What is Structure? LO25537

From: Richard Karash (Richard@karash.com)
Date: 10/26/00

Replying to LO25511 --

Hello Michael... My best regards...

>Dave wrote:
>>My question is - What is structure in a system? Is it visible,
>>invisible or both? Is it formal or informal or both? What is it?
>Hmmm... Interesting question. I guess I'd offer this:
>the structure is what makes the system a system rather than a (mere)
>collection of pieces.

I do like this notion. I would describe it like this:
  - A system is a compound entity which produces a extra result,
beyond what can be attributed to the parts individually.
  - The "extra result" comes from the organization of the parts, the
relation of the parts together.
  - Then "structure" might be whatever it is that creates the "extra result."

That's pretty consistent with what you have said below.

Now, from a practical point, I've tried this in my teaching. I think this
articulation is useful as a summarizing point after learners have
accumulated some experience with the systems point of view. I have not
found it particularly useful to introduce the idea of "structure" or to
distinguish structure from events/patterns.

To introduce structure, I prefer to say, "You are seeing structure when
you see a causal relationship that explains something." Then the learners
can see and name pieces of structure in the systems they are examining.
Otherwise when I ask for "structure" they give me back patterns (i.e.
variables, i.e. influencing factors).

   -=- Rick

>The structure allows the system to create the results that a system
>creats. That is, every system creats some result, whether it was designed
>intentionally to create that result, or whether if somehow evolved to
>create that result. The result defines the system in some way. We 'know'
>that we have a cardio-vascular system because something creates oxygenated
>blood, then pumps it throughout the body. We know we have a carburetion
>system because something mixes the fuel and air and infuses the mixture
>into the cylinders in the engine.
>And if the system is genuinely more than just the sum of the parts, the
>magic of the system lies in the interconnections between those parts, and
>those parts only have value in their service of the purpose of the system.
>I don't know whether that makes any sense to you. I don't even know if it
>makes any sense to me! I work for 3M and we have been doing systems
>thinking workshops for several years but this has never come up. I've
>also had the chance to do some work with people in the field of education
>... if fact, we're doing a mini-segment on ST in an EdD course on
>organizations later this week.


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