Special Integration Group on Syntegration -- Markus Schwaninger (chair) -- July 8, 2003
47th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Hersonissos, Crete, July 8, 2003.
July 8, 2003, 9:40 a.m., Parallel Session
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( http://www.ibm.com/abi ).
Four speakers today, for this SIG.
Three speakers, then discussion, then a closing invitation to another
Ministry of the Environment in Colombia
Decided to try syntegration in one of the sectors.
Issue: how to improve the organization: ministry and
Facilities weren't easy, but the meeting was nice and the participants
Created a manifesto.
12 statements, creative and open to understand the most important
In a 4 to 5 day format, wasn't intended to be a permanent
Recognized some patterns
5 years later, these ideas still have influence.
Possibility to apply syntegrity to promote sustainable
In the proceedings, there's a second paper with Stuart
Umpleby discussing agoras in Fuschl conversation.
Can combine other systemic methods.
Using social system design by Bela Banathy.
Third paper with student in Columbia, on critical
systems thinking, improvement by creating active learners.
Being learners required connectedness.
[Diagram of Icosahedron]
Plato's dialogue with Georgios
Melian dialogues: no threat to anyone, should be
left alone; killed anyway
Syntegration process is about making tribes talk to each
Less used to thinking of organizations as tribes
Beer: problem of no appreciation of people of A level on the B level, and then B
level to C level.
Living in an environment of power and wealth is as much a challenge as living in an
environment of tundra or bush.
Other end of stick from critical system theory
Critical systems theory based on Habermas, getting authentic
Getting someone to speak authentically is good, by syntegration is about
getting people on the other end to listen well.
Process begins with an opening question, e.g. what
should the ISSS be doing over the next few years?
Broad topic, starts discussion.
Typically 12 questions.
Sit around a table, each table with 5 members, plus a chorus
Each groups gets about one hour
3/4 of the time is members, and rest is to critics, to keep them on
No top, no bottom.
Each person plays four roles: two roles as members, thus each
member is a unique strut between two meetings.
Each member is with a member or critic of another
Risks with catastrophe issues
Beck: Risks to Society -- generation of
unintended side effects.
e.g. mad cow disease, accelerating by feeding cows
other diseases, and then saving money by not heating the feed
In Canada, one mad cow.
Need more talk on risk.
In Canada, SARS -- 350 people sick, 35 older people died, but no
community spread, each with direct contact.
Syntegration with Israelis and Palestineans, able to
find some things to work together on.
Another done for trade union council in Britain, on what would make young
people interested in joining a union.
Introduced to syntegration process 1-1/2 years ago.
Reporting on an action learning approach, using
Client: Canadian federal health agency on
Multiple stakeholders, difficult to get together.
Looking for someone to facilitate.
Reviewed some processes that were non-hierarchical, collaborative,
to study a mutual interest.
Included Open Space, Search Conference.
Tension: too much structure causes a perceived agenda, i.e. the
health agency has an answer beforehand.
If this type of problem persists, lack of trust, then no buy-in, and no
Paper tells the story of the engagement.
Studied about how the process resulted in a new order.
Principles of design of self-organizing systems, Morgan (1996)
Minimal requisite function, variety.
Icosahedron is a metaphor for the way the meeting is
A person as a strut.
Instead of saying the reason we're here is to start a strategy, starts
with an opening question.
Appreciative systems also starts with an opening question.
e.g. what will resolve this problem? Generates many
Consolidate response into 12 topics (represented by each
Then each person is a member of two groups, and then also a critic in
two other groups.
In addition, can observe other groups.
Meetings usually take over 3 days, and each group meets in three
Emergent order through constant information flow:
Infosets: corners of the world.
People understand that solving one corner of the earth can create
problems in other corners of the earth.
The 12 topics can't all be discussed at the same time.
Two groups meet simultaneously, and there is time for people either to
relax or observe other sessions.
Best answer is that what's we're doing.
Brainstorming with sticky paper.
[Observation: experience that group came up with 7 categories,
or 9 if they're really smart]
Electronic version: 40 cyberneticians produced 250
Exercise set the context of what would happen over the
next few days.
Papers had strengths and weaknesses, but this millions of dollars had
been spent to try to get people together.
Within 2 hours, had order.
What is the aim of the process?
Firstly, don't use this process (syntegration) for a trivial problem.
Need to have multiple people.
At the end of the day, posting of comments, opportunity to give
Next stage: phase planning
People choose which triangles they work on.
Orthogonal sets: 6 people of 30 on the other side.
If people are all in the same organization, the outcome is what they
would do anyway.
In Israel-Palestinean conflict, results were recommendations
Unfortunately, Rabin assasinated 3 weeks later.
Depends on people having a structure to implement later.
Not specific action? Only to generate
understanding of complexity?
No, more than that.
First, brainstorming, variety
Second, conceptualization, structuring
Third, action plan, writing up
James Brian Quinn at Dartmouth: why do we need
this in the human genome project?
Young person: this person is not designed to the work of human
genome project, but would have been a good way to frame the
NASA orbiter: failed because some people were
using English measures and some were using metric.
It's a launchpad for further discussion.
In South Africa, people had enough time to learn who they could go to
with other problems.
Syntegration to honour Stafford Beer in Scarborough,
Agenda not to create an action plan, yet managed to organize selves to
create a web page to carry on the ideas.
Dependent on the opening question.
If you think it works, it works, but more concerned with
those who don't think it works.
Meeting in Finland about the factory of the future.
An architect, under Buckminister Fuller, thought should have form:
CEO of Toyota got up, but didn't think could help with infinite sausage,
and people left.
Other people got up and left.
12 people left worked on infinite sausage for 2 years, created a
Some people bound with form, others aren't bound by form.
Like to see things that make a difference.
Some people bothered by language of the protocol.
They would have benefited more by not having names such as
Would have been better to not talk about the sausage.
Other people like the structured approach, e.g. today we're on this
iteration, and doing this report.
Proof in the action, e.g. to write a book amongst 30
theoreticians throughout the world.
Form is secondary.
If have less than 24, may go to other forms.
Not rigid frames.
Syntegration is not always the best choice
e.g. American Society of Cybernetics meeting, wanted to just talk with
How to make people accept this protocol or form, at the
beginning? Easier in a situation like a classroom where there's a
teacher. Adults prefer some spontaneity.
Want content to unfold.
Would like process to allow unfolding naturally.
If more than face-to-face teams, i.e. 7 people, how do you help them
towards a goal?
Take the load of organizing themselves from these people.
Hasn't been much comparison to other large group processes.
Stafford Beer inferred from Ashby said that if wanted
the process more free, had to specify more content.
This is container, and the participants provide content.
Future Search has more content, and provides structure.
Process need to feel independent, to create some
freedom. Ethics of interdependence.
Process forces people to share time.
Meeting is democratic.
Protocol forces people to interact with as many people as possible, which
results in more exchange of information.
Then emergence of social consciousness.
Ethics of interdependence?
Minimum number of participants?
No less than face-to-face.
Maximum can do recursively.
If you have 36, can break into two 18s.
Jose Perez Rios
A self-designing network for the systems community
Motivation for tool:
Systems thinking field has grown, lots of people working in
A tool to help, e.g. 3 waves of Midgely:
First wave, systems eingeering
Second wave, SAST, SSM, Systems Dynamics
Third wave: power relations: Critical systems heuristics,
Designed based on Viable Systems Model, and requisite
Recursive structure, due to growth of approaches.
First level: groups, nets, communities.
Provoke birth of more groups, unfolding complexity of the
Any net will have an availability to all functions: information,
persons/institutions, forums, ...
All nets ensure the structure, System 1 to 5.
Could have any number of subnets.
e.g. sub-net 3: information, messaging, CSCW
e.g. system 2: agenda
Can create nets, subnets.
Collaboration nets into the system.
Keyword search on nets.
Can join an existing net.
Plan to add:
CSCW (load audio, video)
Research bourse (e.g. meeting point, supply and demand).,
VSMod: Viable system module.
Create a map of subsystems.
Channels with loops.
Planned improvements: addition to Internet.
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