2014/10/16 15:30 Peter Jones, “Design Methods for Systemic Design Research”, #RSD3

First day presentation by @redesign at #RSD3 Relating Systems Thinking and Design 3, in Theories and Methods track, at AHO, Oslo, Norway, moderated by @redesign

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship by David Ing.

Program is at http://systemic-design.net/rsd3-2014/program/

Systemic Design course at OCAD U., have been developing curricula jointly with AHO, also presenting Gigamaps

Also do research that gets presented outside of the academy

Part of article in Social Systems and Design book in Translational Systems Science (Gary Metcalf, editor), Springer 2014

Systemic principles to design principles, so communities can share

  • Comes from strong history of systems theory

If look at a practice like Gigamapping that comes from working on real problems, can integrate other models and systems theories

Systemic design as something different in systems thinking, in design application

  • Can apply systems theory, maybe use it to fill some gaps in design theory

At OCAD U., in two courses, don’t have the time to cover systems theory

  • Looking for bridging
  • Going from good theory to practice

Have working theories and practice that are valuable

Theory gets embodied and embedded in methods

  • However, power tool methods shouldn’t be treated as cookbook, not a proverbial hammer to be looking for systemic or wicked problems
  • Should look at contexts that methods are looked in

Systems sciences has preferred theories, with some methods for explanation, for control, used in science

  • Informative of design
  • But then the converse, of design methods to systems sciences, they’re more abstract
  • Gigamapping may now be getting to understanding, don’t see at the systems conferences (and maybe not cybernetics conferences)

Design thinking is still very much abstract

Coming from social systems design:  its own school of thought after the split in the systems and cybernetics community after the fall of the Club of Rome

  • It wasn’t what people thought was systems thinking
  • Peter Senge, System Dynamics
  • Social systems design is good, since we’re designing in the anthropocene (as an example)

Could get smarter about the school of social systems design

Didn’t work well in management practices

  • e.g. Fifth Discipline, System Dynamics, best in the early 1990s, but it didn’t last
  • Fred Collopy wrote that systems thinking failed because it wasn’t usable
  • Responded that it wasn’t a failure, it wasn’t working well
  • Systems dynamics is positivist, presumes can capture parts fo the present and they can be projected into the future, and then management can intervene
  • In our cultural history, they’ve been discarded
  • MIT school also didn’t offer design practices

Ackoff school had process thinking, but not design-friendly

Hasan Ozbehkhan did think as design problems, but not as design process

Design people may not understand theoretical underpinnings

  • Sometimes you only get one chance to make a difference, so only one method

Selection of research methods and design methods, based on research intent

  • << diamond diagram >>
  • Agree with Latour that all design is redesign

Ten principles in the article (and there could be more):  what was shared in the RSD overlap?

1. Idealization

2. Appreciating complexity (wickedness)

3. Purpose finding

4. Boundary framing (and judgements)

5. Requisite variety

6. Feedback coordination

7. System ordering

8. Generative emergence

9. Continuous evaluation

10. Self-organzation

No net new theory, here.

  • So much of what we’ve already learned (beyond what David Ing says in the last 10 years), but these are really not new

Design methods associated with principles

1. Idealization is same in methods, multiple ideal states; in Ackoff, could be approximated

  • Framing, reframing, who should be involved in framing
  • Iteration is part of this
  • Backcasting is working back from an idealization

2. Appreciating complexity

  • Understanding the unsolvability
  • Some sensemaking (e.g. Durbin, Weick, but usually in retrospect rather than prospect)

3. Purpose finding

  • Finding core purposes that will be shared
  • Can be done with inquiry or prototyping

4.  Boundary framing

  • Critical probes, strange-making


See “Systemic design principles for complex social systems” (author’s manuscript)| Peter Jones at https://www.academia.edu/5063638/Jones_P.H._Systemic_design_principles_for_complex_social_systems

Social Systems and Design (Translational Systems Sciences), Gary S. Metcalf (

#design, #systems-thinking