Special Issue "Systems Thinking"

A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2018

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Cliff Whitcomb

Fellow, International Council on Systems Engineering; Systems Engineering Department, Naval Postgraduate School, 1 University Circle, Monterey, CA 93943, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: systems engineering; systems thinking; multidisciplinary design; engineering competency development
Co-Guest Editor
Dr. Heidi Davidz

Systems Engineering; Aerojet Rocketdyne, P.O. Box 109680, M/S 704-31, West Palm Beach, FL 33410-9680, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: systems engineering; systems thinking; systems engineering capability development; digital thread; systems pathology
Co-Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Stefan Groesser

Professor of Strategy and Organization; School of Engineering, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Quellgasse 21 CH-2501 Biel; Dean of Studies BSc, Industrial Engineering and Management Science; Leader of the Research Group, Business Ecosystem Management (BEM); Deputy-Leader of the BFH-Centre for Energy Storage Research
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Business Models, Strategic Management, Simulation Methodology, Decision Making, Mental Models

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Thinking is the “systematic transformation of mental representations of knowledge to characterize actual or possible states of the world, often in service of goals” (Holyoak and Morrison, 2012). Thinking relates to reasoning, judgment, decision making, and problem solving. Systems thinking can be broadly considered the activity of thinking applied in a systems context, forming a basis for fundamental approaches to several systems disciplines, including systems engineering, systems science, and system dynamics. Although these are somewhat distinct fields, they are bound by common approaches in regards to systems. Whereas systems engineering seeks to apply a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to the development of systems, systems science seeks to understand the basics related to systems of all kinds, from natural to man-made, and system dynamics seeks to understand systems from the basis of the dynamics involved.

As man-made systems become more ubiquitous and complex, and the study of natural systems present new challenges to understanding emergent, dynamic behaviors, the process of sense-making based on systems thinking becomes critical.

This Special Issue will focus on the nature of systems thinking as it applies to systems engineering, systems science, system dynamics, and related fields. Topics of interest related to systems thinking include:

  • Systems engineering
  • Systems science
  • System dynamics
  • Management
  • Social sciences
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Strategic approaches to problem solving
  • Complex systems and emergence
  • Systems thinking in education
  • Reasoning, judgment, decision-making, and problem solving based on systems thinking

Contributors are invited to present case studies, approaches, models and theoretical frameworks to deal with topics related to systems thinking for both academic, disciplinary, commercial, and industrial applications.

References

Holyoak, K.J.; Morrison, R.G. Thinking and reasoning: A reader’s guide. In Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning; Holyoak, K.J., Morrison, R.G., Eds.; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2012.

Prof. Dr. Cliff Whitcomb
Dr. Heidi Davidz

Prof. Dr. Stefan Groesser

Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Systems is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 350 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Systems thinking
  • Systems engineering
  • Systems science
  • System dynamics
  • Design thinking for systems

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Systemic Semantics: A Systems Approach to Building Ontologies and Concept Maps
Received: 31 March 2018 / Revised: 20 July 2018 / Accepted: 24 July 2018 / Published: 10 August 2018
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Abstract
The field of systemology does not yet have a standardised terminology; there are multiple glossaries and diverse perspectives even about the meanings of fundamental terms. This situation undermines researchers’ and practitioners’ ability to communicate clearly both within and outside their own specialist communities.
[...] Read more.
The field of systemology does not yet have a standardised terminology; there are multiple glossaries and diverse perspectives even about the meanings of fundamental terms. This situation undermines researchers’ and practitioners’ ability to communicate clearly both within and outside their own specialist communities. Our perspective is that different vocabularies can in principle be reconciled by seeking more generalised definitions that reduce, in specialised contexts, to the nuanced meaning intended in those contexts. To this end, this paper lays the groundwork for a community effort to develop an ‘Ontology of Systemology’. In particular we argue that the standard methods for ontology development can be enhanced by drawing on systems thinking principles, and show via four examples how these can be applied for both domain-specific and upper ontologies. We then use this insight to derive a systemic and systematic framework for selecting and organising the terminology of systemology. The outcome of this paper is therefore twofold: We show the value in applying a systems perspective to ontology development in any discipline, and we provide a starting outline for an Ontology of Systemology. We suggest that both outcomes could help to make systems concepts more accessible to other lines of inquiry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
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Open AccessArticle A Systematic Framework for Exploring Worldviews and Its Generalization as a Multi-Purpose Inquiry Framework
Received: 31 March 2018 / Revised: 5 July 2018 / Accepted: 5 July 2018 / Published: 10 July 2018
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Abstract
Systems science methodologies do not have a consistent way of working with worldviews, even though determining stakeholder perspectives is central to systems thinking. In this paper, we propose a comprehensive “Worldview Inquiry Framework” that can be used across methodologies to govern the process
[...] Read more.
Systems science methodologies do not have a consistent way of working with worldviews, even though determining stakeholder perspectives is central to systems thinking. In this paper, we propose a comprehensive “Worldview Inquiry Framework” that can be used across methodologies to govern the process of eliciting, documenting, and comparing the worldviews of stakeholders. We discuss the systemicity of worldviews and explain how this can help practitioners to find the roots of stakeholders’ disagreements about value judgements. We then generalize the structure of the Worldview Inquiry Framework to produce a “General Inquiry Framework” that can be used to govern an inquiry process in other contexts. We show that the presented Worldview Inquiry Framework is a special case of this General Inquiry Framework and show how the General Inquiry Framework can be tailored for other contexts such as problem solving, product design, and fundamental research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
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Open AccessArticle Maturity Models for Systems Thinking
Received: 27 March 2018 / Revised: 27 May 2018 / Accepted: 31 May 2018 / Published: 11 June 2018
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Abstract
Recent decades have seen a rapid increase in the complexity of goods, products, and services that society has come to demand. This has necessitated a corresponding growth in the requirements demanded of organizational systems and the people who work in them. The competence
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Recent decades have seen a rapid increase in the complexity of goods, products, and services that society has come to demand. This has necessitated a corresponding growth in the requirements demanded of organizational systems and the people who work in them. The competence a person requires to be effective in working in such systems has become an area of increased interest to scholars and practitioners in many disciplines. How can we assess the degree to which a person is executing the competencies required to do good systems work? Several industries now utilize maturity models in the attempt to evaluate and cultivate people’s ability to effectively execute complex tasks. This paper will examine current thought regarding the value and pitfalls of maturity models. It will identify principles and exemplars that could guide the development of a Maturity Model of Systems Thinking Competence (MMSTC) for the varied roles people inhabit in systems contexts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
Open AccessCommunication Natural Systems Thinking and the Human Family
Received: 2 April 2018 / Revised: 28 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 1 June 2018
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Abstract
Broadly speaking, natural systems thinking is defined as a way of thinking that endeavors to conceptualize the functioning of living organisms as dependent on predictable forces at work within and around them. Systems concepts help to bring the function of those variables and
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Broadly speaking, natural systems thinking is defined as a way of thinking that endeavors to conceptualize the functioning of living organisms as dependent on predictable forces at work within and around them. Systems concepts help to bring the function of those variables and life forces into better view. Psychiatrist Murray Bowen over the course of several years and a major research project at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) developed a theory of the family as a system. He considered his theory a natural systems theory, “... designed to fit precisely with the principles of evolution and the human as an evolutionary being” The human family system, a network of relationships, linking each family member to every other, responds dynamically to its environment and the conditions to which all members must adapt. Each family member’s behavior influences that of every other to some degree. Although ideas of a general system theory and cybernetics were developing at the same time, Bowen reported that he knew nothing about those ideas at the time he developed his thinking. He believed that his systems orientation derived from his study of systems in nature and not from the “systems thinking” of the period. An emerging systems paradigm in biology and evolutionary thinking focuses on collective behavior and appears consistent in principle with Bowen’s thinking about the family. The collective behavior of the family unit cannot be understood by looking at the characteristics of the individuals who comprise it. The human family presents a highly integrated, interactive system of adaptation. Its roots extend along the path of hominid evolution and share common elements with other evolved collectivities. The complex development of the human brain appears to have co-evolved with the interactional processes of the family. The Bowen theory provides the potential for an integrative theory of human behavior reaching beyond the focus on the physiology and psychology of the individual to the operation and influence of the family system. Such an integrative theory can offer broader explanatory and investigative pathways for understanding physical, emotional, and social problems as they emerge in human activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
Open AccessArticle Modeling Isomorphic Systems Processes Using Monterey Phoenix
Received: 1 April 2018 / Revised: 14 May 2018 / Accepted: 24 May 2018 / Published: 28 May 2018
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Abstract
This article describes preliminary research (a proof of concept test) on the potential value of formalizing Isomorphic Systems Processes (ISPs) based on systems science research using the Monterey Phoenix (MP) language, approach and tool. MP is a Navy-developed framework for behavior modeling of
[...] Read more.
This article describes preliminary research (a proof of concept test) on the potential value of formalizing Isomorphic Systems Processes (ISPs) based on systems science research using the Monterey Phoenix (MP) language, approach and tool. MP is a Navy-developed framework for behavior modeling of system, process, and software behaviors, and has a demonstrated ability to expose emergent behaviors in engineered, complex systems. In this article, we introduce the related lines of research and discuss and demonstrate use of MP in modeling ISPs. We accomplish the demonstration through a small example of the Cycles ISP and discuss several possible variations generated from an MP model of this single ISP. Among these variations, we found patterns of oscillation, lifecycle, recycling, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and combinations thereof, all derived from a common model of a cycle comprising six lines of MP code. Although the detection of three of these patterns (oscillations, lifecycles, and recycling) was anticipated, the involvement of the other two patterns (positive and negative reinforcement) were not anticipated in pre-model analyses and provided evidence to resolve a dispute over the application of ISPs in systems engineering. From conducting this initial experimentation at the intersection of different research domains, we found that using MP to formalize relationships within and among presently non-formally-described ISPs yielded new insights into system processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
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Open AccessArticle Using Systems Thinking to Understand and Enlarge Mental Models: Helping the Transition to a Sustainable World
Received: 1 March 2018 / Revised: 17 April 2018 / Accepted: 3 May 2018 / Published: 8 May 2018
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Abstract
Sustainability and climate change are massive global problems that stem from the industrial world’s relentless pursuit of growth. Transitioning to a sustainable world requires understanding citizen mental models and our addiction to short-term rewards. This paper uses causal loop diagramming (CLD) to describe
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Sustainability and climate change are massive global problems that stem from the industrial world’s relentless pursuit of growth. Transitioning to a sustainable world requires understanding citizen mental models and our addiction to short-term rewards. This paper uses causal loop diagramming (CLD) to describe the general, prevailing citizen viewpoint and to propose a wider mental model that takes the natural world and sustainability into account. The corporate profit model that depicts the wider view acknowledges and describes the important impacts and influences of political pressure on our social, economic, and ecological systems. Adopting the wider mental model can help the industrialized world design better policy to achieve both national and United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle On the Architecture of Systemology and the Typology of Its Principles
Received: 11 February 2018 / Revised: 2 March 2018 / Accepted: 9 March 2018 / Published: 13 March 2018
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Abstract
Systems engineering is increasingly challenged by the rising complexity of projects undertaken, resulting in increases in costs, failure rates, and negative unintended consequences. This has resulted in calls for more scientific principles to underpin the methods of systems engineering. In this paper, it
[...] Read more.
Systems engineering is increasingly challenged by the rising complexity of projects undertaken, resulting in increases in costs, failure rates, and negative unintended consequences. This has resulted in calls for more scientific principles to underpin the methods of systems engineering. In this paper, it is argued that our ability to improve systems Engineering’s methods depends on making the principles of systemology, of which systems engineering is a part, more diverse and more scientific. An architecture for systemology is introduced, which shows how the principles of systemology arise from interdependent processes spanning multiple disciplinary fields, and on this basis a typology is introduced, which can be used to classify systems principles and systems methods. This framework, consisting of an architecture and a typology, can be used to survey and classify the principles and methods currently in use in systemology, map vocabularies referring to them, identify key gaps, and expose opportunities for further development. It may, thus, serve as a tool for coordinating collaborative work towards advancing the scope and depth of systemology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
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Open AccessCase Report Systems Thinking Education—Seeing the Forest through the Trees
Received: 3 May 2018 / Revised: 20 June 2018 / Accepted: 6 July 2018 / Published: 12 July 2018
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Abstract
Systems thinking is an indispensable tool in comprehending and analyzing real-world phenomena. Observed processes are naturally composed of many interconnected components which ought to be studied jointly rather than individually. Engineering systems thinking is a very valuable skill, which helps to successfully execute
[...] Read more.
Systems thinking is an indispensable tool in comprehending and analyzing real-world phenomena. Observed processes are naturally composed of many interconnected components which ought to be studied jointly rather than individually. Engineering systems thinking is a very valuable skill, which helps to successfully execute multi-disciplinary projects. In high-tech companies that deal with complex and dynamic systems projects, the need for engineers with high systems thinking skills is growing. Engineers with high systems thinking skills are able to understand the big picture and the project in its entirety, both functionally and conceptually, without necessarily knowing all of the small details. Systems thinking enables understanding the entire system beyond its components, and clarifies the importance of the isolated component as part of the system as a whole. Systems thinking helps understand how sub-systems connect to one whole system, and provides solutions for the client’s specifications and requirements. In addition, systems thinking enables perceiving the inter-relationships and mutual influence among the system’s components and other systems. The current study examined the development of systems thinking among engineers and engineering students. In addition, the personality traits of engineers with high systems thinking skills were examined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality type test. This article also presents the initial results of the development of a new systems thinking study course, taught as a pilot course to industrial and management engineering students. It seems that engineers with certain personality traits can acquire or improve their systems thinking capabilities through a gradual, long-term learning process and by acquiring the necessary tools. Additionally, the study includes recommendations for the continuation of ongoing research on developing systems thinking. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Thinking)
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