I am really clear now about my research project and what it is about.
In short – just in case you have not been following the last couple of months of blogs – I would like to analyse samples of the ‘talk’ of people in leadership roles to see whether or not they are systems thinkers. But there’s the rub…….
Whilst Ison (2010, 28) states that many people “have some form of systemic awareness” (though they themselves may not recognise it as such or associate it with an academic and practical field of endeavour). He also claims that systems thinking arises out of a social dynamic – if someone’s experience of what another says or does, leads to the claim that they are thinking or acting systemically then this dynamic is what makes it systems thinking (page 19).
Such a dynamic poses a challenge for those seeking to study systems thinking capabilities. If – to coin a phrase – systems thinking is in the eye of the beholder, then the judgements of the ‘beholder’ need to be open to scrutiny.
Drawing on Open University materials for TU811 and TU812 and what I think I do when do what I do – I use the following rationale for making such a claim.
The person talks or acts in a way that demonstrates capabilities of one or more of the following:
- an awareness of interrelationships and interdependencies (avoiding trap of reductionism)
- an appreciation of and engagement with different perspectives (avoiding trap of dogmatism)
- a responsible questioning of judgements on interrelationships and perspectives (avoiding corollary trap of holism and pluralism)
- recognition of the dynamic nature of situations and actions that influence change in a positive way (minimising the likelihood of unintended consequences and systemic failure)
- an appreciation of the value of social learning (promotes dialogue, learns-through-interaction)
- awareness of what they do when they do what they do (reflective practice; praxis; theory informed action)
- thinking and acting systemically, as well as systematically (Ison 2010, Table 8.1, p.192)
In doing so, they may also:
- use concepts and ideas linked to the discipline of Systems
- refer to or use systems approaches and tools
- explicitly connect with the history of Systems scholarship
That seems practical enough to be able to use as a ‘coding’ framework for analysing transcribed ‘talk’. And, I guess the important thing is to write up the analysis in a way that others can see if my claims resonate with them or not.
Ison, R., 2010. Systems Practice: how to act in a climate-change world, Milton Keynes/London: The Open University/Springer Publications.