Part III Systems Practice

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it

(Marx 1975b, originally 1845)

Gibbons et al. identify two types of research. In Mode 1 research, the problems tackled are defined by the particular scientific interests of an academic community and the primary aim is to gain new knowledge for its own sake. It is a

… complex of ideas, methods, values and norms that has grown up to control the diffusion of the Newtonian model of science to more and more fields of enquiry and ensure its compliance with what is considered sound scientific practice.

(1994, p. 167)

By contrast, Mode 2 type research is carried out in the context of application and is produced to satisfy the demands of particular users. Tranfield and Starkey (1998) argue that management research should adopt a Mode 2 orientation, positioning itself in the social sciences as equivalent to engineering in the physical sciences and medicine in the biological sciences. In fact, and to its great credit, systems thinking applied to management has already occupied this space. From the first formulation of approaches such as operational research (OR), systems analysis, and systems engineering, in the 1940s and 1950s, the emphasis has been on “clients” and their requirements. This has remained fundamentally the case, although “problem owners,” as distinct from clients, and the “affected but not involved” now also fall within the remit of systems thinking. ...

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