LinkedIn Systems Thinking World Thread: General Schemas Theory and the complexity of the everyday and practical

What are the synergies between Systems Thinking (ST) and Process Thinking (PT)? Are ST and PT in conflict or they can enhance each other?


Kent Palmer • Gestalt and Flow are psychological or phenomenological terms for percepts in my understanding. System and Process are conceptualizations of these. When you start talking about “practical” applications then things become much more complex, because we are talking about very complex phenomena, that are perceived phenomenologically very differently by different people. We have to find some kind of ground to talk about this very complex, and assumption laden way of talking about these “practical things” That is precisely why I developed what I call General Schemas Theory. The question I tried to answer is: What is the next emergent level up from Systems Theory, and the answer I found was something called Schemas Theory (See Umberto Eco’s Kant and the Platypus for a summary of the development of that concept within the tradition.) What I have tried to focus on is what he calls Mathematical and Geometrical Schemas. These are things like monad, pattern, form, system, meta-system, domain, world, etc If we realize that Kant’s idea of the idea of projection of spacetime is striated, and not uniform as has been tacitly assumed in the tradition for the most part.

Now when you talk about a “production management system” what you are really talking about to my mind is a whole bunch of schemas projected on things in the world which we could analyze in terms of what schemas are seen as present and how they interrelate. Unfortunately this kind of study has not to my knowledge been done before and there is no previous rendition of schemas theory developed in the tradition. But when we start to talk about complex phenomena we need that idea very quickly because something like the “production management system” is ultimately a very complex phenomena of different scopes and dimensionalities.

Now we can look at this phenomena through the lens of various schemas, one of which is the system schema whose complement is the process schema. And when we do that we will notice that such a system is a temporal gestalt which manifests at different timespans from the smallest to the largest cycle within that system as it exists in concrete reality in the world. For instance one of those cycles could be the creation and submission of a production order. Or another one might have to do with how long it takes for a production run to occur based on a production order, etc. But when we look carefully there are all these forms or objects within that system that are orchestrated in certain ways, and there is also an environment, ecosystem, context (I call the meta-system or openscape) within which that system exists. There are all kinds of patterns associated with the various forms, down to the ones and zeros of the software program that is created when that program management system runs that production management system. Or the pattern in the carpeting of the office where people sit who use that system. Or the patterns on the forms of the parts that are put together in the production process.

So what I am saying is that in order to study some “practical real world phenomena” we cannot just think of it in terms of Systems and Processes without leaving out a whole lot of important phenomena that should be considered. Just talking about Systems and Processes is already a huge reduction of the phenomena to a single schematic level of our projection of templates of understanding on the phenomena that presents itself in our world where things like “production management systems” exist.

Hope this helps to clarify the way I am approaching what you are trying to think about. Hopefully we can get in sync and we can think along together about this problem. But certain concepts have to be breached before we can go very far into looking for the solution of the problem because the phenomena we are talking about is extremely complex. Hope you don’t think I am over-complicating things unnecessarily.


Posted March 8, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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