Emerging Contexts of Systemic Design – ISSS 2014

Peter Jones Social Systems Design, Systemic Design

The 2014 ISSS conference held at George Washington U was organized and convened by current president Gerald Midgely, ( U of Hull) who this year hands off the lead to Open University’s Ray Ison, a leading researcher in water ecosystems. Ray will lead next year’s ISSS conference in Berlin and will be looking for inspiring new ideas for this nearly 60-year organization. Gary Metcalf provides an excellent recap of the ISSS plenary sessions at the Saybrook University blog. Proceedings are not yet published for the current conference, but the prior years are available online. The theme for this year was appropriately titled “Leading Across Boundaries,” a clear call to engage ideas across the disciplines to which systems theory and thinking contribute.  I opened this year’s new track in Systemic Design at ISSS 2014 with a context presentation of systemic design in the context of systems practice and education (the additional research paper PPT is posted below this piece).  Our session was highlighted by talks from Ray Ison (Systems and Design: Mutually influencing disciplines and practices?) and Tony Hodgson, who presented his …

Design Research Methods for Systemic Design

Peter Jones Social Systems Design, Systemic Design

From the presentation at ISSS 2014, Washington DC The recent development of systemic design as a research-based practice draws on long-held precedents in the system sciences toward representation of complex social and enterprise systems. A precedent article, published as Systemic Design Principles for Complex Social Systems (Jones, 2014) established an axiomatic and epistemological basis for complementary principles shared between design reasoning and systems theory. The current paper aims to establish a basis for identifying shared methods (techne) and action practice (phronesis). Systemic design is distinguished from user-oriented or industrial design practices in terms of its direct relationship to systems theory and explicit adoption of social system design tenets. Systemic design is concerned with higher-order socially-organized systems that encompass multiple subsystems in a complex policy, organizational or product-service context. By integrating systems thinking and its methods, systemic design brings human-centered design to complex, multi-stakeholder service systems as those found in industrial networks, transportation, medicine and healthcare. It adapts from known design competencies – form and process reasoning, social and generative research methods, and sketching and visualization practices – to describe, map, …

Co-designing for power balance in social systems

Peter Jones Design for Practice, Dialogic Design, Social Systems Design, Transformation Design

Power remains a hugely unresolved issue in strategic design, “systems change,” OD, and progressive management. Healthcare, like other public and social sector institutions (education, social welfare, government) is organized by what Jane Jacobs in Systems of Survival calls Guardian systems, the moral syndrome of ruling.  As in government, the values of authority, prowess, rank, restraints on trading, and “deceit for the task” are important in these sectors, though we don’t like to admit it. Even democratic governments are not democratic in values or style, they inherit the mantle of the warrior class, which makes a living by “taking”. In some ways, business – even corporate America – is fairer and more open. In Jacobs’ model, business (or merchant systems) tends to care about collaboration, honesty, results and of course customers – this leads to power toward winning joint ends and achievement, rather than winning process (or means) struggles. Power manifests in many ways – so in design processes, we adapt and deal with power issues in different ways, according to different environments.  Design practices tend to deal with power differentials …

What is a “Problem,” Really? The Wickedness of Problem Systems

Peter Jones Social Systems Design, Systemic Design

Adapted from a new article:  Jones, P.H. (2014). Systemic design principles for complex social systems. In G. Metcalf (ed.), Social Systems and Design, Volume 1 of the Translational Systems Science Series, pp 91-128. Springer Japan. “Problems,” as we naively designate them, are essentially social agreements to name a salient concern shared within a culture. We learn to describe an observed phenomenon or anticipated possible outcome as a normative deficiency, and we expect a listener to accept the “problem” as a shared object of concern.  But what is a “problem” really?  The designation of concern (Latour, 2008) reflects a thoughtful presentation of the social value of the meaning ascribed to problems as experienced. Latour distinguishes between matters of fact (believed to be objectively determined) and matters of concern (about which we share associated values, and experience care, entanglement, and investment).   Matters of concern are issues relevant to our motivation for design for social betterment. Design theorists often prefer “fuzzy” or “ill-formed situation” as a rhetorical means to distanciate the social concerns embedded in the situation that could inhibit generative ideation or …