Robert Flood

Robert Flood
Norwegian University of Science and Technology | NTNU · Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management

Doctor of Science

About

115
Publications
60,234
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5,112
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Introduction
Robert Flood currently works at the Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Robert does research in Qualitative Social Research, Sociocybernetics and Social Theory. Their current project is 'The relationship between systemic thinking and action research'.
Additional affiliations
September 1989 - September 1997
University of Hull
Position
  • Professor (Full)
September 1985 - August 1989
City University, London
Position
  • Lecturer

Publications

Publications (115)
Article
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This article presents the application of the systemic problem structuring approach Viable System Diagnosis (VSD) within the Department of Orthopedic Surgery in a large hospital in Norway. It explains why systemic thinking is relevant to this uniquely complex form of human organization. The department was coping with systemic dysfunction and VSD was...
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The systems idea is at the heart of the Learning Organization (LO). This chapter revisits the LO in the light of a revised understanding of the systems idea. It introduces the basic premises of three fundamentally different theories about the systems idea. It briefly reviews Senge’s work and the LO literature with these three theories in mind. It i...
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In this vignette I introduce my understanding of the term systemic and the act of being systemic, which has caring at its heart. Before that I offer a few from many poignant stories from my life, happenings that raised questions in my mind, impacted on my relationship with the world, and shaped my way of living into ‘being systemic and caring’.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to give practical insights into the systemic approach to organizational learning “triple loop learning” (TLL; introduced in Part I) by reflecting on a facilitated research-and-intervention undertaken in South Africa as part of the “500 Schools Project”. Design/methodology/approach The authors reflect on one o...
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Purpose The purpose of the paper is to introduce a systemic approach to organizational learning “triple loop learning” (TLL) that addresses processes of power. Three equally important foci in our TLL are processes of design, processes of debate and processes of power. The focus on power aims to shift “power over” (power as domination) to “power to”...
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The Journal Systemic Practice and Action Research (SPAR) aims to encourage into print authors and practitioners of systemic thinking and practice from all kinds of background. In this note we describe both the publishing world into which SPAR has emerged and the systemic and inclusive thinking behind the journal’s publishing policy. We set out our...
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This article investigates the relationship of systems thinking to action research by reviewing the main developments in systems thinking and relating these to action research. There are two main lines of thought in systems thinking that lead to wholly different conceptions about action research. The first (systems thinking) advocates thinking about...
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Systems and cybernetic methodology have traditionally drawn upon the concepts of analogy and metaphor. These are, however, contentious on both philosophical and practical grounds. The work we present in this paper mostly aims to overcome the philosophical difficulties by uncovering the basic principles of analogic modeling and by showing how these...
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This article explores the original holistic intent of systems science, its failure to deliver on this because of a fundamental flaw in the genetics of its conception, and the genetic reengineering that can return systems science to its original holistic intent and enter it into the mainstream of scientific theory and everyday practice. The reengine...
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This paper reviews trends in systems theory/thinking from the 1970s to the early 2000s. It proposes a maturation of the field based on certain conceptual and methodological advances that have sought to liberate systems thinking from earlier strictures. An edited dialogue among three prominent systems thinkers from different systems schools—Merrelyn...
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This paper reviews Local Systemic Intervention (LSI). LSI results from learning about Total Systems Intervention (TSI). Learning followed application of TSI and by putting TSI through a postmodern critique. LSI is a complementarist approach. It encourages diversity through local decision making about the relevance of designs, consideredness of deci...
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A brief review of Peter B. Checkland's contribution to systemic thinking is presented in five parts: (i) a thumbnail sketch of his life and works; (ii) to action research; (iii) to interpretive-based systemic theory; (iv) formulation of soft systems methodology; and (v) brief reflections.
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A number of systemic theories appear to be converging in conclusion. The conclusion is that things are inherently unknowable to the human mind. People are coming to know of the unknowable. This paper introduces such ideas in the context of systemic practice. Implications for efficiency, effectiveness, and ethical matters are discussed.
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The book Fifth Discipline is Peter Senge's account of the learning organization. For Senge, five disciplines are necessary to bring about a learning organization—personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning, and systems thinking (called systemic thinking from here on). Systemic thinking is the discipline that integrates all five di...
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In this paper I explore the possibility of a complementary relationship between action research and the management and systems sciences. A range of purposes that action researchers and management and systems scientists pursue is initially set out. The paper then explores whether this diversity of purposes and the ways they recommend people to proce...
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Editorial
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Introduces diversity management as managing the increased diversity of issues that confront humankind in contemporary organizational and societal affairs. Defines triple loop learning as being about the increase in the fullness and deepness of learning about the diversity of issues and dilemmas faced. Presents the contours of diversity management a...
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A typology of power is presented. The typology guides researchers/practitioners to the main concerns currently debated about power and its abuses. Possible ways of managing organisational issues explicitly dealing with power and abuses are explored. The typology forms threearenas of discourse to make this possible: structuralism, intersubjective de...
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This paper suggests one way of managing plurality of theories and methodologies and ways of operationalising them. It suggests that the management of options needs to be linked to a process of reflexive consciousness. Reflexive consciousness operates by recognising that choices of theoretical and methodological commitment have to be made for the pu...
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The process of Choice in TSI is reexamined in this paper. Previously, methods2 have been understood to have a given and immediate purpose and are employed when this is judged to be most suitable in the circumstances. In this paper we suggest that methods can be operated in ways that meet purposes not provided by their founding theoretical underpinn...
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Total Systems Intervention (TSI) is a very new approach to 'problem solving', but has enjoyed a more extensive use than expected at this stage. Early accounts of it have now been explored in some depth in practice and through theoretical discussion. There have been many new insights generated. Conditions are now propitious for a thorough reworking...
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Details the development of a supplier development strategy (”co-makership”) for small and medium-sized enterprises. Explains the most important aims for working out a supplier development strategy and puts forward the main ideas about how it can help to manage the issues at hand. Provides a literature review. Following this preparation, gives a ful...
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Many practically minded researchers who have developed systems approaches to “problem solving” claim that their models and methods are capable of securing freedom for people. Since each approach is different there is a tendency to want to establish which one is right and which ones are wrong. We will discover that they are all partially right and p...
Chapter
The first three chapters provide the fundamental introductory material for this book. In this chapter, we turn to Theme B to start exploring what systems science can do for us. Theme B concentrates mainly on modeling and, for our purposes, the role that it plays mainly in the natural sciences. Modeling is about “system identification.” Diagrams are...
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The content of the preceding chapters is designed to present an overview of systems science in both the natural and social sciences. This has been achieved by looking at the concepts that make up the systems framework, and by considering the breadth of application achievable with such a framework. We have seen that, emerging from the presentation,...
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Chapters 1 and 2 have put in place an understanding of systems terms and concepts, and systems and complexity. We now need to complete the fundamental introductory material provided by Theme A before we can move on to the remaining themes, Theme B on systems in the natural sciences and Theme C on systems in the social sciences. Measurement is the s...
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In Chapter 2 it was shown that systems are objects as perceived by people (see Figure 2.1). A system was also defined as an abstraction from the world, which is in fact a model. Miller (1967) talked about formulation of chunks of information when a threshold of complexity was passed, and it was also noted in Chapter 2 that these are recursively upd...
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In the preceding chapter we examined ways in which modeling techniques could be used to represent systems which exhibit dynamic behavior. It was shown that models could be used not only to describe processes, but also to predict outcome and provide explanation. A variety of forms of model representation were outlined and it was shown that system dy...
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Chapter 1 is the first part of Theme A of this book. It armed the reader with an understanding of the fundamental concepts of systems science. We are now ready to start the second phase of the introduction by again posing the question: What is systems science all about? As the title of this book suggests, systems science is about “dealing with comp...
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Much of humanity’s efforts in the developed and developing world aim to overcome the “problems” created by changes in science, technology and the effects of these on society. Knowledge gained by traditional and systems sciences has been implemented in technological developments and devices. This has often led to unforeseen consequences such as poll...
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We now come to the third and last chapter dealing with systems thinking in the social sciences, Theme C of this book. The aim of this chapter is to show one example of systems science employed in theory building in the social sciences. The subject area is international relations (IR), a discipline that has “traditionally” explored structure rather...
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To complete Theme C on systems and modeling in the natural sciences, we are going to investigate what can be done if we have large unwieldy mathematical models that are difficult or impossible to use and manage. One possibility is to decompose the model. This chapter puts forward a systemic view on model decomposition. We touched upon this earlier,...
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This is the first of three chapters dealing with Theme C. Theme C provides a focus on systems ideas applied in the social domain. We start by undertaking a critical review of cybernetics and organization theory. This chapter first appeared in 1988 without the case study (Flood and Jackson, 1988).
Article
This Research Note shows that choice cannot be avoided by interpretive systems thinking and action. Interpretive systems thinkers must recognize the politicoideological element of choice in all aspects of their work-on fundamental philosophy, social theory, and methodology. Interpretive Systemology is the most advanced interpretive systems theory a...
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The development of TSI represents a real advance in management science in our view. Further developments are necessary however. This Research Note outlines what we currently consider to be key issues in this development. We welcome other criticisms and suggestions. We invite you to join with us in this project.
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The paper argues that quality and viability in management imply each other. Quality principles are interpreted using the traditional mechanical-coercive vision of organisations held in early scientific management and bureaucracy theory. The interpretation contradicts the intent of quality principles - viability was missing. The quality principles a...
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This paper documents the implementation of Total Quality Management employing a creative approach to problem solving called Total Systems Intervention.
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Critical systems heuristics (CSH) is explored in this article. It is an emancipatory approach to problem solving. Its philosophy and principles are presented. Methodological guidelines and an application for police strategy toward the carrying of offensive weapons are given. A critique of the philosophy, principles and methodology is provided. Room...
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This is the first exposition of a new methodology (or perhaps meta-methodology) for systems practice known as Total Systems Intervention (TSI). Designed to overcome the weaknesses of hard, cybernetic, and soft systems approaches and build on their strengths, TSI represents a practical face of critical systems thinking. It advocates combining three...
Article
This paper is a brief overview of the current achievements of a substantial research and consultancy program, which is reflected in our undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses, at the University of Hull, UK. Our ideas are based on critique, which has been found useful in developing an open and conciliatory approach to the diversity of systems...
Book
In the modern world organisations are faced with innumerable and multifaceted issues which cannot be captured in the minds of a few experts and solved with the aid of some super-method. It would be equally wrong to revert to a trial and error approach. We need to retain rigorous and formalised thinking, while admitting the need for a range of probl...
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We have expectations nowadays at any conference on systems thinking. There should be innovative developments on the theoretical front. Recent evidence shows that at last systems thinking has worked out credible intellectual foundations, as underlined in the section ‘Problem Structuring and Critical Systems Thinking’. Another expectation, however, i...
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What is an information system? Is it possible to define precisely an information system? Is it necessary or even possible to have one definition of an information system which everyone can agree with?
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A number of issues are considered important in the development of organisational information systems, and the papers in this section reflect these. Firstly, there is a need to develop business plans within organisations and then plans for the enhancement and development of information systems that support the business plans. Business planning logic...
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All healthy disciplines continue to change. Critical systems thinking consolidates recent innovative changes into a whole new brand of systems science. Its main idea is openness and conciliation between people, and their knowledges and methods. This philosophy is called complementarism. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief introduction t...
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The question of how to structure problems has been an issue in management science since its inception. In general the systems community has produced two possible answers to this question. The first, a hard systems response, advocates looking at the world in systems terms, identifying systems, sub-systems and supra-systems, and examining the relatio...
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For the systems thinker, the emergence of a new European order is an unparalleled opportunity. Quite suddenly, economic and social structures have become more complex as old boundaries have collapsed. Herein lies the rationale for the systems theme behind many of the papers in this section.
Book
Systems Thinking has undergone significant changes in the recent past. We have seen a challenge to hard and cybernetic systems approaches by soft systems thinking which, in turn, has been challenged by critical systems thinking. 'Critical Systems Thinking: Directed Readings' brings together a unique collection of classical and new papers that have...
Book
The theme of the conference at which the papers in this book were presented was 'Systems Thinking in Europe'. Members of the United Kingdom Systems Society (UKSS) were conscious that the systems movement flourishes not only in the UK, America and the Antipodes, but also in continental Europe, both East and West, and in the USSR, a nation increasing...
Article
In this paper we are concerned to overcome the impoverished use of analogy (and metaphor) to be found in the early days of explicit general systems thinking and modern day interpretive systems thinking. Our aim is to focus on the fundamental methodological principles of analogical reasoning and to reconsider the utility of such thought for systems...
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This paper proposes an integrated framework within which philosophical and methodological issues relating to model validation should be set. The viewpoint adopted is more expansive than that of traditional scientific rationality. Rather, it is suggested that there are several ways of 'dividing up reality', each of which has an associated rationalit...
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This paper outlines the rationale for using, and the application of, Viable Systems Diagnosis in a large-scale reorganization of a major tourism services group.
Article
This is a testament to conversations held in Berne and Fribourg, Switzerland, in late 1988. The main theme that we present concerns seeking to find an adequate epistemology for systems practice, to find a truly critical approach, by shifting our interests from systems science to systems rationality (i.e., by reaching out toward a systems epistemolo...
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This article contains an exploration of a number of the many interpretations of its title Liberating Systems Theory. It is in fact a point of reflection on the way to realizing Critical Systems Thinking. Particular points of focus are critical theory integrated to practice in systems "problem solving," and the history and progress of systems thinki...
Book
The aim of this chapter is to explore a number of possible interpretations of its title, ‘Liberating Systems Theory’ (‘LST’). Each of these selected meanings represents a theme, or a strand of study, that will be developed in one of the following chapters. Particular points of focus are: (a) Strand 1, the liberation of systems theory from a natural...
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The question concerning the necessity of this chapter must arise since it is often stated that, universally, systems thinking is recognized as coming together 40 to 50 years ago. I shall contend that this view can be fundamentally challenged, as would be expected considering that a Foucaulvian notion of the development of knowledge underpins the re...
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A unique feature of holism is the possibility of and tendency toward describing everything in systems terms. This can be explained by its early development within the forced confines of a nonreflective positivistically oriented General Systems Theory. We can choose to consider any situation as a system and know that, of course, it is also a sub- an...
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In previous chapters we have been concerned with abstract richness and paradigmatic interpretations of systemic concepts, particularly focusing on ‘System’ and ‘complexity‘. In the last chapter emphasis was placed on histories and progressions in systems thinking, but of course this too was centered on issues relating to systemic concepts as they a...
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If I were asked to comment on what I had hoped that the argument of this book would offer the reader, then my answer would vehemently be, to show that challenge and emancipation can lead to an enriching of our intellectual and life-worlds. This I have tackled in a number of ways focusing on systems thinking. The main point from each strand of the g...
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In the previous chapter I noted the importance of distinguishing between abstract and paradigmatic definitions of’ system’. In this chapter I shall deal with both of these intellectual matters in order to clarify the point further, and to focus on the implications of this for understanding’ system‘. There is, however, a third significant yet conten...
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In the preceding chapter we underwent a first indulgence with the whole argument of this book. This comprised ascertaining the theoretical and ideological status of Liberating Systems Theory, identifying the intellectual grounding of this sociological paradigm and then surveying four strands of thinking. The remainder of this book consists of expan...
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In this paper six scenarios for the future of systems problem solving are investigated in order to ascertain whether an approach can be identified (a) that offers prospects for the long-term survival and success of systems problem solving in practice and (b) that does this without incorporating theoretical contradictions. The six approaches come un...
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Substantial efforts have been dedicated toward the development of systems methodologies for “problem solving,” with various research groups concentrating on particular approaches. Recently, however, there have been moves toward reconciling these varying approaches within one overall framework, thus cutting out “isolationism” and inevitable ensuing...
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This essay deals with the contentious theory/practice relationship, that is, which is “prime”? We note that, whichever view is held on this issue, theory has mostly been neglected in systems science. This has led to confusion within the systems community, and to our near total neglect by other scientific communities. We propose that in what could b...
Chapter
The question concerning the necessity of this paper must arise since, we frequently read, systems science is recognised as “coming together” merely 40 to 50 years ago. We contend that (a) this view can be fundamentally challenged (implicitly dealt with in this paper), and (b) that which-ever view is taken, the message of Carr (1964), from his Treve...
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The term “General Systems Theory” disappeared from the name of the flagship organisation of the systems movement over 30 years ago. Almost as it was established, the “Society for the Advancement of General Systems Theory” became the “Society for General Systems Research”.
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As the organisers hoped, the systems thinking and theory sessions saw the exploration of almost all the important avenues of current systems research. Different speakers focussed on cybernetics, systems engineering, systems dynamics, soft systems thinking, operational research, general systems theory and critical systems thinking, and sought to cha...
Chapter
For a conference on systems prospects it seems inappropriate to draw up a conclusion as such. Looking to the future raises more questions than could ever hoped to be answered. So let us simply offer the following concluding thought.
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One indicator of the strength of systems thinking is the range of areas in which it has been found to be useful in practice. This should not be a surprising observation for, if systems ideas are as general as they are often claimed to be, then they should find application in a wide range of situations. The different shades of systems thinking and t...
Book
Systems Prospects is a record of the papers presented at the first con­ference organised by the United Kingdom Systems Society (UKSS), held at Thwaite Hall, Hull University (UK), on the dates 12th-15th July, 1988. The UKSS originally came together in 1978 as the Barford Group (the first meetings were held in the town of Barford), comprising academi...
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The aim of this paper is to consider primary attributes of complexity in situational contexts, particularly within the scope of systems modelling and methodology, and to ascertain which attributes of complexity systems scientists 'do/do not' deal with. By so doing, the groundings in complexity are secured for the reader and authors of this issue of...
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The essence of this paper recommends some major shifts in emphasis and approach, away from the scientific base of traditional systems science (as exemplified by traditional measurement and control methods) toward interpretive, subjective methods, when context relates to social situations. Radical change in place of regulation will also be discussed...
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Following a historical review of mathematical models in medicine, a critical analysis of the current state of the art is presented under themes of: contribution to scientific study, utility in education and utility in clinical decision making. Positive outcomes for the first two are encouraging. The last theme is more problematic. However, by consi...
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This paper seeks to open up debate between organization theorists and cyberneticians on the basis or commonalities of concern and similarities in the recommendations made to managers. Stafford Beer's “viable system model” is put forward as a framework which can be employed to integrate the findings of these two disciplines into a practical manageme...
Chapter
When asked to explain “what systems science is all about,” a systems expert is confronted with a rather daunting task. Indeed, it was precisely this difficulty that identified the need for a comprehensive well-documented account such as is presented here in Dealing with Complexity. As far as we are aware, there is not a single consolidated text on...

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