Towards a new foundation for systems practice : grounding multi-method systemic interventions

Pretel-Wilson, Manuel

May 2017

Thesis or dissertation

© 2017 Manuel Pretel-Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

My purpose with this PhD has been to provide a new foundation for systems practice in order to ground multi-method systemic interventions. The field of Critical System Thinking (CST), which was established to provide this grounding, finds itself immersed in a crisis called the “paradigm problem”. This has come about because it has sought to integrate different Western epistemologies in order to ground methodological pluralism. In particular, CST has uncritically assumed parallel worlds that speak different languages in its attempt to integrate different systems approaches informed by Western epistemologies that are not ontology-free. Hence, system practice is in need of a new ground to justify the use of different systems methodologies that avoids both a fractured universe and atheoretical pragmatism.

I advance a ‘world-hypothesis’, which is essentially a world-image to explain reality. I have pursued a fascinating journey into systems philosophy and systems science to see the universe with new eyes. The result is a new world image called the One World of causally interdependent systems that competes both with the Common World of linguistic meanings constituted by society through language and with the Natural World of extended objects made of interacting parts. The One World hypothesis questions the authenticity of currently prevailing world-images and points to the possibility of a new age for systems thinking. However, controversially for systems scientists, the implication is that they need to give up on both the part-whole and the holarchy concepts.

Importantly, if the One World hypothesis is to provide new grounds for systems practice and methodological pluralism, the picture of the universe has to be completed with an understanding of how conscious systems operate. Thus, I provide a scientific hypothesis and I postulate education as a future systems methodology to inform systemic interventions in conscious systems. I also encourage systems scientists and systems practitioners to work together to flesh out a multi-method skeleton to organize the field of systems practice. Finally, I propose the next phase of my own research, which will be to develop an educational systems methodology to improve conscious systems.

Business School, The University of Hull
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