Integrating Argument Mapping with Systems Thinking
Tools – Advancing Applied Systems Science
Michael J. Hogan1, Owen M. Harney1 and Benjamin J. Broome2
1 National University of Ireland, Galway, School of Psychology,
2 Hugh Downs School of Communication, Arizona State University
Abstract. In the absence of meaningful strategies to promote critical thinking, systems thinking,
and social intelligence, it has been argued that algorithm-driven web technology will not only
serve to damage human creativity, technology may ultimately reduce our collective intelligence.
At the same time, the history of group decision-making in education, business, and public
administration highlights that working groups often fail to solve complex problems because
their method of collaborative problem solving is ineffective. Decades of research in social
psychology and the learning sciences highlight the many limitations of group problem solving,
including the tendency to focus on a limited set of ideas, select ideas based on biased ‘rules of
thumb’, and failure to build trust, consensus and collective vision. A fundamental skill for
resolving complex social and scientific problems is the ability to collectively visualise the
structure of a shared problem, and use this knowledge to design solutions and strategies for
collective action. In this chapter, we describe an approach to knowledge cartography that seeks
to overcome three independent human limitations which impede our ability to resolve complex
problems: poor critical thinking skills, no clear methodology to facilitate group coherence,
consensus design and collective action, and limited computational capacities. Building on
Warfield’s vision for applied systems sciences, we outline a new systems science tool which
currently combines two thought structuring methodologies: Argument Mapping for critical
thinking, and Interactive Management for system design. We further describe how teaching and
learning a form of knowledge cartography grounded in applied systems science requires a
vision around the development of Tools, Talents, and Teams. We also provide examples of how
our approach to knowledge cartography and applied systems science has been used in business
and educational settings.
In a compelling critique of algorithm-driven Web 2.0 technologies, Jaron Lanier
(2011) argues that the algorithm-driven direction of Web 2.0 is disempowering
individuals and reducing the creativity of people online. He also argues that the
social-semantic web is distorting human relationships and distancing people from true
intimacy. Notably, by damaging our ‘competence’ and ‘relatedness’ in this way, Web
2.0 technologies may work to undermine two pillars of what Self-Determination
Theory characterises as fundamental to our intrinsic motivation and growth (Deci &
Ryan, 2000). However, in addition to ‘competence’ and ‘relatedness’ – two key
drivers of growth and flourishing – the third pillar of Self-Determination Theory is
‘autonomy’, and perhaps it is our autonomy we need to exercise yet again to reclaim
our powers of relatedness and competence and thus exercise control over our
knowledge and our destiny.
Interestingly, in focusing on human creativity, Lanier does not address social
problem solving, or what we here call the pragmatic web (Schoop, de Moor, & Dietz,
2006; Buckingham Shum, Lind, & Weigand, 2007), a version of the social semantic
web (Breslin, Passant, & Decker, 2009) that we believe will evolve if autonomy is
exercised along with the use of increasingly meaningful technologies that promote
critical thinking, systems thinking, and social intelligence online and offline. The
pragmatic web uses the knowledge within the social network to facilitate collective
intelligence and problem solving. Naturally, collective intelligence within the
pragmatic web can never be an exclusively algorithm-driven process -- cultivating
critical thinking and systems thinking skills within individuals and teams is important.
Technology can support the development of these thinking skills and facilitate
collective intelligence and collective action, but the social psychology of collective
action presents unique challenges that require the cultivation of higher-order social-
emotional intelligence. We need to design holistic learning solutions that are
increasingly fit for purpose in this context.
This chapter describes some of our initial efforts in this regard. Building on John
Warfield’s vision for applied systems sciences, we describe an approach to knowledge
cartography that seeks to overcome three independent human limitations which
impede our ability to resolve complex social and scientific problems: poor critical
thinking skills, no clear methodology to facilitate group coherence, consensus design
and collective action, and limited computational capacities. We describe how
Argument Mapping for critical thinking and Interactive Management for system
design are integrated in our technology-supported approach to learning, and we
outline plans to further integrate Structural Equation and System Dynamics Modelling
into our approach. We focus on academic student learning and real world professional
sensemaking in relation to wicked problems. We highlight three Ts needed for
teaching and learning a form of knowledge cartography grounded in applied systems
science: Tools, Talents, and Teams. The chapter closes with a case study describing
an application of our method to manage cultural issues associated with technological
change in the automotive industry.
2 Knowledge Cartography and Applied Systems Science
According to John Warfield (2006), past president for the international society for
systems, resolving complex scientific and social problems is contingent upon the
collective action of groups working within an applied systems science framework that
incorporates at least five elements. Systems science is best seen as a science that
consists of nested sub-sciences. It is presented most compactly using the notation of
set theory. Let A represent a science of description. Let B represent a science of
design. Let C represent a science of complexity. Let D represent a science of action
(praxiology). Let E represent systems science. According to Warfield, we have the
following hierarchy of subsets within systems science:
A B C D E (1)
We can learn something of systems science by learning a science of description
(e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, economics). We can learn a
science of design that includes a science of description. Warfield argues that the
science of design is fundamental if our goal is to redesign systems (e.g., the intelligent
redesign of school systems via effective knowledge imported from biology,
psychology, sociology and economics). The science of design implies the use of tools
that facilitate the building of structural hypotheses in relation to any given problematic
situation, a problematic situation that may call upon the import of knowledge from
any given field of scientific inquiry. Furthermore, Warfield suggests we can learn a
science of complexity that includes a science of description and a science of design.
The science of complexity is fundamental if our goal is to integrate a large body of
knowledge and multiple disparate functional relations that different stakeholders
believe to be relevant to the problematic situation. In Warfield’s applied systems
science scheme, the science of action includes a science of description, a science of
design, and a science of complexity. The science of action is fundamental if our goal
is to catalyze collective action for the purpose of bringing about system changes that
are grounded in the sciences of description, design, and complexity. From an
educational perspective, if students are to learn a form of applied systems science that
can be used to promote successful collective action in science and society, they need
to learn in what ways the domain-based science of description that is their primary
focus of enquiry at University can be integrated in principle with other domains of
enquiry in the context of a broader science of design, complexity, and action.
However, from a broader applied perspective, advanced knowledge of systems science
is not a prerequisite for the application of Warfield’s methods to the resolution of
complex problems. Given that Warfield was primarily interested in supporting groups
working to resolve professional, business and societal problems, he focused on
developing a system of facilitation and problem solving that separated the demands of
group problem solving from the demands of facilitating groups in the application of
systems science methodologies. Below we describe Warfield’s methods and the
process of facilitation in more detail.
3 Interactive Management
Warfield’s vision for applied systems science is instantiated in part in the systems
science methodology he developed, Interactive Management (IM). IM is a computer
facilitated thought and action mapping technique that helps groups to develop
outcomes that integrate contributions from individuals with diverse views,
backgrounds, and perspectives. Established as a formal system of facilitation in 1980
after a developmental phase that started in 1974, IM was designed to assist groups in
dealing with complex issues (see Ackoff, 1981; Argyris, 1982; Cleveland, 1973; Deal
& Kennedy, 1982; Kemeny, 1980; Rittel & Webber, 1973; Simon, 1960). The
theoretical constructs that inform IM draw from both behavioural and cognitive
sciences, with a strong basis in general systems thinking. Emphasis is given to
balancing behavioural and technical demands of group work (Broome & Chen, 1992)
while honoring design laws concerning variety, parsimony, and saliency (Ashby,
1958; Boulding, 1966; Miller, 1956).
IM has been applied in a variety of situations to accomplish many different goals,
including assisting city councils in making budget cuts (Coke & Moore, 1981),
developing instructional units (Sato, 1979), designing a national agenda for pediatric
nursing (Feeg, 1988), creating computer-based information systems for organizations
(Keever, 1989), improving the U.S. Department of Defense’s acquisition process
(Alberts, 1992), promoting world peace (Christakis, 1987), improving Tribal
governance process in Native American communities (Broome, 1995a, 1995b;
Broome & Christakis, 1988; Broome & Cromer, 1991), and training facilitators
(Broome & Fulbright, 1995).
There is a series of steps in the IM methodology:
1. First, a group of key stakeholders with an interest in resolving a problematic situation
comes together in a situation room, who are asked to generate a set of ‘raw’ ideas
(commonly 50 – 200) about what might potentially have a bearing on the problem.
Group discussion and voting helps the group to clarify the sub-set of ideas that bear
upon the most critical problem issues (see step 1 & 2 in Figure 1).
2. Next, using IM software, each of the critical issues are compared systematically in
pairs and the same question is asked of each in turn: “Does A influence B?” Unless
there is majority consensus that one issue impacts upon another, the relation does not
appear in the final analysis.
3. After all the critical issues have been compared in this way, IM software generates a
graphical problem structure (or problematique) showing how the issues are
interrelated. The problematique can be viewed and printed for discussion (see step 4
in Figure 1).
4. The problematique becomes the launch pad for planning solutions to problems within
the problem field. The logical structure of problems is visible in the problematique
and when generating solutions, action plans are aimed at resolving problems in a
logical and orderly manner.
5. When the group is happy that they have modeled both the problem field and the best
possible set of solutions, the IM session closes and each member leaves with a
detailed action plan, a specific set of goals to work on, and the roadmap and logic
describing how all the various plans and goals of each member will work together to
resolve the original problem.
Notably, the IM methodology can be used to structure problems, objectives,
options, competencies, and so on, using a variety of different relational statements
(e.g., aggravates, enhances, promotes, supports, etc.). We have also made use of the
IM methodology in a conference setting, specifically, to structure barriers to wellbeing
in Ireland, (Hogan & Broome, 2012) and associated objectives to tackle those barriers
(Hogan & Broome, 2013).
(1) Generate and Clarify Ideas (system elements)
Statement Number of Sum of ranks
2. Lack of clear inc entives to 4 16 8
23. Clashing persona lities and 4 10 4
12. Challenge of ide ntifying l 3 8 6
4. Lack of identity for the new 3 9 2
17. Uncertainty rega rding new 2 7 2
25. Lack of reward s ystems to 2 6 8
9. Difficulty in def ining clust 2 6 1
24. Unrecognized val ue of soci 2 7 2
5. Specialization (m itigates ag 2 6 5
7. Lack of clear lan guage that 2 6 5
19. Overdependence o n "bureauc 2 4 6
22. Some individuals want to w 2 2 4
3. Lack of motivatio n or intere 2 7 7
13. Lack of opportun ity for fo 1 3 3
26. Turf issues: ind ividuals w 1 5 4
32. Someone needs to commit si 1 4 6
20. Divergence in me thods, pro 1 5 5
28. Not really an ex isting, re 1 4 3
33. Institute based on what we 1 2 6
14. Lack of informat ion/certai 1 1 5
15. Lack of translat ion of res 1 2 8
-------------------- ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ -----
(2) Rank order, categorise, select elements
(3) Structure Elements
(4) Evaluate graphical representation of
group logic (element relations)
(5) Evaluate the reasoning supporting
each relation in the sy stem of logic
Fig 1. Collaborative Systems Thinking and Model Building using Matrix Structuring
(IM) and Argument Mapping (Rationale) support tools
4 Facilitating computation and making critical thinking visible
Warfield argued that the tools of systems science will be most effective if they
integrate our capacity to share meaning using words, represent causality using
graphics, and model complexity using mathematics (see Figure 2). IM integrates all
three of these components in its design. Warfield also highlights the distinction
between the mathematics of content and the mathematics of structure. IM draws upon
the mathematics of structure to convert matrix structures into the graphical
logic and structure:
eg., formal logic,
graph theory, matrices
Mathematics of content:
e.g., differential equations,
used to describe
phenomena in physics,
Fig 2. Systems science needs to work with our capacity to share meaning using
words, represent causality using graphics, and model complexity using mathematics.
Although the mathematical algorithms that underpin Warfield’s IM software are
relatively complex -- drawing in particular upon the mathematics of matrices -- the
application of the software for the purpose of generating a structural hypothesis in
relation to any given problematic situation is reasonably straightforward. In fact, the
rationale for separating the computational complexity of structuring from the process
of dialogue, information search, deliberation, and voting in a group was very explicit
in Warfield’s view. The IM software is designed to alleviate the group of
computational burden and thus allow them the opportunity to maximize the processes
of creative idea generation, dialogue, information search, critical thinking and voting
in relation to key binary relations in the overall problem structure.
Complementing the IM-generated influence diagram, we have recently integrated
our IM software with argument mapping (AM) software. Notably, given that each of
the binary relations in a larger structural hypothesis (or problematique) represents a
specific claim, a structural analysis and evaluation of the evidence used to support this
claim can be mapped out in an argument map (see step 5 in Figure 1). In the current
version of our IM software, the user can hyperlink out to a separate AusThink
RationaleTM argument map file for each relational line within a problematique.
Furthermore, with easy access to the Web of Science and other search engines, it is
possible for students working together to analyse and evaluate a particular claim in a
structure, specifically, by sourcing available knowledge and considering the
credibility, relevance, and logical significance of this knowledge to the relation under
investigation. An example will serve to illustrate this integration. Below is the
outcome of an IM session conducted as part of a Thinking, Modelling and Writing in
Psychology module in NUI Galway, in response to the trigger question, What are the
most important skills and dispositions of good critical thinkers? Table 1 illustrates the
top ranked skills and the top ranked dispositions of good critical thinkers, as voted
upon by the students in the class.
Table 1. Top Ranked skills and dispositions for CT
1. The ability
to clearly say
what it is you
want to say
detach from one’s
2. The ability
to evaluate the
we may not have
knowledge of a
critically about it)
3. The ability
with others to
write an essay in
order to achieve a
4. The ability
say what you
want to say in
5. The ability
to draw a
about a topic
based on its
what we know
Figure 3 illustrates how these ideas are listed in the IM software in the ideas tab.
Fig 3. Screen from the IM software application showing the list of critical thinking
skills and dispositions to be structured
Figure 4 illustrates how ideas are selected for structuring in the IM software using the
Fig 4. Screen from the IM software application showing the selection of ideas to be
Students were then facilitated in using the IM software to structure the
interdependencies among the highest ranked skills and dispositions. Figure 5
illustrates how the software application presents the group with individual matrix
Fig 5. Screen from the IM software application showing how the user is presented
with individual matrix structuring decisions.
After all elements were structured, the IM software generated the graphical
problematique (Figure 6) which is to be read from left to right, with paths in the model
interpreted as ‘significantly enhances’. For example, students who participated in the
IM session agreed after open deliberation that [the disposition] the willingness to
question one’s own assumptions and thinking significantly enhances [the skill] one’s
capacity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an argument.
Although Warfield recognized that the critical thinking skills of participants in an
IM session are often limited, he rarely discussed the particulars of these skills and how
they might be developed in parallel with training in the use of IM. In the context of
resolving problems that call upon the knowledge of diverse stakeholders, it is
important to recognize that informed judgments in relation to key system relations
imply the ability to think critically and reflectively in relation to one’s own knowledge
and the knowledge presented by others (Facione, 1990; Kuhn, 2005)
As defined in The Delphi Report (Facione, 1990), critical thinking involves:
“…purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis,
evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual,
methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that
judgment is based.” (p. 3)
While a variety of training techniques can be used to enhance critical thinking
skills, a meta-analysis by Alvarez-Ortiz (2007) suggests that the explicit use of
argument mapping training is one of the most effective methods of training critical
thinking skills (see also Dwyer et al. 2013). Furthermore, with research studies
demonstrating the largest gains in knowledge growth and critical thinking skills
deriving from cooperative enquiry (Johnson & Johnson, 2009), and with computer
supported argument mapping tools now widely available and widely applied in
tertiary education (van Gelder, Bissett, & Cumming, 2004), it is not difficult to see
how the development of critical thinking skills through cooperative enquiry using
argument mapping tools can fit within Warfield’s vision for systems science
Returning to the problematique illustrated in Figure 6, the willingness to question
one’s own assumptions and thinking significantly enhances one’s capacity to evaluate
the strengths and weaknesses of an argument, is a contestable claim, which as shown,
may be evaluated more rigorously by constructing an associated Argument Map to
consider the credibility, relevance, and logical significance of the available evidence
underpinning the claim.
Fig 6. Sample enhancement structure (IM) of skills and dispositions required for critical
thinking, with unfolded argument map (Rationale) exploring a specific claim (that the
ability to question one’s assumptions and thinking enhances evaluation skills).
Unfolded argument map
Unfolded argument map
5 The role of the cartographer in facilitating the collective
Facilitating team learning and collective intelligence using integrated AM/IM tools is
challenging work that requires a sophisticated understanding of the role of the
facilitator, acquired both through training and learning from the experience of working
with different teams and different problematic situations. Central to our perspective
as facilitators is the distinction between context, content, and process, and these
distinctions are clarified with the team in advance of any session:
Context: Participants are working in a particular context and focus on a particular
issue and have specific goals
Content: Participants’ primary role is to provide ideas relevant to the context and the
particular issue they are addressing
Process: The role of the facilitation team is to manage the flow of activities, including
the implementation of various methodologies that allow goals to be accomplished.
Facilitators do not contribute ideas or make judgments about the content of
Collective Intelligence sessions are dedicated to productive and efficient group
dialogue. Although the facilitator is not responsible for content input, the functions of
facilitation are key to groups producing valuable products. The responsibilities of the
facilitator lie in five major areas:
1. Developing a collaborative working relationship with the client group: Well before a
CI session starts, the facilitator must work with both the sponsor of the sessions and
the person who will serve as the liaison for designing the group work (sometimes
referred to as the broker, who could be the same as the sponsor). It is critical that the
facilitator gains a clear picture of the context in which the CI sessions are embedded.
This could entail several discussions with the sponsor/broker in order to understand
the problematic situation, decide on the goals of the CI session, and select the
participants who will take part in the CI session. Often the facilitator will need to
serve as a teacher/educator in explaining to the client what can/will be done and how
much time will be required.
2. Planning appropriate group processes: After the facilitator has a clear sense of the
purposes and goals for the Collective Intelligence session, the next task is designing a
detailed workshop plan and preparing the necessary materials for use in the session. A
critical component of this planning process is selecting the methodologies and the
sequence of activities that will be carried out during the session. Most CI sessions
involve both idea generation and structuring. The structuring is done with the AM/IM
software, but the idea generation can be accomplished in multiple ways, and often
there are multiple instances of both idea generation and structuring, depending on the
goals of the session. For idea generation, decisions have to be made about wording of
guiding questions, and for the structuring process, choices have to be made about the
type of relationship to be used with the software. Importantly, the methodologies and
the wording should be tested with the broker and/or a representative of the participant
group to see if it is likely to be appropriate.
3. Managing logistics: Although it is easy to consider logistics a mundane concern, it is
very important for the facilitator to give attention to tasks such as making
arrangements for the meeting room, gathering the materials that will be used in the
session (such as marker pens, paper, etc.), and making sure the group has the
necessary food and drink to sustain them during the long and demanding group work.
While many of these tasks can be delegated to support staff, we have found it
advisable for the facilitator to keep a close eye on logistics, since they are not only
necessary in order for the session to flow smoothly, but participants can become
surprisingly distracted by seemingly small disruptions that could be easily prevented
by proper attention to details.
4. Facilitating group process: Perhaps the central role of the facilitator is to create and
sustain an inclusive and participatory climate through structured dialogue. One of the
vital roles of the facilitator is to prevent the sessions from becoming platforms for
individual presentations, or a forum for academic debate or political posturing. While
individuals bring into the group various levels of status and prestige, the facilitator
promotes respect for individual contributions and guides the discussion to help
participants understand diverse points of view. It is critical to encourage a variety of
perspectives while disallowing premature evaluation. The facilitator asks participants
to adopt a posture of individual and collective willingness to listen to and learn from
each other. While it is not expected that everyone will agree with every aspect of the
final products, it has been our experience that participants are committed to and
willing to support the work of the group.
5. Guiding the group to their desired outcomes: Collective Intelligence sessions usually
result in both improved relations within the group and a set of products that are useful
for the group. By engaging in structured dialogue, participants can develop new
communication patterns that carry over into the workplace, and they may develop a
higher level of trust among the group participants. However, the primary focus of the
CI sessions is usually on the task outcome, helping the group gain a clearer
understanding of the situation they are facing and designing an appropriate response to
it. Depending on its purpose and goals, the group’s work could lead to a number of
different products, such as collective vision statement, an agenda for research, a new
curriculum, or a detailed plan of action to address the situation. The facilitator must
keep the group on track toward their desired outcomes by implementing the planned
methodologies, while making necessary adjustments in response to the continually
evolving dynamics and changing needs of the group. This may involve interventions
such as reminding the group of the context of their work, summarizing and
synthesizing progress at various points along the way, displaying interim results,
recognizing when the group veers off on a tangent and redirecting them to the task,
varying the pace of the work to keep everyone engaged, and bringing the group’s
attention to the objectives and goals of the session.
While many of the responsibilities described above are applicable to a wide range
of approaches to facilitation, the AM/IM facilitator is also a cartographer, charged
with implementing methodologies that allow groups to produce graphical
representations of problematic situations, goals for the future, action priorities, and
other structures that depict the group’s view of the connections among the issues that
it is exploring. As such, the cartographer-facilitator must also give attention to the
1. Under-conceptualization must be avoided: Frequently, groups will fail to adequately
explore all required dimensions of a problematic situation. This happens primarily for
two reasons: (a) the set of participants is missing key individuals, leaving the group
without necessary expertise or points of view; (b) the methodologies utilized by the
group fail in identifying all the relevant dimensions. The first of these potentially fatal
shortcomings is addressed by the facilitator’s initial work with the client to ensure that
the relevant points of view and required expertise is represented around the table. The
second is addressed by the AM/IM methodologies, which are designed to elicit all the
ideas relevant to the situation and to incorporate the essential ideas in the final
2. Information overload must be minimized: All too often, participants in meetings are
asked to deal with too many pieces of information simultaneously. The methodologies
in AM/IM help participants work with ideas systematically and in manageable chunks
while building up a holistic view of the situation.
3. The focus of the group must be kept on the larger picture that is emerging: Many
meetings often become bogged down in small issues and details and the group loses
sight of the larger picture. By implementing the AM/IM methodologies, the group
maintains focus on the system of issues that characterize the situation.
4. Efforts must be directed toward an integrated design product: It is common to see in
group work a significant amount of "jumping back and forth" between seemingly
unrelated issues. AM/IM sessions are conducted as part of an integrated plan for
dealing with the situation, and each session builds on what came before and lays the
foundation for what will come after.
5. Meaningful documentation must be provided: Quite often meetings usually go to one
of two extremes in providing a record of group work - they either provide sketchy
minutes or they try to capture every word uttered by participants. AM/IM sessions
avoid both extremes by providing an "audit trail" that captures the products produced
by the group and the rationales behind those products.
In addition to the skills and responsibilities described above, the cartographer-
facilitator role also requires curiosity, reflectiveness, and neutrality, qualities that are
essential in working with groups that produce a large number of ideas. Curiosity
implies maintaining an attitude of openness and interest to new ideas and lines of
reasoning. Reflectiveness implies a questioning attitude to the potential ambiguity and
redundancy of ideas in the idea set, and the balance and soundness of arguments
voiced during structuring. Reflectiveness also implies the provision of feedback in
relation to ideas and reasoning provided by the team and the coordination of ideas and
lines of reasoning to facilitate the integration of team members’ perspectives and
contributions. Finally, reflective feedback is provided not only with an attitude of
curiosity and openness -- that is, promoting exploratory dialogue in the group (Mercer,
2005) – but also with neutrality as regards the underlying motives for particular ideas
and lines of reasoning. In other words, ideas and logic are considered by the
facilitator on the basis of key principles (e.g., clarity, non-redundancy, soundness)
rather than on whether or not they fit with a particular political agenda.
Having said that, the facilitator must be aware that in many business and applied
settings the political agenda of participants and potential conflicts between group
members need to be negotiated and managed. In his work in Cyprus, Broome (2003)
described how gaining trust, maintaining impartiality, sustaining commitment, and
dealing with the pressure to show “tangible” results were critical factors in the success
of the IM methodology in facilitating conflict resolution between Greek and Turkish
Cypriots. In this sense, the role of facilitator includes the exercise of skills that
promote and maintain effective team dynamics. Again, this implies the need to
provide sufficient training for facilitators (Broome & Fulbright, 1995).
6 Case Study – Using IM to Manage Cultural Issues Associated
with Technological Change in the Automotive Industry
Organizations exist in turbulent environments, surrounded by constant change and
competing organizations. Since the publication in the early 1980s of books such as
Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life (Deal & Kennedy, 1982),
organizational culture has been recognized as a critical aspect of overall effectiveness
in corporate life, and it is seen as a key factor in managing change. Cultures in
organizations are multifaceted, complex, and constantly evolving, and although
humans seek stability and often resist change, organizations that find effective ways to
bring about needed cultural change are more likely to succeed.
In the early 1990s, the automotive industry in the United States was undergoing
rapid changes in response to increased international competition, particularly from
Asian car manufactures. To remain competitive in both domestic and international
markets, U.S. companies were faced with the need to incorporate new technology in
the design and testing of new automotive systems. One large U.S. automotive
manufacturer confronted that challenge by conducting a series of Interactive
Management sessions over a period of several years. The company was planning for
the development and introduction of a new technology for automotive design
processes (referred to in this paper as the AP program). The intention of the AP
program was to integrate hardware and software into a system that would provide the
means of sharing design and manufacturing information among all activities related to
An implementation team was assembled to define the system's technological
components and identify major issues that must be addressed in order to ensure the
success of the program. IM was used to assist the group in developing influences
structures, priority structures, and categorizations of ideas related to the AP program.
The initial IM sessions produced a structure that mapped the overall set of issues
related to the AP program. In the AP problematique, organizational culture emerged
as a central aspect of many of the problems and issues identified by the
A series of IM workshops was then focused on the development of a cultural
change program to support the introduction and acceptance of the new technologies
and processes that would be required to move the AP product realization process
toward the concurrent engineering process that is at the center of the AP vision.
Attention to the cultural aspects of the AP program progressed through several stages
including cultural problem identification; problem structuring and consideration of
problem interactions; development of options for ameliorating the identified cultural
problems; selection and structuring of options to build a preliminary event-sequence
structure that forms the basis of a cultural change program authored by the AP
In the initial stages of the IM work on culture issues, a “cultural problem field”
was created by the implementation team that included over one hundred cultural
issues in ten categories. These categories included: Short Term Focus, Hardware
Focus, Trust Issues, Unrealistic Expectations, Resistance to Change, Teamwork
Issues, Motivational Issues, Discipline Issues, Business Process Issues, and
Communication Issues. Twenty-eight high-priority issues, selected across the ten
categories, were structured by the implementation team using an influence
relationship of "significantly aggravates." This resulted in the problematique shown in
Figure 7 below.
An analysis of this structure was performed by linking information from the
cultural problem field and the cultural problematique. This analysis showed that
problems related to business process issues, unrealistic expectations, resistance to
change, and hardware focus were providing the most negative influence on the overall
system of issues. In order to effectively bring about cultural change in the
organization, it would be necessary to address these categories of problems in a
Fig 7: IM Problematique of AP Cultural Issues
The use of a graphical representation of issues (the problematique) allowed the
implementation team to make significant progress in developing a systematic plan to
take steps toward the necessary changes in the organizational culture. Focusing
primarily on the categories identified in the structural analysis, the participants
developed a “cultural options field” for resolving these issues. The options field
consisted of over 200 possible options that, if pursued, could address the cultural
problems and create an organizational environment in which the AP program would
be more likely to succeed. From the options field, the group identified a subset of
high-priority short-term options on which they believed significant progress could be
shown in a six-month time period. The implementation team engaged in developing
the task parameters associated with these options, including assignment of options to
appropriate individuals and departments. Although not all of the options in the plan
came to fruition, many of the highest-impact actions were implemented, resulting in
significant cultural change in the organization.
The key product of the IM design sessions was the problematique depicting the
system of problems associated with organizational culture. This graphical portrayal of
issues represented a broad and thorough understanding of the issues and their
interrelationships, and using it as a primary reference point allowed the
implementation team to identify a wide range of options and then select those that
would have the highest impact on the overall system. Without the problematique and
the associated problem field as guiding structures for their options generation, the
group might have been far less creative and thorough in their options generation, and
they would have had no sound basis for selecting options for implementation. It has
been our experience that groups obtain significant value in systematically mapping
influence relationships among the key issues they face and then using the graphical
representation of the resulting structure as a basis for generating and selecting options
for implementation. If corporations, government agencies, educational institutions,
and community organizations could follow this path of decision making, we could
make much better decisions about how to invest our limited resources, and we could
go a long way toward developing a healthy and equitable society.
7 Next steps: knowledge cartography for systems science education
We have argued that cultivating collective intelligence within the pragmatic web
requires that we move beyond thinking about collective intelligence as an exclusively
algorithm-driven process. We suggested that cultivating critical thinking and systems
thinking skills within individuals and teams is important – and while technology can
support the development of these thinking skills, the social psychology of collective
intelligence and collective action presents unique challenges that require both social-
emotional intelligence and a new web infrastructure that is fit for purpose. There are
many challenges that we face as we seek to cultivate and apply our collective
intelligence in response to adaptive demands.
In closing, we focus on the importance of developing a new strategy for systems
science education, designing the pragmatic web in a way that facilitates quality
knowledge cartography and quality collective intelligence, and training facilitators to
support teams on the pragmatic web.
As past president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, John
Warfield (1925 – 2009) devoted most of his career to the task of building a viable
systems science. However, his thinking as regards how systems science could be
integrated into science education at school and university came later in his career and
he died before any substantial progress could be made in this regard. Perhaps less
well developed in Warfield’s thinking are: (a) strategies for importing the facts and
relations of disparate descriptive sciences into group design efforts, (b) strategies for
quantifying problematique model fit by weighting and measuring discrete relations in
matrix structures, computing statistical fit indices, and further integrating with system
dynamics modeling tools (Maani & Cavana, 2000); (c) teaching the critical thinking
skills necessary for the analysis and evaluation of scientific evidence embedded in
problematiques, and (d) cultivating domain-specific systems level thinking in students
at school level prior to their entering university (Stein, Dawson & Fischer, 2010).
In order to advance Warfield’s vision of systems science education and further
develop applied systems science, we are working to develop a tool and a teaching
framework that integrates critical thinking and systems modelling in a broader
pedagogical framework (Hogan, Harney, & Broome, 2014). Central to our framework
is the development of tools, talents, and teams (see Figure 8), which set in context the
IM/AM approach detailed in this chapter.
Fig 8. Three levels in a framework for systems science education -- Tools, Talents
Note: IM = Interactive Management, AM = Argument Mapping, SysD = System
Team orientation; Mutual performance
monitoring; Backup behavior management;
Adaptability; Leadership; Mutual trust, Shared
mental models; Closed loop communication
Thinking; Social Intelligence
IM, AM, SEM,
We believe that developments across these three levels are reciprocally
reinforcing, in the sense that good tool design should facilitate the development of key
individual talents while also promoting effective team dynamics, much like efforts to
promote effective team dynamics should accelerate the development of individual
talents and the development of tool use skills. Furthermore, we believe that systems
science education needs to extend to cooperative action in the context of real-world
social problems. Therefore, we have proposed that systems science education should
include an action research and service learning component, whereby students are
given the opportunity to work with community stakeholders on real world problems
(Hogan, Harney, & Broome, 2014). In our framework, teams use their talents and
tools to work on specific tasks focused on the resolution of problems within specific
territories. The notion of tasks is consistent with Warfield’s vision for applied systems
science, which is rooted in the philosophical school of pragmatism (Warfield, 2006)
and is applied and task-oriented in its focus. The notion of territories is used to
reinforce the idea that human problems function within an ecosystem, or territory of
influence, and thus the resolution of these problems involves human action within a
specific territory. Problem description and modelling only serves the purpose to
facilitate understanding and perspective in relation to concrete adaptive action within
a territory of influence (Vennix, 1996).
In terms of the future development of our tool, we believe it will be useful to build
a stronger bridge between the mathematics of logic and structure and the mathematics
of content in Warfield scheme. This can be done by testing structural models or
dynamic models that are analogues or extensions of the models generated by a group
in an IM session (Chang, 2010; Maani and Cavana, 2000; Vennix, 1996). Although
detailed mathematical specification is beyond the scope of this chapter, consistent
with Vennix (1996) and Maani and Cavana (2000), IM modelling can be used as a
foundational step for groups that seek to develop consensus-based computational
models in a facilitated team setting using either structural equation modelling tools
such as Amos
, or System Dynamics tools such as Vensim
These tools can be used in parallel or integrated more directly as part of a multi-
component systems modelling and action planning tool. We are currently working on
the latter software development strategy.
In this chapter we have used the term ‘the pragmatic web’ (Schoop, et al., 2006),
but in so doing we are aware that there are many ways to build a pragmatic web that
promotes and facilitates collective knowledge cartography and problem solving and
overlays systems modeling affordances upon existing semantic web technologies. In
our framework, The Pragmatic Web is an ambitious project that seeks to enhance the
power and potential of applied systems science by embedding an updated version of
existing IM software into a Web 2.0 system with new, enhanced functional
components that allow working groups to design problematiques and action structures
that enhance their successful workings. More generally, we conceive the Pragmatic
Web as a project of job creation and infrastructure development designed to
regenerate society via the training of IM facilitators who will work across every sector
of society to facilitate the successful workings of groups who are invested in the
resolution of current economic, social, and environmental problems.
Warfield’s original IM software support tool was somewhat difficult to use and, as
a consequence, only a handful of IM facilitators used the method (see Warfield, 2006).
We have worked to develop a user-friendly version of the software
, but we now face
the design challenge of embedding IM into the Web. We anticipate many challenges,
including how best to facilitate group dialogue online, how best to work both
synchronously and asynchronously on model building and action planning efforts,
how best to maintain group focus, motivation, and effective team dynamics, and how
best to train users and facilitators in this unique approach to systems thinking and
applied systems science.
In relation to the training of facilitators who will get the most out of the tools, we
have documented the multi-component skill set, the sophisticated understanding of
one’s role as a facilitator, and the performance requirements necessary for effective
team dynamics and collective action. Facilitation skills need to be acquired both
through training and learning from the experience of working with different teams in
the context of many different problematic situations. We believe that the effective
functioning of the pragmatic web requires expert input from facilitators. Given this
requirement, there are a number of challenges moving forward, including the
development of a deep understanding of how best to facilitate groups online, how best
to train and prepare facilitators for online work, and how best to increase the
efficiency of working groups and possibly reduce the monitoring burden on
facilitators using information technologies that support key processes (e.g., individual
and group feedback) and the development of key products (e.g., models, simulations,
reports, action agendas). Overall, we are very excited about the prospect for the
development of a new pragmatic web that facilitates systems thinking, collective
intelligence, and collective action focused on the resolution of an increasing variety of
social problems. We also recognise that there are many challenges, but consistent
with Warfield’s view, we believe that these challenges and problems are the primary
catalyst of creativity and the design of new solutions that provide an increasingly
adequate fit to the challenges we face together.
The software is available upon request. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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