Digest -- SABI Roundtable, July 7, 2003, at Hersonissos, Crete
Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry
International Society for the Systems Sciences

47th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Hersonissos, Crete, July 7, 2002.

July 7, 2003, 5:30 p.m.

This digest was created quickly, based on an audio recording of the meeting. This 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 individuals who were present at the meeting, or by referring to the audio record. These notes have been contributed by David Ing (daviding@systemicbusiness.org) at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( http://www.ibm.com/abi ).

[David Ing, as moderator]


First theme of two for this evening:  Directions for Organizations, Communities and Individuals

Second session of two, attendees not here (yet).

Vote on time to end the session

Speakers each 2 to 5 papers, framed in the context of directions


[Gary Metcalf]

Paper on CD, therefore, different slant.

Have worked for corporations

Became interesting:  there's a mechanical function

In thinking systemically, how do you know what is the right thing to do?


[David Ing]

Same ballpark, "right direction", possible even downstream from Gary.

Governance:  lots of use of the word in the vertical context, boards and accountability.

What's the difference between management and governance?


[David Hawk]

1986 or 1987 ISSS meeting in St. Louis.

Thus, governance became crucial in the things we do.

Returned in 1998 at the Atlanta conference


[David Ing]

Governance doesn't set direction, but it certainly influences direction, through policies and goals.


[Kyoko Kato]

Professor Ono has conducted research in the field in different industries, and now focus

Three findings:

[Question:  Mentoring not always be consistent with long-term direction.  How to maintain alignment with changes in company direction?  Difficult or natural?]

[Comment:  Focus on communities of practice has typically meant formal mentoring.  This may or may not better]


[Open Discussion]

Issues with alignment, issues with direction, issues with vocabulary.

Question:  Do you make a distinction between for-profit, non-for-profit, and government agencies?

Art of wordsmithing:  trying to create definitions across this.

1970s, research in Scandinavia with 100 key decision-makers in Sweden, came across public / private:  labour unions, governance agencies, major corporations

Another potential word is "community" based on research into communities of practice.

Distinctions between profit and not-for-profits today less.

Mentoring research in public and private?

Two different levels of discussion: 

From political science, external control and self-control.

Congressional commission on how government should be more like business, and why wasn't it already done?

Word that makes me squirm:  how to motivate people. 

Gunnar Hedlund, heterarchy.

Motivation is how get people to do something that they wouldn't normally do.

What organizations change are rewards and punishments.

Direction as one of the three elements of motivation.

Mentoring  or being mentored as cultural, or motivated?

Changes in Japanese society?

Mentoring continues to play an important role in Japan.

Mentoring as self-control, rather than external control?

Young Japanese people prefer lifetime employment

The original character for mentoring in Japanese?

Mentoring as hierarchical:  dependent, independent, inter-dependent.

In China, state organizations and private organizations are different.

Different forms of governance

Long-term and short-term.

Can companies do this well?

Convergence away from shareholder as primary accountability, towards stakeholder:


Short-term and long-term is often thought of as dichotomy or continuum.

In corporations, feeling that taking care of the short term will take care of the long term.

In the best of all worlds, each embeds the other:  short term and long-term.

The way the play out, in the executive muddle, is that external pressures like the environment went on the expense side.

Argue that disharmony came with the advent of strategy

Within the government commission, introduced a not-for-profit, as well as for-profit and government.


Teaching case studies:

Issues of governance and community

Ikea does have a profit at the end of the year, but as a not-for-profit, what do you with it?

Governance through values.

Using the word governance and not leadership?

Pushing leadership down, having people with more responsibility.

Article in the Globe & Mail, in Toronto by John Ibbotson:  Thank goodness we have weak leaders in Canada.


Working on Canadian audit questions, if we improve the standards of inquiry (towards soft information), we would raise the bar and increase the probability of liability.

Self-control as adding or removing rules, end up with emergent properties.

Canadian Bre-X, and Enron, didn't need anything subtle to know something was wrong.

Cultural dimension to governance

Putting people together in a commission or a group to work things out is good.

Improving logistics and technologies, what about the employee?  How to motivate them, with a common strategic direction.

In the U.S., there's a push towards transparency.

Crete monasteries dying.


[David Ing, as moderator]

Switching to second theme of two for this evening:

[Neither author is present].

Did have two paper contributions

These were both systems applications paper.

Theme: We're now at the 47th annual meeting of the ISSS, so systems science is hardly new. From a business context, have we really learned anything, or has systems science frozen in time? The two papers will lead us towards a discussion of whether this really anything new in systems science for business, either in theory or in practice.

We can have an active discussion without the authors.

[Open Discussion]

Have heard systems science is dead, forever.

In meetings with economists, engineers, people from business schools, all mention systems thinking.

Systems science is sleeping.

Devil's advocate:  maybe systems, in the U.S., is coming closing to dying that just sleeping.

Can get more money with the word "network" than with "system".

Hasan Osbekhan (who was with Ackoff), since 1974 wrote nothing.

Could say that all professors are lazy bum, and just need to communicate.

If a term becomes pejorative, like semantics did, then it gets killed off.

A bifurcation?

In the Oxford English Dictionary, look at etymology.

Systemic therapy in Europe is popular.

Applications of systems:  are systems thinkers born or made?

What should be the relationship between systems scientists with non-systems people?

People either see and grasp systemically, or they don't.

Systems on the outside, or "systems inside" (like Intel inside) where you really don't care how things happen.

Management skills class at Schulich School of Business.

Systems inside, instead of systems outside.

Senge's book is in every executives office, and none have read it.

Senge was involved with Forrester, back to the 1980s


Philosophy used to be centered of the university, and no one studies philosophy any more.

Systems science by itself won't do it.


Discussing the value of systems dynamics with colleagues

Systems science accepted as something no longer so important or relevant.

Past 10 years, taught 21-year old and 22-year old students, management course to honours students in medicine, biology, architecture.

Are systems any fun?

Fun is what's relevant, and meaningful in a context.

Much easier to sell the word "network".

Can look at http://funkybusiness.com .

MBA programs don't teach principles per se, it's a trade school.

Criticism of systems communities:  frozen in the 1980s.

In evening classes, Ozbekhan taught belly dancing.

In 2000 conference, in this session, had some presenting about business and dance.

Invitation to a session on Syntegration on the Future of the ISSS.

Encouraging dialogue, cautious of change being attributed to individuals.

Individuals sell this approach.

Roundtables tomorrow night.

Offer of audio files on CD-ROM with MP3 files.

Will probably have a similar discussion next year at Asilomar.

Feedback on session: like it.

Pointer to presentation on system-net.


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