Common Language for Systems Praxis

Workshop on "Towards a Common Language for Systems Praxis"

Sunday, January 22, 2011 (0900-1800 ET), at Jacksonville, FL

Facilitator: David Ing (see

1. Outputs

By the end of day on January 22, the working group will provide input that will be further developed at sessions scheduled at two meetings:

The central theme to be explored is:

    • Which questions should the System Science Working Group explore, that would lead towards a common language and understanding across systems practice, systems science and systems thinking?

The output should be packaged in form as a series of index cards (e.g. presentation headline and content):

Central Question

    • (A concise question for further inquiry)


    • (How did this question come about?)

    • (Which reference sources can we cite, so far?)

    • (What issues or challenges require deliberation?)

Work products should sufficiently self-explanatory so that future workshop participants (who are not present today) will be able to pick up the thread. (David Ing will be present at both events only as a reference resource, due to priorities with other responsibilities.)

The work products can be appended to this wiki page.

2. Agenda

3. Lecture content

All content should be available over the Internet. Partipants are encouraged to bring laptops and/or tablets.


Proposed extensions

      • "Design and the emergent", pp. 232-233, [preview at Google Books].

      • "... social participation as a process of learning and knowing"and Figure 0.1 Components of a social theory of learning: an initial inventory, pp. 4-5, [preview at Google Books].

      • "Intellectual contexts" and Figure 0.2 Two main axes of relevant traditions ,pp. 11-12, [preview at Google Books]

      • Figure 0.3 Refined intersection of intellectual tradition [preview is not available at Google Books]

Future directions

    • The target state will emerge as a result of the series of conversations, as captured in artifacts from these workshops.

4. Breakout conversation process

Banathy (1996) proposed that generative dialogue should

…lead to the creation of collective consciousness, collective inquiry that focuses on the thoughts, values, and worldviews of the group and creates a flow of shared meaning, shared perceptions, a shared worldview, and a social milieu of friendship and fellowship. (p. 219)

Strategic dialogue alone can, of course, produce results. These often happen quicker, at less short-term expense, and with less involvement by different stakeholders than through generative dialogue. Recapping from above, though, it assumes that:

    • 1. There are fixed, agreed ends in mind;

    • 2. The decisions of the planners involved have determined the appropriate limitations and closure on the information space to be used, and;

    • 3 . An external design can be imposed on material that is the passive recipient of engineered limits.

As described by Banathy (1996), generative dialogue is not meant to replace strategic dialogue, but to precede it (see Metcalf, 2008). By acting on the environment in which strategic dialogue is to take place, generative dialogue opens possibilities by creating a deeper sense of understanding between the people involved, which often leads to new connections between ideas or ways of thinking, and a sense of trust which makes the sharing of ideas feel less threatening that it might otherwise. When effective, generative dialogue fosters a sense of shared commitment amongst the individuals involved. As changes occur at a strategic level, they are less likely to be dismissed as “someone else’s problem,” and more likely to be attended to by those who feel a vested interest in them. [Metcalf 2008 (at]

To start off a generative conversation ...

    • Have each person in the group responding, for about 5 minutes, to the question:

      • By which path did I come to this workshop?