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Systems Thinkers

Magnus Ramage and Karen Shipp
2020, 2nd edition
Springer, London
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4471-7475-2
350 pages

Book description

In our profoundly complex and interconnected world, there is a pressing need for systems thinking, to consider environmental, societal and organisational issues as interconnected wholes rather than separating them into parts and looking at each in isolation. This book presents a biographical history of systems thinking, by examining the life and work of thirty of its major thinkers.

Systems Thinkers discusses each thinker’s key contributions, the way this contribution was expressed in practice and the relationship between their life and ideas. This discussion is supported by an extract from the thinker’s own writing, to give a flavour of their work and to give readers a sense of which thinkers are most relevant to their own interests.

Systems thinking is highly interdisciplinary, so the thinkers selected come from a wide range of areas, including biology, management, physiology, anthropology, chemistry, public policy, sociology and environmental studies. Some are core innovators in systems ideas; some have been primarily practitioners who also advanced and popularised systems ideas; others are well-known figures who drew heavily upon systems thinking although it was not their primary discipline. The book provides an appetising ‘taster’ of the writings of each of the thirty thinkers, to encourage the reader to explore the published works of the thinkers themselves.

This second edition has been updated to reflect continuing scholarship in the academic community about the thirty thinkers, and in some cases new writing by them, bringing fresh insights about these inspiring and deeply relevant figures who challenged accepted ways of thinking and seeing, and continue to do so.

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter Pages
    pp.i-xxiv PDF
  2. Part I
    1. Front Matter Pages
      p.1 PDF
    2. Gregory Bateson
      pp.3-10
    3. Norbert Wiener
      pp.11-19
    4. Warren McCulloch
      pp.21-29
    5. Margaret Mead
      pp.31-39
    6. W. Ross Ashby
      pp.41-50
  3. Part II
    1. Front Matter
      p.51 PDF
    2. Ludwig von Bertalanffy
      pp.3-62
    3. Kenneth Boulding
      pp.63-71
    4. Geoffrey Vickers
      pp.73-83
    5. Howard Odum
      pp.85-94
  4. Part III
    1. Front Matter
      p.95 PDF
    2. Jay Forrester
      pp.97-106
    3. Donella Meadows
      pp.107-117
    4. Peter Senge
      pp.119-128
  5. Part IV
    1. Front Matter
      pp.129-129 PDF
    2. C. West Churchman
      pp.131-139
    3. Russell Ackoff
      pp.141-149
    4. Peter Checkland
      pp.151-159
    5. Werner Ulrich
      pp.161-169
    6. Michael Jackson
      pp.171-179
  6. Part V
    1. Front Matter
      p.181 PDF
    2. Heinz von Foerster
      pp.183-191
    3. Stafford Beer
      pp.193-202
    4. Humberto Maturana
      pp. 203-212
    5. Niklas Luhmann
      pp.213-221
    6. Paul Watzlawick
      pp.223-231
  7. Part VI
    1. Front Matter
      p.233 PDF
    2. Ilya Prigogine
      pp.235-244
    3. Stuart Kauffman
      pp.245-253
    4. James Lovelock
      pp.255-263
  8. Part VII
    1. Front Matter
      p.265 PDF
    2. Kurt Lewin
      pp.267-275
    3. Eric Trist
      pp.277-285
    4. Chris Argyris
      pp.287-296
    5. Donald Schön
      pp.297-305
    6. Mary Catherine Bateson
      pp.307-314
  9. Back Matter
    pp.315-324

Author(s)

Magnus Ramage is a senior lecturer in Information Systems at The Open University, where he has worked since 2000, teaching systems thinking and sociotechnical IT systems. As well as researching the history of systems thinking, he conducts research on critical approaches to the concept of information and on the organisational and social impact of collaborative technologies. He holds a PhD in information systems from the University of Lancaster.

Karen Shipp is an educator and facilitator who created interactive and transformative learning experiences at The Open University from 1987 to 2011, the last ten of these as a lecturer in the Systems Group.

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