November 21 is the eleventh meeting for Systems Thinking Ontario. The registration is at https://st-on-2013-11-21.eventbrite.com/ .

Theme: Systems Thinking and Design Thinking: Complexity and Autopoesis

This meeting is the third in the series of three based on "Systemic Design Principles for Complex Social Systems", Peter H. Jones, a chapter in Social Systems and Design, Gary Metcalf (editor), Volume 1 of the Translational Systems Science Series, Springer Verlag (2013).  [published in 2014 by Springer]  [preprint available on request from Peter Jones]

Suggested pre-reading: 

More generally, ideas of complexity and autopoesis are related to living systems.  The following references may help frame these ideas across biological systems and social systems:

From the list of 10 design principles, the last three are related to complexity and autopoesis.

A core set of systemic design principles shared between design and systems disciplines is proposed. The following are based on meta-analysis of concepts selected from system sciences and design theory sources. Design principles were selected that afford significant power in both design and systems applications, and are sufficiently mature and supported by precedent to be adapted without risk.

  • 1. Idealization 
  • 2. Wickedness 
  • 3. Purpose 
  • 4. Boundary framing 
  • 5. Requisite variety 
  • 6. Feedback coordination 
  • 7. Ordering 
  • 8. Generative emergence
  • Nelson and Stolterman (2012) define two protocols of compositional and created emergence in systemic design, which further distinguish generative emergence. Compositional emergence manifests in design activity as an outcome of ordering, or the construction of artificial micro-systems for adapting an artifact to environments.

    A web-accessible reading (as a partial substitute) is:

  • 9. Continuous adaptation 
  • Continuous adaptation maintains the preferred system purpose and objectives (or desiderata) throughout the lifecycle of adaptation, conformance to environmental demands, and related system changes. Effective systemic design applies the principle of continuous adaptation throughout the design process, from the phases of system design and development through deployment and operation. By incorporating cyclic feedback deeply into the social practices of the host organization, organizations and systems can become resilient to unforeseeable environmental requirements and system breakdowns.
  • 10. Self-organizing 
  • Self-organizing is a central principle developed in systems theories ranging from Wiener’s cybernetics (1948) through Maturana and Varela’s (1974) biological theories of adaptation and autopoiesis, autopoietic social systems (Luhmann, 1986), to more recent complex adaptive systems theory (Holland, 1995).
    Social systems are self-organizing human interaction systems that develop (evolve) through learning and flexible responses to changing circumstances. Human systems are self-organizing in the sense that no planned external inputs (from monitoring, for example) respond to human and environmental feedback as any type of living system. [....]
    As a design principle, self-organization reminds us of the limited capacity of the individual designer as a formative agent. The social design practices of dialogue and generative facilitation may be considered self-organizing in principle. Yet there are specific “designerly” actions required to realize desired organizational outcomes.
While these principles may appear to assume universality across literatures, the intent is for applicability and adaptability of principles, not a fundamental baseline.  (Jones, 2013).

Participants should not feel limited to this suggested pre-reading, but should recognize that other attendees may have not read, or are reading differently, that article.


Time Activity Role(s)
6:15 Self-introductions (15 seconds each)
  • Who am I?
  • Which affiliations do I have that might be relevant to systems thinking?
  • How did I come to systems thinking?
Convenor:  Tim Llloyd
6:30 The pre-reading (as an entry point)
  • What did the original author say?
Reviewer: Sean Coutts
Observer:  Chris Whitside
6:50 Structure discussion group(s)
6:55 Discussion breakouts
  • Break out in groups of 6 to 10 people, to improve active communications
  • Identify a spokesperson who will summarize the group findings
(Parallel) breakout groups
7:35 Reports on discussion One designated spokesperson for each group
Reporter:  Eric Rosenberg
7:55 Double loop learning: Revisions in meeting format? Suggestions welcomed
8:00 Adjourn
  • Walk to Baldwin Street (north on McCaul Street, 0.5 km, (the pattern has been for Hana Korea)
  • Continue discussion over dinner and/or drinks.
No host

Post-meeting artifacts

Bloogers are encouraged to write about their learning and experiences at the meeting. Links will be added to this page.