Rigor and Relevance in Systems Work

Gary Metcalf

Abstract


There has long been a tension, if not an actual divide, between academia and industry, or research and practice, when in fact these are mutually dependent arenas. There is little value in knowledge that does not make some difference to people, and there is little value in practice that does not have a thoughtful basis for action.

In reality, this tension runs much deeper than a separation in professional perspectives. It is, at a different level, the division between knowledge and action, and can be thought about with respect to two oft-used phrases from Gregory Bateson: “a difference that makes a difference,” and “the pattern that connects.” It is also the relation between Robert Rosen’s formal systems and natural systems, amongst others.

In a fundamental way for systems work, this divide is the issue of boundaries; how we define our “systems of interest,” and how we understand the environment that encompasses them. This presentation will explore the implications of these ideas for the ISSS and its relation to the larger world which it seeks to affect.

Full Text:

PDF