« The Origins and Purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Theory and Cybernetics | Main | The 3rd International Conference on Systems Thinking in Management (ICSTM 2004) »

March 09, 2004

Systems Methodology

A Holistic Language of Interaction And Design
Seeing Through Chaos and Understanding Complexities

The version of systems methodology presented in this paper, developed by Jamshid Gharajedaghi, demonstrates a holistic language of interaction and design, intended for use with social systems in which the whole is becoming more interdependent while the parts display choice and behave
independently. This methodology gives us a way to see through chaos and understand complexities.

The foundation of this exciting conception is the interaction of four elements of systems thinking:
- Holistic Thinking -- ”iteration of structure, function and process"
- Operational Thinking -- ”understanding chaos and complexity"
- Systems Theories -- ”a socio-cultural view"
- Interactive Design -- "creating a feasible whole with infeasible parts"

To read this article, click on the link: Systems Methodology; A Holistic Language of Interaction And Design; Seeing Through Chaos and Understanding Complexities.

Posted by ACASA on March 9, 2004 at 12:14 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Systems Methodology:


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. SystemDynamics has been my passion since my days at BMW. Figuring out why cars are too late on the production gate is always and everywhere a challenge. Organizations are living systems and so the reasons may change over time, making the assumptions and impacts clear to the whole team that is SystemDynamics useful for.

More see JayForrester's paper on the issue: http://sysdyn.clexchange.org/sdep/Roadmaps/RM1/D-4468-2.pdf

Posted by: RalfLippold at Jun 18, 2010 10:48:07 AM

Jamshid Gharajedaghi

I appreciate your comments about Bela H. Banathy but I was referencing Bela A. Banathy.

The way a living system can be closed is through definition leading to an equal distribution of all elements of the system: entropy. I am reminded of Maturana's submarine. I am afraid I have a number of questions in the interest of a healthy discussion in Karl Popper style falsifiability process of Autopoiesis theory. I am calling that effort Antipoiesis (literally antipoetry vis a vis the very well known Nicanor Parra, Physics, Universidad de Chile).

Thereby, is the Maturana submarine referential as an opening or closing system? (Do we, for example, see entanglement of systems? ie: Referencing the quantum theory entanglement process. See: http://referential.bravehost.com/ AND http://gst2.bravehost.com/index.html )

Then was the submarine a living or system? Further, was it a living and closed system or, of course, a and open system?

Eric J. Lindblom PhD Harvard http://elindblom.bravehost.com

Posted by: Eric J. Lindblom PhD at Aug 29, 2007 6:02:32 PM

Dear Mr. Jamshid Gharaiedaghi,

I hope this interesting blog is still alive...

My field is agri-culture and natural resources. This is as complex as the health sector, and our future food security depends on our handling of the involved systems.

Since the more then 20 years, when I first applied systems theory, I feel poor progress happend in order to grasp and apply holistic approaches. Today, more then ever, our civilizations seems to be stuck with the problems caused by its technical-analytical tools and perceptions.

If I had to propose a measure to deal with the problem of climate change, one of the hottest issues discussed in public, I would not hesitate to propose: "Introduce systems dynamics (SD) in all primary schools and beyond". Indeed, we need people with new and more realistic/holistic ways of understanding and approaching problem solving processes.

But what is needed to change our attitude towards our world and perceptions? Would a dialog between SD practioners and Zen (buddhist) practitioners be helpful? I have the feeling/intuition that zen is very close to the "science" of SD.

Is there an alternative way to create a movement, in order to increase the body of practitioners of holistic approaches, ev. capable to repair our earth and civilization damaged over the last two centuries with the excessive analyical mindset?

Gian Nicolay

Posted by: Gian Nicolay at May 22, 2007 10:46:31 AM

Dear Mr. Jamshid Gharaiedaghi,

I Kiss your hands from Tehran.

I learn about this from Mr.Khorram and I am very happy to find a way to make a connection with you.
I am sure it will duplicate my learning speed about systems thinking and systems approach.
I wrote about you in one of my last posts.

Alireza Mojahedi
One of the EMBA students in IMI.

Posted by: Alireza Mojahedi at Nov 4, 2006 10:35:14 AM

Roberta, thank you for that input. I will work to pursue your paper. It will be nice to know that I needn't reinvent the wheel on this. Public education is so "short-sided," that I am not sure exactly what it willl take to move it in more of a systems direction.

Posted by: Doug Stilwell at Jan 11, 2006 9:22:54 PM

I teach a graduate-level management course at Tulane University live via the Internet and have been using Dr. Ackoff’s Interactive Planning as the framework of the course for the past 8 years. Although, the course involves a little bit of theory and a lecture on other types of systems thinking, the main body of the course entails lectures on each step of the Interactive Planning process sprinkled with numerous examples presented throughout the course. The course is designed to be very applied in a “real world” sense directed at dissolving safety and health management problems. There are approximately 30 to 35 students in each class. Their grades are based on interactive participation, a mid-term test and a final paper and presentation. The paper and presentation are the result of groups of 4 to 6 students working on a safety and health management problem that they choose in the first week of class. As we progress through the semester each group accomplishes each step of the Interactive Planning process so that by the end of the course they have an applied understanding of Interactive Planning and a paper and presentation for their final grade.

As with any course that introduces students to a new paradigm of thinking, one must expect a variety of comments throughout the course of the semester. Since we actively seek feedback on our courses for improvement, we gather very candid thoughts. Essentially, all of our students are mid-career professionals. For my course, I have received one comment from several students each year stating that they wish they had learned this form of thinking earlier in their career and that at a minimum the course should be one of the first courses taken in our curriculum. Rather than gloat, I would like to believe our students are starving for new creative and innovative ways to think through a problem and secure support for its dissolution. Throughout the semester, I continually point out and seek out the “emergent properties” of their learning, which often surface from unexpected locations.

The safety and health profession is a very complex field that is well suited for integrating Interactive Planning. Over the past 30+ years I have been involved in these professions, I have found many safety and health professionals tend to be trapped in the technological aspects of the professions and become very frustrated with trying to gain support, usually financial, to dissolve the safety and health problems they uncover. My students have told me even years after they have graduated that systems thinking and, in particular, Interactive Planning has played a significant role in reducing their frustration and winning financial support for their projects.

Hope this helps.

James E. Leemann, Ph.D.
Adjunct Asst. Professor
23068 North 77th Way
Scottsdale, AZ 85255-4125

(O) 480.513.0298
(F) 303.496.3928
(C) 480.227.6061

Posted by: Jim Leemann at Jan 3, 2006 10:49:41 PM

I did some work with Russ Ackoff back in the 1980s and actually did a dissertation with him on developing a systems approach to the organization of the public education system. You can get it through the U of PA library under Roberta M. Snow, "Public educaiton during a period of societal transformation." I take a much more modest and practical approach to this problem and focus on the mechanics of how schools are organized and then propose a systemic way or reorganizing the bureaucracy. I think it stands up. It was written in 1985 during the last "crisis" in education and addresses many of your questions and comments.

Posted by: Roberta Snow at Jan 2, 2006 12:27:17 PM

This is just a small digression. According to Frankel (post forthcoming, I guess), education is focussed on analytical thinking and is fragmented.

I agree. In fact, three millenia of our achievement in science, technology, even what we know about the world today, has been based on a reductive process of learning, whereby we have been abstracting reality, breaking it down into pieces to understand and learn about things. Most constructive of these appears at the end when you design, you put pieces together and hope to get the full picture- synthesis. The same approach of 'dividing and learning' is being carried over into every aspect of life. The process of 'Education' is no exception, I guess. My question is, as such, can human mind, deal with the 'complex whole'? Could we employ the same pattern of thought to learn the whole? More than the tools and techniques, do we need a change in perception first? For example, a perception that ackowledges that our world view is limited and incomplete. At the very mundane level, what sort of skills should accompany this perception? Perhaps a way to get into other people's shoes (and that of ones own) in a transparent manner and see other perspectives. This where analytical techniques can be helpful- not in analyzing the problem, but in representing the problem and acknowleding the limitations of that representation. Take for example, modeling complex systems, or for instance modeling of human behavior. Nobody can argue that it will be an accurate representation of the reality. However, it attempting to represent, one encounters the limitations. One can make them transparent. Then, we can talk about it.

Besides being easier to teach, analytical skills are useful, and have a place in systems thinking- at least within the limited framework and conditioning we operate in. Understanding that analysis has a place is critical. Perhaps, it is this understanding and humility, that could provide the space for wisdom to emerge.

Posted by: Gnana K Bharathy at Dec 30, 2005 12:12:52 PM

I am presenting a different sort of question regarding Mr. Gharajedaghi's article and his book "Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity." As a long time public educator (and a student of "systems thinking") I am becoming increasingly concerned with the current thinking that predominates "educational reform" as it relates specifically to "accountability."

In Mr. Gharajedaghi's book he speaks of the "analytical" approach that has dominated out thinking for so long. As we gain a better understanding of systems theory we begin to realize that there are significant limits to understanding the "whole" when we hold tightly to this analytical approach. Despite these revelations(and I quite agree with Mr. Gharajedaghi's assertions) recent federal legislation and subsequent state guidelines in determining "proficiency" for student achievement persist in applying analytical methodology, in a very linear "cause and effect" paradigm that measures the impact of independent variables on dependent variables.

Despite this "new science" of systems thinking I find that there is a continual "fragmentation" of education as we seek to raise levels of achievement among our students. The pervasive "paradigm" for determining effectiveness appears to be for us to "break" (or fragment) learning into its consituent parts, work on and measure growth of isolated skills, report results, and claim "victory."

If I understand systems concepts correctly, this deconstructive approach splinters student learning, ultimately preventing them from experiencing what Mr. Gharajedaghi refers to as "emergent properties:" those learnings that are a "product of interactions among several elements" (p. 46) such as subject areas or even concepts/skills within a subject area.

In short, I am curious to hear others' views regarding efforts to facilitate an educational "paradigm shift" to systems thinking that recognizes the complexity of "the system" and the interrelatedness of each of the many variables at work.


Posted by: Doug Stilwell, Ed.D. at Dec 30, 2005 1:01:22 AM

"I would love to know how you have seen a case for a "yes" in Maturana writings for living systems being closed." v: J.Gharajedaghi

Jamshid Gharajedaghi
I am reminded of Maturana's submarine. Was that an open or closed system? Further, was it a living and closed system? Eric J. Lindblom PhD Harvard http://elindblom.bravehost.com

Posted by: Eric J. Lindblom PhD at Dec 5, 2005 8:41:33 PM

Jamshid Gharajedaghi

Thank you for your comments and sentiments. I am sorry for the long delay in responding. I have been involved in Buenos Aires.

I appreciate your comment "according to quantum theory: in reality there are no closed systems" There is a debate between relativity and quantum physics at present as to position and velocity. If there is no postion (quantum), then there is no closure.

My personal take on this is that both open and closed systems are a way of seeing. Each is an abstract, high concept theoretical approach. Just for fun, lately I've seen that closed systems may have one characteristic: definition. It is a way of seeing proposed by Paul de Man (literary theory). I find that an interesting possibility. The question remains, then, what is definition?

Eric J. Lindblom PhD
Harvard University

Posted by: Eric J. Lindblom PhD at Nov 19, 2005 4:11:45 PM

Dear Mr. Simpson,

To refresh your memory I was referring to my article and your comment posted on Ackoff's web log as follows.


Posted by: Jamshid Gharajedaghi at Sep 17, 2004 3:27:47 PM

Dear Mr. Jamshid Gharaiedaghi:

I need a reference to your paper so I can refresh my memory on this
topic. Also if I could get a reference to my comments it would help.
That said, if I am thinking of the same form you are, then the work of
A. Wayne Waymore also needs to added to the mix. Wymore's work in
"Model-Based Systems Engineering" (1993) and "A Mathematical Theory of
Systems Engineering" (1977) relates directly to "sequential machines"
and determining the "proper level" of "abstraction"

In my mind Wymore's work has a more direct tie to the "sequential
discrete" form than either Warfield's work or Klir's work. I do not
recall a reference to Hall in the sequential machine set of conceptual
connections, but there may be one.

Klir's work "An Approach to General Systems Theory" as well as
Warfield's and Wymore's, reference Hartmanis and Stearns "Algebraic
Structure of Sequential Machines" (1966). Each of these authors places
the system theory in a different context and makes different rule sets
for implementation. Demonstrating the power of the concepts. I
apologize but I can not remember reading or commenting on your paper.

At this point in time I am looking for general patterns that are
similar, the reference to exact form is interesting.

Anyway, I do not know if we are talking about the same things. If this
is completely off base let me know and I will try to readjust my
understanding of your comments.

How do we know each other?

Take care, have fun.

Joe Simpson

Posted by: Joe Simpson at Sep 15, 2004 10:02:52 AM

Dear Eric J. Lindblom Ph.D.,
Thank you for reading my paper. Bela was a good friend and I miss him a
lot. But, I would love to know how you have seen a case for a "yes" in
Maturana writings for living systems being closed. Of course it
would depend on your definition of living systems and closed systems.
Just to make the question more interesting also consider the proposition
that according to quantum theory: in reality there are no closed
systems. Furthermore, if I remember correctly, the central insight of
Santiago Theory (Maturana & Varela 1970) is the identification of
cognition, the process of knowing, with the process of life.
therefore, living systems have to be "neg-entropic" and thus by
definition "open" systems.

Jamshid Gharajedaghi

Posted by: Jamshid Gharajedaghi at Sep 15, 2004 10:01:19 AM

Dear Mr. Joseph Simpson,

I am pleasantly surprised to learn that prominent systems thinkers such
as Mr. Warfied and Hall have used exactly the same form in their work,
as presented in my paper. This would be a great reinforcement for the
methodology I have been trying to promote. If I understand you
correctly you mean that they have also used and integrated four
conceptions of 1) Iteration --of structure, function and process--, 2)
Operational Thinking, 3) Interactive Design and 4) Socio-cultural
paradigm to develop a version of systems methodology exactly in the
same format as mine. I am truly sorry that I have missed these
important works. I am aware that Mr. Warfied has a version of
interactive design which is different from Ackoff's version and Mr.
Hall has a classic hand book on design but I am not aware of their work
regarding integration of above four conceptions in development of a
systems methodology. I would greatly appreciate if you be kind enough
to give me exact references to their work which in your opinion exactly
follows the same format as mine. Thank you again for your interest
in reading my paper.

With best regards

Jamshid Gharajedaghi

Posted by: Jamshid Gharajedaghi at Sep 15, 2004 9:58:32 AM

Some time ago, Bela A. Banathy asked me for a definition of living vs. dead systems. My question is: are living systems closed? (Re-reading Maturana for about the hundredth time, I see a case for "yes.")

Posted by: Eric J. Lindblom PhD at Sep 11, 2004 8:18:12 PM

I am suprised at the lack of reerence to John N. Warfield's and A. D. Hall's work. Each of these individuals has made large, substained contributions to the systems field in almost the same and sometimes the exact same form as presented in this paper.

Posted by: Joseph Simpson at May 26, 2004 9:54:27 PM

Post a comment