Weeks 5&6: The Systems Perspectives

The systems perspective is an approach on describing the contemporary world that speaks to me personally, for it grasps concepts stemming from biology. In biology there is a lot of talk about the hierarchy of systems within the body and how one cannot work without the other. We begin with the smallest living part of the human body being the cell, but inside that cell there is a whole city of interconnected organelles that we omit to remember, and even smaller then that, every part of that system is made of atoms. From cells we have tissues, organs, organ systems, and finally the organism. That we can distinguish as the hierarchy of the body. Yet within the organ systems category there are different departments, being circulatory, respiratory, reproductive etc. No one is more important than the other. This supports the distributive intelligence model, which is being widely accepted in computer system designs wherein all members of the system play an important role in self-organization. It brings to mind that although there is a hierarchy in living systems, if the organism contracts one cancer cell, then the rest of the system is potentially in lock-down. It shows the importance of even the smallest parts of the system. The benefit of organizations modeling living systems is that nature knows how to adapt to its changing environment and self-renew in situations of disorder.

An interesting point brought up in systems theory is “coopetition”, which is the joint of cooperation and competition in the business world. The idea sounds intriguing and wholeheartedly convincing. It is important to note that competition is very important in the world because it brings down costs and encourages consumer needs. The enhancement due to cooperation between companies would be interesting to study.

“Locavores, Sustainability, and Systems”

In the excerpt on “Locavores, Sustainability, and Systems” the word locavore gains popularity thanks to a group of ladies that wanted to share sustainable practices with locally grown food. The impact of the locavore on the organization of eating practices aims to decrease the amount of middlemen and carbon footprint emitted due to import and export of foods nationwide or worldwide. It also raises accountability of the local growers and awareness of the costumers due to proximity. If I walk into the grocery store, usually there is some indication of where my produce was produced, however if there were no such indication then I wouldn’t be aware and most of the time many consumers like myself don’t even pay attention to such details. There are many interdependent organizations that are involved in the import of my food, i.e. the exporter/farmer, transportation services, quality control, manufacturer, food safety inspector, labeling, packaging, the store that imported it etc. Many of those organizations could have been avoided if more people paid greater attention to the negative impact they create due to some of their buys. I personally try to grow a very big garden every year with my family in order to provide for ourselves, know what we are eating, and help bring down the import of unnecessary produce that we can grow ourselves. In the winter it is of course harder however what we can do is start our own greenhouse or even grow inside the home with proper lighting. I personally am very conscious of the importance of nutrition and eating organic therefore I do have some plans to start buying meat and dairy from a local farm in the 100mile radius. The biggest problems are cost and availability for most people therefore their needs to be an upsurge in the locavore movement in order to bring down costs and increase availability.

Tragedy of the commons was brought up by the ecologist Garrett Hardin speaking of failure in recognizing interdependent relationships in dynamic systems. Although this is definitely a problem, the real issue lies in that no one owns the resource and everyone therefore owns it, thus everyone uses as much as possible before anyone else can use it — you get a rush to use up all the resources. There is no incentive or contract on who gets to take what and when. This is why property rights are important to establish.

Ocean’s Eleven and Weick’s Sense-Making Model

The movie Oceans Eleven is a great example if Weick’s Sense-Making Model grounded in the 3 principles namely enactment, selection, and retention. Enactment begins when Mr. Ocean and Rusty obtain the layout of the casinos to start brainstorming their plan of action. Enactment is based on perception of environment and degree of uncertainty. This is seen in the movie when the newly formed team goes to the Bellagio to span out not only the “chessboard, but the “pawns” on it. Selection, which is the process of communicating with the collective sense making, is visible once the goal is established and now the leaders, Danny and Rusty must choose their team wisely. They choose based on expertise and compatibility, as any organization should rightly do so. Finally retention is all about rewarding the positive externalities and sustainability. Usually this is of course done so by monetary reward, in the movies case, each member was expecting a piece of the $150 million dollars they were to steal. However as mentioned in the beginning of the film, money couldn’t only be the ultimate goal, so an emotional investment that existed was revenge.

The Systems Perspective not only provides a great groundwork for organizations but also good life lesson for any individual, to not only look at single aspects or snippets of life through a tunnel, yet look at the bigger picture without taking single words out of context.

Could this be the reason why American education is that much more prestigious with its wholesome curriculum of various disciplines being assigned up through college? I leave that up for discussion.