Systems Thinking.. or Not? LO25043

From: Richard Karash (
Date: 07/06/00

Replying to LO25009 --

Gavin wrote:
[With bracketed notes by me]
>> Here is the perfect example of what I was talking about on another thread
>> called efficiency & emergence LO24990, the moment somebody says the 3
>> keys, or 20 keys to something, it is an immediate sign that
>...snip by host...
>> [Host's Note: That was just a bit too fast for me, Gavin. You're talking
>> about whether a viewpoint is or is not a systems thinking viewpoint, and
>> that's a very good topic here.
>> In fairness, the web site relates to Tom Terez's book "22 Keys to Creating
>> a Meaningful Workplace" and not "THE 22 Keys to..."
>Yip I understand that.
>Most of the posts including this one about the 22 Keys are not a systems
>thinking approach. Even the systems thinkers get it mixed up (see Barry
>Richmond the Thinking in systems Thinking, from Pegasus Toolbox series, a
>classical reduction approach within Systems Thinking- I grizzd about this
>one to the the lady from Pegasus on our list).
>[Host's Note: Gavin, you're talking about Richmond's list of seven systems
>thinking skills, right? I don't know the Pegasus publication of these, but
>Richmond's classic paper on these is "Systems thinking: critical thinking
>skills for the 1990s and beyond," System Dynamics Review Volume 9 Number 2
>Summer 1993, pp. 113-133. The "seven skills.." part starts on pg 122. It's
>on the web at
>Tom's book is the classical reduction approach (this appeals to most
>managers, it's the easy way out)
>At de Lange's Essentialities is a reduction approach within a complexity
>It is not the field within the field of all systems or the energy approach
>(all energy is in existence forever and always has been). Now the fact that I
>say this immediately brings it into creation therefore a variable (of some
>I am now "become" reductionist ( but I am aware of this).

Gavin --

I think I understand your point... or at least one of your points... and
it's something I can agree with:

  1. distinguish objects from the background
  2. ..treat the objects as variables
  3. ..and state a theory about these variables

..this theory (or model) may be helpful.

But, if we start to think that our theory is "real," confusing our
theory with reality, this is a serious error. That is, if we are so
sure of our theory that we cannot actively hold the possibility that
it might be wrong or incomplete, then we are in grave danger. (END

Gavin, is this something you agree with?

And, is this what concerns you about Richmond's 7 systems thinking skills,
At's 7 essentialities, Senge's five disciplines, etc.?

And, do I understand you correctly that your Problematic Paradigm Grid
(though, of course, reductionist) is OK because you are aware that it is
reductionist; others are in danger if they are not so aware? ..or if they
don't emphasize this point enough to protect their followers from falling
into the trap?

You've already said that Senge's Systems Thinking is valuable, so I'm
trying to understand what caveat you are placing on it.

Finally, for whatever it's worth, I personally think all three above
writers are quite OK on this point.

   -=- Rick


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