Workshop on Systems Methodology, East and West -- Zhichang Zhu, August 4, 2002

46th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Shanghai, P.R. China, August 2-6, 2002.

Sunday, August 4, 2002, 4:00 p.m., Workshop on Systems Methodology, East and West, Zhichang Zhu

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. These should not be viewed as official transcripts of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. These notes have been contributed by David Ing ( at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( ).

Can we learn from each other?

[Introduction by Cathal M. Bruga]

Paper sessions are tomorrow!

An example: parallels between Nomology (Brugha) adjusting, convincing and committing, and the WSR model.

Paper: "Total Thinking: The Fourth Milestone of the Development of Systems Thinking", Li Xibin, Kang Jian, Li Ya

Paper: "Exploriing a Cross-Culture Context for Knowledge Management", Zhichang Zhu

Paper: "Mixing Meta-Methodologies and Philosophies: Wuli, Shili, Renli, Pragmatist and Practical Philosophy", Roger Attwater

Paper: "Managing Complexity from within: an Eastern Systems Perspective", Li Ming-fen

Paper: "Societal Phase Transformation", Hellmut K. Loeckenhoff

Paper: "Using Meta-modelling to form an Inter-Cultural East-West Bridge", Cathal Brugha

Could also mention other system models:


Western = rationalism, and Eastern = natural?

When Jackson's systems intervention approach was first used, there was a strong use of Burrell &1mp; Morgan's quadrants with a focus on emancipation.

WSR as a starting point (alternative to Habermas) rather than a model.

How do you get into a dialogue in the first place? There could be a complete set of different mental models, e.g. the negotiation of ground rules.

In Chinese academia, need to work with other Chinese academics to get funding. Issues of working with the west. In China, the doctoral level means that you address the issue from a philosophical level. The western research is considered more legitimate than the classical philosophy, e.g. I Ching.

Systems thinking is always a means to an end. Then systems practice will become local and cultural. Don't believe in multi-culturalism.

Gu: When went to UK, learned western's approach, but realized that some approaches couldn't be used in China

Differences in culture. In China, the students are quiet, but in Korea, they're very active.

Not just culture, but culture and age, culture and gender, culture and education. There are norms, but large variations around those norms.

System methodology and epistemology. What is behind system methodology? Holism. How do we divide the problem up? What's the standard?

Two types of system methodology. First simpler, using systems language. Second, finding the real essence of the system.

Jackson response: System methodology used holism.

Zhu response: Is the operative method to break into the parts? Really, the challenge is to find a mutually acceptable solution to the situation.

Any method has a purpose, and is determined. The purpose or inclinations will drive you towards a method. Can still have critiques. At some point, need to decide value, culture, and what you want to achieve.

Churchman: when you make a decision, you make a cut. Then, need to involve people in deciding the cut.

Breaking things down is a good idea, but is a leap in the dark, because you could cut the wrong way initially.

  Technical - Self Contextual - Others Situational - Business
Needs Physical Political Economic
Preferences Social Cultural Emotional
Values Artistic Religious Mystical


There's a persistent set of myths in the western culture -- a convenient metaphor -- which needs to get knocked down.

Uncomfortable with the idea of breaking things down -- which is reductionist. Should really be looking at different ways of dealing with holism.

The systems approach guides us to learn. Or the other way around, if system science doesn't help us do this, forget it!

Can we learn from methodologies outside our culture? What will be the real difficulties and benefits.


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