it can act as a carrier for penetration into social awareness.

The fourth paper is a coauthored paper written by David Large, Petia Sice, Robert Geyer, Geoff O’Brien and Safwat Mansi, In the paper they consider two contrasting viewpoints; Complex responsive processes, which deal with interactions in the present and Complex adaptive systems, which focus on learning through the production of what are called mental models. In their paper, they suggest that rather than being contradictory in some respects the viewpoints are complementary. By adopting this perspective they identify qualitative synergies between them. Their argument is that complex responsive processes involve reflections on interactions that take place in time, but as you cannot stop time, these reflections always refer back to a “present now gone”. However, complex adaptive systems are analytic tools; they are not explicitly in the present or in time at all, but they shape our thoughts and actions that are in the present.  They shape how we behave, respond and think in a context. By combining, or reorganising, the approach to complex responsive processes and complex adaptive systems the authors suggest how humans might address the complex notions of our world.

James Schopf’s paper is another paper that we encourage, the result of theory applied to practice and is entitled Applying a New Sub-Systems Model to Analyze Economic Policy and the Question of Systemic Persistence. James’ paper reflects upon the contribution of Easton systems theory in the field of political science. Easton provided a holistic framework to demonstrate how the political system functions by meeting societal demands with policy outputs.  Easton’s interest lay in the political system’s persistence, which, James points out merely required the existence of community. Communities, he argues, require state-provided security to survive in a hostile international environment.  Schopf offers a sub-systemic governance model able as a means of explaining the domestic political system and state persistence.  He argues that large input generating groups require sufficient allocation of public goods for the long-term maintenance of the domestic political system.  An example of the application of his model to a successful South Korean case illustrates that the share of public goods increased along with the size of the input-generating group.  However, he points out that long-term disruption of this critical subsystem in countries with large input generating groups can destabilize the state and its domestic political system with increased pressure from unmet societal demands. Schopf’s  sub-systemic model helps advance understanding of the operation of the system and open up new areas of research into the persistence of the domestic political system.

Jane Anderson’s paper is an account of research in progress and is written in the first-person. The author reports on a case study based on a Local Authority whole school staff pilot wellbeing programme (PWP). The underpinning idea on which the project was based was Schon’s (1983) reflexive practice. The article includes references to journals and records kept by the school staff wellbeing manager (SSWM).  Anderson says that in education the past twenty-five years has seen a continual rise in ‘accountancy thinking’ in the form of productivity related outcomes (pupil standardised testing and assessment; Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) inspection of school standards etc). This added to the continual pressure to implement latest educational thinking has contributed to increased demands on school staff. Not surprisingly school leadership and teaching have come to be regarded as stressful professions. The PWP project was looking at what people in school could do to help themselves to maintain their health and wellbeing on a day to day basis and in particular by exploring individual perspectives and personal accountability. The project offered opportunities for people to explore and practice methodologies that could support more positive behaviour. The purpose of this paper is to tell the story of the intervention and how the participants and the schools involved were affected. The lessons learnt from the project, the author suggests, could be usefully put into practice in other schools.

I hope that you enjoy this edtion

Frank Stowell


An Enterprise Complexity Model: Variety Engineering and Dynamic Capabilities

Raul Espejo

Classical Dressage: A Systemic Analysis

Daune West

Paradigm Change From the Systemic View to Systems Science

Janos Korn

Complex Processes and Social Systems: A Synergy of Perspectives

David Large, Petia Sice, Robert Geyer, Geoff O’Brien and Safwat Mansi

Applying a New Sub-Systems Model to Analyse Economic Policy and the Question of Systemic Persistence

James Schopf

An Extended Case Study Exploring the Effects of a Whole School Staff Pilot Wellbeing Programme on Eight Local Authority Primary Schools

Jane Anderson

Book Review

Frank Stowell

The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision – Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

Pub. Cambridge University Press, 2014