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The Evolution of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century 100 th Birthday Anniversary of Ludwig von Bertalanffy Technical University of Vienna, 2. Nov. 2001.

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Presentation on theme: "The Evolution of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century 100 th Birthday Anniversary of Ludwig von Bertalanffy Technical University of Vienna, 2. Nov. 2001."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Evolution of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century 100 th Birthday Anniversary of Ludwig von Bertalanffy Technical University of Vienna, 2. Nov Ao Univ. Prof. Dr. Günther Ossimitz University of Klagenfurt, Austria

2 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 2 My Habilitation work: Development of Systems Thinking  Ch 1: Approaches towards Systems Thinking in the Literature Ch 2: What is Systems Thinking? - a Definition Ch 3: Systems Thinking / System Dynamics in Math Education Ch 4: Empirical Studies about the Development of Systems Thinking Ch 5: The Study: „Development of Systems Thinking“ Main issues: - How can students learn Systems Thinking (ST)? - How can System Dynamics modelling help to develop ST - How can ST abilities be empirically measured?

3 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 3 Some Systems Thinking Approaches Qualitative Approaches: – Frederic Vester (Biocybernetics) – Systemic Management: e.g. Peter Gomez/ Gilbert Probst – Peter Senge: „The Fifth Discipline“ ST and Organizational Learning Cognitive Psychology - Dietrich Dörner: „The Logic of Failure“ System Dynamics-Approach (quantitative) – Jay Forrester (MIT) introduces SD at about 1960 – Barry Richmond sells SD Software STELLA under „systems thinking“ Each of these approaches is connected with Education!

4 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 4 Systems Thinking Approaches - Overview

5 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 5 What is Systems Thinking? Literature: ST is very fundamental and important e.g. George Klir: Facets of Systems Science (1991, p19): "Systems movement emerged from three principal roots: mathematics, computer technology and a host of ideas that are well captured by the general term systems thinking." This is the only appearance of the term "systems thinking" in Klir's great book! The same applies to a number of other important works of systems literature. Almost no serious definition of ST in systems literature!

6 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 6 My Definition of “Systems Thinking“ Dynamical Dim. - Thinking in dynamical processes: beyond snapshot-thinking; understanding stocks vs. flows, delays, oscillations... Model Dim. - Thinking in Models /Awareness of Systems: modeling assumptions, model-reality; qualitative vs. quantitative models Feedback Dim. - Thinking in loops and networks: interrelated structures, indirect effects, feedback loops, networks of interrelations Pragmatical Dim. - Steering of Systems: finding the "leverage point", counterintuitive behavior, proper intensity and timing of actions. Four interelated dimensions: My Definition integrates different views of Systems Thinking!

7 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 7 Intersection: Dec 27-Dec 28 Dynamical Thinking: Discerning stocks and flows Correct: < 20% When was the number of Hotel guests a maximum? Give your answer just by a quick glimpse at the diagram without any tedious calculations! Arrivals and Departures in a Hotel: Dec 18 - Jan 10 Arr Dep

8 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 8 Thinking in Models: Heroin Market 1

9 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 9 Price Elasticity of Heroin 10 kg Heroin available: 1000 ATS/kg: 10 Mio S Revenue 9 kg Heroin available: 2000 ATS/kg: 18 Mio S Revenue !

10 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 10 Thinking in Models: Heroin Market 2

11 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 11 Lessons from the Heroin Models: Causal Loop Diagrams (CLD`s) are useful tools! CLD‘s help to discuss a situation. Different viewpoints can be clarified and checked more easily. The „same“ situation can be modeled in different ways. CLD‘s allow a reflection of model assumptions. Small differences in a model might have serious consequences. What appears to be the solution at first sight, might (via feedback) make the problem even more severe!

12 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 12 Feedback Thought: The Arms Race (Peter Senge: The Fifth Discipline) Armation A B feels endangered A feels endagered Armation B Escalating ("positive") feedback loop

13 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 13 The result of the Arms Race Total Amount of Armation in Arms race Time (years)

14 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 14 George Richardson: Two threads of Feedback Thought - Servomechanisms Thread - Cybernetics Thread George Richardson (1991): Feedback Thought in Social Science and Systems Theory (p. 93)

15 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 15 George Richardson's Message: Feedback is a common fundamental idea in all systems approaches The feedback structure is often hidden in peculiar notations Explicit counsciousness of feedback in the 20th century Many roots of feedback thinking: – Biology-math. Models (Verhulst, Lotka, Volterra) – Econometrics (Tinbergen, Samuelson, Hicks) – Engineering (Watt, Maxwell, Lyapunov) – Social Sciences (Hume, Smith, Ricardo, Hegel, Marx, Bateson, Keynes, Lewin) – Biology-Homeostasis (Hippocrates, Cannon, Rosenblueth) – Logic (Epimenides, Boole, Cantor, Russell, Whitehead, Carnap, Goedel) Two main Feedback Threads in the 20th Century – Cybernetics Thread (Ludwig von Bertalanffy et al) – Servomechanisms Thread

16 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 16 The Cybernetics Thread Feedback was seen as an influence from output back to input. Feedback concept just for negative loops, no escalating loops Feedback is seen as homeostasis and control stability and instability of negative feedback systems Feedback analyses are usually verbal rather than mathematical or pictorial Feedback was associated with information transmittion, communication networks, information theory background idea: the ceration of intelligent machines

17 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 17 The Servomechanism Thread Formal dynamic feedback models employed Basic idea: Behavior depends upon feedback structure Feedback loops are seen as intrinsic part of real system positive and negative loops were present counterintuitive behavior of systems: well-intented policies lead to disaster Policy Analysis is an important aspect of practical systems analysis

18 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 18 Ludwig von Bertalanffy on Systems Thinking LvB did great work in integrating different Systems approaches (Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Cybernetics, Social Sciences) into a General Systems Theory (GST) GST was basically founded with mathematical concepts (differential equations, functions, stability) Feedback concept is only implicit in GST - lack of feedback notation Advances in Systems Thinking beyond GST are possible with new tools for diagramming/sketching feedback structures Systems Thinking needs systemic means of communcation (e.g. mind maps, CLD`s, stock-flow-diagrams)!

19 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 19 My conclusions concerning Systems Thinking Systems thinking is like a tree: many roots and many branches Feedback is a core concept of systems thinking. Others are: – thinking in processes, thinking in models, steering systems Systems thinking abilities are darely needed, yet, hardly developed, even among higly educated persons! Systemic diagrams are crucial for systems thinking / communication Causal Loop Diagrams are easy to learn and very flexible systems diagramming tools Systems thinking should be a guiding idea for any education at any age!

20 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 20 How to contact me: Homepage G. Ossimitz (incl. this lecture) System Dynamics / Systems Thinking Mega Link List alternativ: mail:

21 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 21 Systems Thinking und System Dynamics: Die Sichtweisen von Forrester und Richmond Richmond: „Systems Thinking is System Dynamics with an Aura“

22 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 22 Ossimitz (1991): Vier Stufen systemdynamischen Darstellens und Modellierens Richmond (1991): What is Systems Thinking? Systems Thinking Activities systemische Darstellungsformen

23 Testaufgabe "Staatsverschuldung vs. Budgetdefizit" Graz: µ=0,76 Wien: µ=0,8 Graz: µ=0,32 Wien: µ=0,68 Graz: µ=0,64 Wien: µ=0,72 Graz: µ=0,44 Wien: µ=0,52 Graz: µ=0,16 Wien: µ=0,28 Graz: µ=0,4 Wien: µ=0,56 Klgft: 63% 30% 62% 42% 56% 41% Klagenfurt: n=104 (BWL) Graz: n=25 (USW) Wien: n= 25 (WU,TU, Uni) In Fantasien nennt man den Betrag, um den die Staatsausgaben in einem Jahr höher sind als die Staatseinnahmen, "öffentliches Budgetdefizit". Im Jahr 1998 betrug das öffentliche Budgetdefizit in Fantasien 60 Mrd. Taler, Ein Jahr später lag es bei 40 Mrd. Taler. Kreuzen Sie an, welche der folgenden Aussagen richtig bzw. falsch bzw. nicht beantwortbar sind! Im Jahr 1999 wurden 20 Mrd. Taler Schulden zurückbezahlt Der Finanzminister konnte die Staatsschulden von 1998 auf 1999 um ein Drittel senken Wenn es gelingt, das Budgetdefizit auf 0 zu senken (ausgeglichen zu budgetieren), dann hat Fantasien keine Schulden mehr. Wenn es gelingt, das Budgetdefizit auf 0 zu senken, dann hat Fantasien seinen höchsten Schuldenstand erreicht. Ein geringeres Budgetdefizit bedeutet eine geringere Staatsverschuldung. Die Schulden sind sowohl 1998 als auch 1999 gewachsen. Diese Performance hätte man auch durch Münzwurf erreicht!

24 G. Ossimitz: Development of Systems Thinking in the 20th Century page 24 Literatur Dietrich Dörner (1989): Die Logik des Misslingens. Strategisches Denken in komplexen Situationen. Reinbek: Rowohlt Gomez/Probst (1987): Vernetztes Denken im Management. Die Orientierung 89. Bern: Schweizerische Volksbank Günther Ossimitz (2000): Entwicklung systemischen Denkens. München: Profil George Richardson (1991): Feedback thought. Reading: Pegasus Communications Peter Senge (1990): Die fünfte Disziplin. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta John Sterman (2000): Business Dynamics. Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World. Boston: McGrawHill-Irwin Frederic Vester (1999): Die Kunst, vernetzt zu denken. Stuttgart: DVA


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