Systemic Business

A community with an interest in a systemic approach to business

Suggested Publications

If you're just getting started, here are some articles on the web pages that might give a feel for our interests....

David Ing and Ian Simmonds, "Managing by Wire, Revisited", IBM Advanced Business Institute White Paper, May 2000

Ian Simmonds and David Ing, "Communities and Conversation Support: Rethinking the Design of Organizations and Information Systems, Learning from Pattern Languages", IBM Research Report RC 21750, May 2000.

David Hawk and Minna Takala, "Fluid Management in An Open Society: On Organizational Forms and Their Ability To Retain Fluids", Proceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the System Sciences (Special Integration Group on Systems Application to Business and Industry) at the World Congress of the System Sciences, at Toronto, Canada, July 20-21, 2000.

In addition, some books that we might suggest include ...

Stephan H. Haeckel, Adaptive Enterprise: Creating and Leading Sense-and-Respond Organizations, Harvard Business School Press, 1999.

Steve is the author that put many of us on the path to understand the application of general systems theory to business management, leading to many other readings. For a substantive introduction to Chapter 1 of the book, there's an alternative on this web site as Stephan H. Haeckel, "The Premise and Promise of Sense and Respond", IBM Executive Brief G510-1172-00, January 2000.

Russell L. Ackoff, The Democratic Corporation: A Radical Prescription for Recreating Corporate America and Rediscovering Success, Oxford University Press, 1994.

This is a relatively easy read and entry into social systems science, particularly for the business practitioner, although it sometimes takes multiple readings to get to the depth of the thinking.

There's 17 pages of the book available for viewing on the web at Amazon. The book appears to still be available, although I saw copies of it donated by OUP to used book sales at the U. of Toronto. (The price, for a few days each autumn, is then $3Cdn to $6Cdn!)

The book may or may not be obsoleted by Ackoff's 1997 book, Re-Creating the Corporation: A Design of Organizations for the 21st Century. Reading Ackoff is an interesting process, because he's so careful with his wording, and it's easy to gloss over big ideas. In a collection of Ackoff books, small changes of some of the same ideas are noticeable, presumably resulting from Russ learning to say things better.

Ian I. Mitroff & Harold A. Linstone, The Unbounded Mind: Breaking the Chains of Traditional Business Thinking, Oxford University Press, 1993.

After reading Ackoff, one way of getting deeper is to track back up his philosophy lineage to West Churchman (his Ph.D. supervisor, over a half-century ago!). Unfortunately, Churchman's book are a little more difficult to find. The most complete book to read would have been The Design of Inquiring Systems (1971), but this is rather difficult for the average business reader.

An easier (but not necessarily easy) alternative is Mitroff & Linstone. They simplify Churchman by presenting "five ways of knowing", which will rapidly bring the reader into a discussion around "organizational learning" and "epistemology". The foundations in systems theory are strong, so there isn't much risk in going astray.

Reading The Unbounded Mind with the benefit of The Design of Inquiring Systems right beside it helps. Mitroff is easier, but some passages remain a mystery until the full explanation is spelled out by Churchman. Mitroff & Linstone have done a huge service to the world by making his ideas a little more accessible.

If you like what you see and want to try some more web-surfing, our friends over at the International Society for the Systems Sciences have a primer on General Systems Theory, biographies for some luminaries, and annual meetings.


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