Systemic Business Community

A salon discussing research into systemics and business

The Systemic Business community had its origins on the afternoon of Thursday, July 20, 2000.

Four of us were attending the World Congress on Systems Science — Minna Takala, David Hawk, Ian Simmonds, and myself. We were sitting the cafeteria at Ryerson University, after four days of sessions. Compared to the prior ISSS meetings that we had attended — DLH and I were at 1998‘s meeting, and all four of us were at the 1999 meeting — we were disappointed at the quality of the presentations. This meeting was considerably larger than prior events, combining the resources and memberships of many systems-oriented organizations as a millenium event. Larger size seemed to correlate with more ambiguous review criteria, and therefore some really bad talks.

I asked DLH; “Why do you come to these meetings?”

DLH said: “To meet people like you and Ian”.

I said: “Well, if that’s the case, why don’t we just meet, and jettison the conferences?’

At that time, I had an assignment to the IBM Advanced Business Institute in Palisades, NY (which is just inside the state border on the west side of the Hudson River). Ian lived on the east side of the river, in Dobbs Ferry, with an office in Hawthorne, NY. DLH is a professor at NJIT in Newark, Minna was a scholar visiting from NJIT from the Helsinki University of Technology, and both lived in Maplewood, NJ. It was easy enough for us to come together for meetings.

Our first meeting was over lunch at Palisades on July 31, 2000. Based on that, we scheduled a full day session on September 8, 2000 at Palisades. Up to the time that Minna left NJIT to return to 2002, we held a meeting about every 2 to 3 months. DLH didn’t really care for an agenda — he said that he would just leave, if he was bored — but I wanted a little bit of structure to the meeting. Thus, I suggested that we cover (at least) three questions:

  • What have you been reading or thinking about since the last time we met?
  • What have you figured out that’s interesting?
  • What haven’t you figured out, yet?

This is what we called the “salon” format, for back of a better description. It wasn’t a seminar, because there wasn’t any one assigned as a teacher, and we took turns explain things to each other. Just talking about challenging research issues helps to clear the mind. In addition, having the broadest group of ideas tends to trigger conversations in many different directions — which is fun.

We would bring in some other people to spur on the discussion. Annaleena came for one session at Palisades, as did Marianne. We also drew on staff at Palisades, including Steve Haeckel and Mark Nixon. The meetings were sometimes convened in different locations — Hawthorne, NY, at NJIT, and even Allendale NJ.

In my personal education, this was a great time for learning for me. I had been working my way through the works of Russell Ackoff and West Churchman, and DLH had studied under both of them. Since DLH had been to ISSS meetings going back into the 1980s, he could fill us in on the “history of science” of personalities of many now considered the luminaries of the systems movement.

As a side story, I thought that Minna was an introvert, because she was relatively quiet during the early meetings. I now know that she is actually an extrovert, but was mentally converting some of the ideas from English into Finnish, as she was sketching out drawings. Minna prefers drawings.

March 25th, 2006

Posted In: salons