International Systems Institute — Systems Design

The International Systems Institute — Systems Design with the CogniScope™Sixteen people met in Monterey, California for four days in October, to engage in collaborative inquiry and planning for Education and Training in the Theory, Methodology, Praxis, and Research in Systems Science. The CogniScope™ was employed to conduct the session. This initiative included practitioners, graduates, researchers, professors, students, and prospective students in participant driven design of a program of graduate courses in the Technology of Systems Design. The program is unprecedented in the world of systems science both with respect to the balance of theory and practice, training and research as well as in the participative approach to the design of the program itself.

The group included Ph.D graduates of the Organizational Systems Inquiry program of the Saybrook Graduate School under the direction of Bela H. Banathy, President of the International Systems Institute and the International Federation of Systems Research. It also included participants and prospective applicants in the Technology of Social Systems Design Certification Program, created by an alliance of CWA and Saybrook. This program is taught by Bela Antal Banathy, President of the International Society of the Systems Sciences, and Larry Magliocca, co-founder of the International Facilitators Association and Director of a Federal Technology Assistance Center and CogniScope™ practitioner. Advisor to the program, Aleco Christakis, is the CEO of CWA and is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Systems Research and Behavioral Science, the Journal of Transdisciplinary Systems Sciences, and the Journal of Applied Systems Science. Participants included Ken Bausch     author of “The Applicability of Systems Theory to Social Processes,” “The Ethics of Design,” and the new book “The Emerging Consensus in Social Systems Theory.” The program also included peace-keepers in Cyprus that have begun to use the CogniScope™ in the Israeli-Palestinian situation; and Critical Design International; State and Federal Government Education professionals and economist for the needs of Exceptional Children; Organizational Psychologist; and a CogniScope practitioner from the US Food and Drug Administration.

In preparation for an application of the CogniScope™ , the first two days followed the tradition of generative dialogue of Asilomar conversations. Participants clarified and reflected upon selections from correspondence conducted prior to the meeting. This built the group’s collective appreciation of the intentionality of the conversation. On the third day, an Inquiry Design Team composed a triggering question:

“Within the context of your learning aspirations, why are you here?”

Focused and open dialogue ensued using the goal structuring application of the CogniScope™ methodology. The group contributed and clarified seventy aspirations in the morning. Eleven themes emerged: designing the Certification Program; learning different applications of collaborative design; mastering practitioner competencies and roles; engaging the practicalities of consultancy and working with clients; working with colleagues in the business network; developing a deep appreciation for the methodologies, their underlying theory, and the use of language in depicting them; and fostering collaborative research and innovation in the technology of systems design.

On the fourth day the group conducted a collaborative evaluation and structuring of the set of aspirations in order to determine the ones that are most salient. We found two Aspirations to be the drivers of the group’s interest: TO BUILD A NETWORK OF PRACTITIONERS, and TO DEVELOP A TRUSTING AND TRUSTED NETWORK OF MUTUAL SUBCONTRACTORS THAT CAN OPERATE IN TASK ORIENTED TRANSIENT ORGANIZATIONS.

The Certification Program on the Technology of Social Systems Design has been launched through a collaboration of Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, CWA, participants in the program, and previous graduates of Saybrook. All parties have committed to collaborative design of three courses in the program that seek to complemented the core courses in fulfilling the salient aspirations determined by this group. Towards that end the group focused on the next triggering question in the context of the structured understanding of our aspirations.

“What competencies are critical to my interest in the Certificate Program?”

Using the CogniScope™ Options Field application, participants articulated, clarified, and clustered fifty-five competencies in systems design. Eleven themes emerged. There was in an interest in the foundations in philosophy and theory underlying the methodology, and an interest in empirical findings of application case histories. There was also an interest in engaging cutting edge research on the relationship of theory, culture, and applications, as well as power and leadership. Competencies in applying the methodology, the process for operating a Task Oriented Transient Team, and the roles in it were recommended. Finally, an outline of interests in innovation, marketing and business relationships were called for. The participants identified the top dozen competencies that captured the full variety of interests and which would leverage the system of aspirations. They then brainstormed on the best set of authors for course work on each competency.

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