Potential Topics for SABI Roundtables 2003 -- Online Discussion, November 2002

[Moderator's note: Prior to establishing the themes for face-to-face discussion, the following ideas were contributed in November 2002.]

Topic: Topics of interest (1 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: Minna Takala
Date: Sunday, November 10, 2002 11:24 AM

Hi all,

Here are some interrelated topics, that have been of my interest lately

- Competence Management - developing learning environments to enhance employee knowledge/skills/attitudes etc. in fast changing, multi-cultural business organizations.

- globalization of education industry,
emergent business possibilities in global higher education (on-going WTO negotiations related to service industries (GATS)).

- management of services in industrial companies, a process of "servicefication", creating a portfolio of possible services for an industrial product througout the whole life cycle (from R&D to re)/(de)manufacturing /reuse of materials).

Yours Sincerely,
Minna Takala

Topic: Could you express these as dichotomies? (2 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: David Ing
Date: Sunday, November 10, 2002 12:42 PM


Thanks for participating on the Webboard.

In order to encourage discussion, do you think that you express the interests as dichotomies, or somehow as choices?

I'm finding that using the technique of multiple choices focuses people. In my day job (discussions with Marianne Kosits), we were discussing the cultural implications of expressing only one point of view, as might be espoused in the "One Text" approach suggested by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher, "Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most", Viking Press, 1999. The authors work with Vantage Partners, the Conflict Management Institute, and the Harvard Negotiation Project.

The "One Text" approach essentially starts with a working written draft, where individuals are asked to contribute "what is wrong with this?" The cultural challenge that I see in doing this is that it forces some individuals to have to lose face, by saying that something that was created by something else is "wrong". It's highly reductive -- which is useful if you're trying to get things done -- but somehow creates roadblocks to learning.

The alternative of presenting two or more viewpoints for synthesis is a different proposition. (This is where I get Hegelian, because presenting a number of viewpoints that are nearly identical gets us nowhere).

Thus, I would be interested if you could re-express your interests as "issues", with at least two different viewpoints in response to an issue. I don't believe that there's any right or wrong to any viewpoint, but expressing them explicitly gives individuals some room for discussion.

Topic: Could you express these as dichotomies? (3 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: Minna Takala
Date: Monday, November 11, 2002 06:26 AM

Hi David,

These topics are not really dichotomies, they are all quite complicated messes with multiple dimensions. They do include various options/choices, but usually these choices are not opposites, they co-exist simultaneously - which makes them interesting and challenging.

For example in management of services
products and services are not opposites, they may and hopefully do compliment each other, they can be combined into offers and solutions. Both they can also exclude each other.

And in higher education global and local approach should be discussed simultaneously, to find viable solutions.

I'll look for some pictures related to this area and post them here for comments.


Topic: Dichotomies as entry points into messes (4 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: David Ing
Date: Thursday, November 14, 2002 05:10 PM


Yes, I understand that these are messes, but I'm trying to lower the cognitive load for people not immersed in the topic.

Thus, if I was going to have a discussion on taxes, I would try to prime it by giving people a choice: income taxes or consumption taxes? This isn't likely to given any clean resolutions at the beginning of a discussion, but it should prompt some digging into what is meant by what.

(In the postings I've written, I may have gone overboard and pushed people into cognitive overload, so I may be going too far the other way).

Topic: Dichotomies as entry points into messes (5 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: Minna Takala
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 08:26 AM

Thank you David!

Dichotomies may serve multiple purposes,
they may mark corners for desired discussion field, allow us dwell in differences and similarities, create or reveal tensions etc.

However, sometimes I find it very difficult to extract a meaningful set of opposites from a real messy situation. Just recently I tried to do comparison matrix of advantages and disadvantages related globalization of higher education. Benefits and disadvantes just would not fall into categories of economical, political, social, ecological and technological dimensions. Also it was evident that different stakeholders had very different view points and values related to education e.g. a benefit for a national institution would be a major disadvantage for an outside supplier. I found the whole exersice rather impossible...

Here are two possible other views into problems, opposites, contradictions, messes and dilemmas... to the doors of perception and the world views. These are drafts of presentations related to the topics.


["BEYOND UNKNOWN.PPT (2,505KB)" was not replicated here.]

["PROBLEMS, CONTRADICTIONS AND DILEMMAS.PPT (492KB)" was not replicated here.]

Topic: Dichotomies as entry points into messes (6 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: Cesar D'Agord
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 08:50 AM

Sorry to barge into your discussion... Minna, I would like to add another benefit of debates on dichotomies: as people engage in such debates, a non-participative and non-informed audience will have a learning opportunity as the debaters expose their rationales.

And, to work on messy, complex situations, a debate, in my opinion, or even trying to find dichotomies, may not elicit clarification nor learning or resolution of the issues either. I think messy situations may be dealt better under another process, which would engage participants on a dialogue. Interactive Management is one such process which I've found to work great under those circumstances.


Topic: Dichotomies versus messes (7 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: David Ing
Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 09:09 PM

I'm glad that Cesar has "barged" into the discussion! We need to hear from more lurkers (i.e. people who are reading, but not posting).

We may be evolving towards another potential topic for discussion in Crete. One of the issues that I find with "systems thinking" is that the definitions that we use (e.g. function and structure) are often not reality, but just an idea that is used for understanding.

To me, a mess suggests complexity. This may relate to a Bateson "unknowable" level. We may humanly want to "fix" a mess, but we may cause other side effects which are worse than the cure. We don't really know. On the other, I think that it's also human nature to want to know, so we create models of things, and pretend they're reality. (My favourite example of this was in object-oriented design, where developers created cars that sold themselves. They forgot that the cars themselves don't really change, it's an informational thing about a change in property rights, that has nothing to do with the car itself!)

Thus, maybe the dichotomy is the best we can do. It's not reality, but it at least allows us to communicate that which some of us may know to others that don't, or if we're lucky, maybe we can all learn together. That doesn't help us with the unknowables, but at least we as a group may get better on the knowables!

Topic: Dichotomies versus messes (8 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: Minna Takala
Date: Friday, November 22, 2002 07:21 AM

HI David, Cesar and others !!

Thank you Cesar for joining in the discussion! Dichotomies versus messes is an interesting issue. A mess is a complex system and like Cesar mentioned extracting dichotomies from messes might not be useful at all. On the contrary it might be harmful, for example this kind of disintegration might lead to emphasis of isolated parts, that might be meaningless for the whole. Dissecting dichotomies from messes might lead also to polarization of opposite views, that might not enhance learning nor understanding.

However, using dichotomies can be powerful tool for learning. But how could the possible dangers be avoided? What should be taken into consideration when using dichotomies???

I found it interesting that the traditional view (in Western thinking) dichotomies lead to extreme opposites that exclude each other, (heaven/hell etc.). There as in Eastern thinking opposites (e.g. ying/yang) co-exist and supplement each other.

I've learned to appreciate Eastern view more,
somehow it seems to be closer to reality.
However, sometimes I find myself kind of drifting automaticly into the other camp ... maybe because of decades brainwashing.

So how could dichotomies (western or eastern) be used in a systemic way, that they would enhance understanding of the whole system, its parts and their interconnections? And how to detect when the use of dichotomies will only make things worse ?

Yours Sincerely,

Topic: Dichotomies as entry points into messes (9 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: Doug McDavid
Date: Saturday, January 04, 2003 12:39 PM

It looks like this discussion has died down, before I finally responded to one of David's calls for participation. I thought I might inject a couple of thoughts, even though they may be too late and too old to be of interest.

The whole issue of characterization of complicated (and possibly complex) situations can benefit by keeping in mind the Korzybski perspective. This is that whatever we say that the un-speak-able real situation is, it is NOT. This is as true of Minna's rich multi-dimensional simultaneity as it is of David's focused Hegelian counterpoints. Keeping in mind that what we speak are labels that call attention to mere facets of reality can help to stay out of boxes, and approach the world in a way that avoids the necessity of doors.

In specific response to one of David's earlier examples of a dichotomy about taxes (income vs. consumption) I would like to raise the question of "Why taxes at all?"

In expansion of Minna's interesting collection of world views, I'd like to share this one, which I find particularly striking.

["EARTHLIGHTS_DMSP_BIG.JPG (396KB) Earth at night" was not replicated here.]

Topic: Discussion on themes remains open (10 of 10)
Conf: SIG: Sys Appl in Business & Industry
From: David Ing
Date: Tuesday, January 07, 2003 06:47 AM

Just to be clear, readers shouldn't be confused that lack of discussion of the Webboard means that discussions are closed. We're going through a state where it appears that ISSS members are adjusting to the idea of communicating online interactively, rather than just receiving e-mail.

This idea of "dichotomies versus messes" is still an idea that may be discussed in Crete. It all depends on what papers get submitted. If there's a group of authors who seem to be coalescing around this idea, then we'll use the theme in a session. If not, maybe it will be some other theme.



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