Socio-cultural Systems | Jamshid Gharajedaghi | May 19, 2013 | Ackoff Center Weblog

The socio-cultural view by Gharajedaghi (2011) describes information-bonded systems, and self-organization of multi-minded purposeful systems.

Socio-cultural View

Socio-cultural view, the focus of this paper, considers a social system to be a voluntary association of purposeful members who have a choice. They get together to serve their own purpose by collectively serving a need in their environment. This is a whole new ball game. Mechanical or biological models cannot explain behavior of a system whose parts display an ability to choose. Therefore, a social system has to be understood on its own terms. Understanding the following five principles is the key to appreciating the distinctive characteristic of a socio-cultural system. However, to get a handle on socio-cultural systems, we also need to explore the essence of information-bonded systems and explain the self-organizing behavior of multi-minded purposeful systems. In addition, in this paper, I will touch upon social learning and development and share my take on ideological terrorism as a major obstruction to the development of peaceful international order. [p. 2]

Systems principles

The five principles of Openness, Purposefulness,  Multidimensionality, Emergent Property, and Counterintuitive behavior, acting together as an interactive whole, define the essential characteristics of a socio-cultural system (Figure 1).


Figure 1: System principles

Figure 1: System principles

These five principles are an integral part of the systems view of organization from defining problems to designing solutions. [….]

Information-Bonded System

[….] While the elements of mechanical systems are energy-bonded, those of socio-cultural systems are information-bonded. In energy-bonded systems, laws of classical physics govern the relationship existing between the elements. Integration of the parts is a onetime  proposition. Nail two boards together, and they stay that way until the wood rots the nails rust, or a pry bar separates them. In energy-bonded systems, passive and predictable functioning of parts is a must, until a part breaks down. But the behavior of active parts of an information-bonded system is a different proposition: An automobile yields to its driver regardless of his expertise and dexterity. If a driver decides to run a car into a solid wall, the car will hit the wall without objection. Riding a horse, however, presents a different perspective. It matters to the horse who the rider is, and a proper ride can be achieved only after a series of information exchanges between the horse and the rider. Horse and rider form an information-bonded system in which guidance and control are achieved by agreement based on a common perception. A socio-cultural system is viewed as a set of elements linked almost entirely by interconnection of information. It is an organization of meanings emerging from a network of interactions among individuals.  Integration of an information-bonded system into a cohesive whole is a lifetime struggle. To appreciate the unique challenges of integrating the members of a social system, think about the challenges of maintaining marriage, families, or any other close-knit group of human beings—each with a mind of his or her own. To clarify the meaning of information bonded systems, we need to examine the concept of culture in more detail.


Image building and abstraction are among the most significant characteristics of human beings, allowing them not only to form and interpret images of real things, but also to use these images to create images of things that may not exist. These images are then synthesized into a unified, meaningful mental model and eventually into a worldview (Boulding, 1956). The dialectical interaction between objective and subjective realities lies at the core of a process called design thinking responsible for the dynamic development of human societies. This is so true that Nigel Cross (2007) in his beautiful book makes the following indisputable observation: ”Everything we have around us has been designed” (p. 34). [….]

Figure 2: Shared image and Culture

Figure 2: Shared image and Culture

It is the “shared image” that we refer to as the culture of a people. This shared image incorporates their experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and ideals. Culture is the ultimate product of their history and the manifestation of their identity—man creates his culture and his culture creates him.  [p. 7]

Socio-cultural Systems | Jamshid Gharajedaghi | May 19, 2013 | Ackoff Center Weblog at (originally from December 2011, prepared in response to a request from U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences as part of a research project on the nature and the behavior of socio-cultural systems).

#gharajedaghi, #information-bonded, #socio-cultural, #systems-thinking