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Key Concepts of the Systems Approach

Here are the main concepts/terms of the system approach variant and some other transdisciplinary thinking methods of the intellect-stack described in our course. These concepts will be elaborated on in detail in the subsequent sections of the course:

Alignment with the physical world (these concepts are mainly drawn from semantics, theory of concepts, ontology):

  • physical object occupying space-time
  • system realization (physical objects) vs their descriptions and documents
  • changes (processes, projects, cases) as physical objects
  • events as physical objects
  • role/functional object (role) and constructive/material object (constructive) as its affordances, their physicality
  • software as a physical object (source code as software description)
  • enterprise/organizational unit as a physical object
  • parts in time
  • methodological time vs system life cycle time
  • when the location/volume of two objects in space-time coincide, it is considered one object (extensionalism)
  • composition, "part-whole" relation, breakdown of physical objects

Methodological/functional/activity-based subjectivity of system description (these concepts are mainly derived from methodology as a doctrine of methods of agent operation, including actors playing "roles in the method of operation":

  • working method, role-playing metaphor
  • functional/labor/project/activity/cultural/organizational/practical/stylistic roles (stakeholder role): external, internal/team
  • role-related: "concern"/"important characteristic," interest/preference
  • agent, their intention and enactment of the method of role-playing as an actor
  • successful system

System breakdown:

  • systems of the system approach vs systematics ("Linnaeus system") and norms/rules ("Stanislavski system")
  • system, system level, system breakdown
  • emergence/system effect
  • types of systems: system-of-interest, our system, subsystem, supra system, Operation environment (systems in the environment), creators (enabling system)
  • system name (role-based, by function)
  • black and white boxes
  • concept of use, system concept
  • engineering justifications

System description and documentation:

  • system definition
  • system documentation (description)
  • role-specific/particular description (view)
  • viewpoint
  • model, meta-model, meta-meta-model, multi-model, mega-model
  • projective and synthetic approaches to system description

Functional and constructive parts of the system, placements and resources:

  • breakdowns: functional, constructive/material/modular/product/affordance, spatial, cost-related (candidate: work)
  • conflicts between system levels and disorderliness
  • functional part (role), its ports, currents/connections
  • constructive/material part (constructive), its interface, platform
  • spatial part (placement)
  • resource part (total cost of ownership)
  • architecture
  • functional analysis and constructive/modular synthesis (invention)

This set of system approach concepts/terms, developed over many years within various fundamental thinking methods, is surprisingly compact: the complex world of various situations is represented by a relatively small number of concepts, selected to make the world appear less complex, making it easier to think about the world, understand causal relationships, and identify sources of problems.

In the subsequent sections of the course, these concepts and their interrelations are detailed as objects and relationships of the subject areas of methodology and system thinking. In the final section of the course, a concise description (without justifications and detailed explanations) of these concepts is provided within the framework of the third generation of the system approach, with references to literature. It is on these concepts that applied engineering discussions (including engineering at the levels of organization, community, society) rely when discussing their reliance on the system approach and the consideration of methods for leading projects to create successful systems.