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Understanding systems science: a visual and integrative approach

Andreas Hieronymi

Systems thinking is considered a much-needed competence to deal better with an increasingly interlinked and complex world. The many streams within systems science have diversified perspectives, theories and methods, but have also complicated the field as a whole. This makes it difficult to understand and master the field. Short introductions to fundamental questions of systems science are rare. This paper is divided into three parts and aims to do the following: (1) to provide a broad overview of the structure and purpose of systems science; (2) to present a set of key systems principles and relate them to theoretical streams; and (3) to describe aspects of systems-oriented methodologies within a general process cycle. Integrative visualizations have been included to highlight the relationships between concepts, perspectives and systems thinkers. Several new attempts have been made to define and organize system concepts and streams in order to provide greater overall coherence and easier understanding.

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[...] The history of systems science has its beginnings in the years around 1950 (Hammond, 2003) with the work of founding fathers such as Bertalanffy, Wiener, Rapoport, Boulding and Miller. The emergence of systems thinking is closely linked with the endeavour to overcome previous boundaries within academia and practice (interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity). Researchers in fields such as biology, psychology, sociology and technology collaborated on urgent real-life problems and on investigating general principles and theories on how systems function in general (theories of systems). Terms were newly created or specified, such as feedback, autopoiesis, chaos and complexity. These concepts received increasing interest in applied fields so that many methods and methodologies emerged that incorporated aspects of systems theory in order to improve practice (systems approaches). The goal is to better understand how different sorts of systems work and how to deal with complex situations and reduce unwanted side effects. [...]

Systems Research and Behavioral Science, Vol. 30, No. 5. (September 2013), pp. 580-595, 
Key: INRMM:14509648



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