Karen Shipp's research while affiliated with The Open University (UK) and other places

Publications (63)

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System dynamics deals with how things change through time, which includes most of what most people find important. It uses computer simulation to take the knowledge we already have about details in the world around us and to show why our social and physical systems behave the way they do. System dynamics demonstrates how most of our own decision-ma...
Chapter
Sir Geoffrey Vickers was a lawyer and manager, and provides an outstanding example of deep reflection after a long and varied career. He produced a series of important and thought-provoking works in retirement, which had a strong influence upon the developing use of systems thinking in management, decision-making and politics. He had such an impact...
Chapter
Warren McCulloch resembled an Old Testament prophet – he had a long beard, bright and intense eyes, great personal warmth but also great passion. Indeed Gregory Bateson. (A sacred unity: further steps to an ecology of mind. HarperCollins, New York, p. 225, 1991) describes him as “like Moses, a leader who could and did bring us to the edge of the pr...
Chapter
Ilya Romanovich Prigogine was a chemist and physicist. He made enormous advances in the field of thermodynamics, historically the study of the behaviour of energy, heat and work in physical systems. His theory of dissipative structures, which describes the self-organising activity of systems ‘far from equilibrium’, has been foundational in complexi...
Chapter
Russell Ackoff (usually known as ‘Russ’) was a pioneer of the application of systems approaches to management, both through theoretical developments and through a deep and practical engagement with many different organisations. He was a strong advocate of the need for systems approaches to take full account of the complexity of inter-related proble...
Chapter
Kurt Lewin was a visionary and deeply original thinker. He was highly committed both to social change and to developing theories about human behaviour, summing up the connection between the two in writing that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory” (Lewin K. Field theory in social science. Harper & Row, New York, p 169, 1951). The list of...
Chapter
Niklas Luhmann was a theoretical sociologist, who built a unified theory of society based on systems theory. He particularly drew upon the tools of second-order cybernetics, notably the theory of autopoiesis. He was extremely prolific, publishing over 50 books and several hundred articles, ranging across many areas of social theory with an exceptio...
Chapter
Heinz von Foerster was a physicist and philosopher, who worked extensively in cybernetics, biology and family therapy, although he hated being categorised as belonging to a particular academic discipline. Indeed he once remarked that “I am Viennese. That is the only label that I have to accept. I come from Vienna; I was born there, that’s an establ...
Chapter
Stafford Beer was a consultant, manager and cybernetician. He was the first person to apply cybernetics to management problems. He combined theory and practice in a highly integrated way, always working as a practitioner but making a number of important contributions in both methodology and theory. His writing was highly inspirational as well as ac...
Chapter
Chris Argyris was a theorist and practitioner of organisational development. For more than 50 years, he wrote, taught and acted as a consultant in helping people and organisations to learn. He published over thirty books and a large number of articles, written with a high degree of scientific rigour, but always with a focus on research that can be...
Chapter
Ross Ashby was a deeply original thinker, who produced innovative work in a number of different areas. He was a psychiatrist by training, and his core concern was in understanding how the mind and brain worked, to find “what principles must be followed when one attempts to restore normal function to a sick organism that is, as a human patient, of f...
Chapter
Donella Meadows – known as Dana to her many friends – was an environmental scientist and activist. She was a prolific writer, best known for a single book, The Limits to Growth (Meadows DH, Meadows DL, Randers J, Behrens WW. The limits to growth: a report for the club of Rome’s project on the predicament of mankind. Potomac Associates, Washington,...
Chapter
Ludwig von Bertalanffy was the creator of general systems theory (GST) – he coined the term, developed it in detail in his many writings, and was a key part of the group which took it forward and spread the concept. Indeed, the systems movement would not have taken the form it did without Bertalanffy – for while holistic thinking has arisen in many...
Chapter
Stuart Kauffman is a theoretical biologist and one of the founders of complexity theory. Through a series of highly detailed computer models, he has explored the nature of evolution and self-organisation – the ways in which order and organisation can spontaneously arise in biological systems. His research is driven by the goal to prove a hypothesis...
Chapter
Michael Jackson is a British management academic. He has made considerable advances in systems thinking and practice, especially in management and organisations, through his development of the Critical Systems Thinking (CST) approach. Jackson has been the main champion of CST since its inception, gave it its name, was one of the first to call for s...
Chapter
Kenneth Boulding was an economist and one of the founders of general systems theory. He led a long and varied life, being involved in the founding of peace studies as well as general systems, writing volumes of poetry as well as many academic books, and making a significant contribution to ecology and social theory as well as his original field of...
Chapter
Paul Watzlawick made significant advances in applying a systems approach in a number of related fields: family therapy, communications theory, and change management. His ideas were firmly rooted both in theory and in practical experience, especially as a psychotherapist. His many writings included several books which are highly engaging and easily...
Chapter
James Lovelock is an unusual figure in the sometimes rather homogeneous world of science. In a scientific community founded on team working and institutions, he works alone from his rural home. While many start from others’ work and are content to make advances through small steps, he is deeply committed to starting from experimental data and drawi...
Chapter
Mary Catherine Bateson is a social anthropologist and linguist. She has written about topics including cross-cultural issues, social and individual learning, women’s life patterns, ageing, family dynamics, AIDS, and the nature of knowledge. Her writing is suffused with systems ideas, especially a highly-developed form of cybernetics. It is deeply h...
Chapter
Donald Alan Schön was a pre-eminent scholar of professional practice and learning. He is most celebrated for his work on the reflective practitioner and on organisational learning. He made significant contributions to the fields of education, management, urban planning, and design. His original intellectual home, however, was philosophy and through...
Chapter
Margaret Mead was one of the most well-known and influential social scientists of the twentieth century. She worked as an anthropologist, carrying out fieldwork over a number of years on a number of south Pacific islands. Her fame arose from the clarity of her writing, from her ability to express anthropological ideas in a way that the public could...
Chapter
Peter Bernard Checkland has had a huge influence on systems thinking, especially in the fields of management and information systems, although his ideas have been taken up in a wide range of fields. He is most notable for the development of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), deriving from an action research programme lasting more than 30 years. As wel...
Chapter
Charles West Churchman was a philosopher of systems and management, who did more than anyone to bring ethical considerations into the field of systems thinking. He was a pioneer in several academic fields, always driven by what he described as his “moral outrage” (Churchman CW. Thought and wisdom. Intersystems Publications, Seaside, 1982, p. 17) th...
Chapter
One of the greatest contributions made to a humanistic approach to work organisation started with a coal mine. In the late 1940s, Eric Trist, social psychologist and deputy chairman of the Tavistock Institute in London was supervising a postgraduate industrial fellow called Ken Bamforth, a former miner. The fellows were encouraged to return to thei...
Chapter
Peter Michael Senge is a management academic and consultant. He has been principally responsible for drawing together and popularising the concept of the learning organisation. Through his work he has brought systems thinking (or at least a particular form of it) to the attention of a very wide audience. His ideas were initially applied in business...
Chapter
What is the nature of life? How do our cognitive processes relate to our perception of the world? These are big questions of both biology and philosophy, and answering them is the life-work of Humberto Romesín Maturana. His work has been massively influential in systems thinking, and has been applied to many other fields. It is deeply philosophical...
Chapter
Norbert Wiener, founder of cybernetics, was a unique personality, a larger-than-life character famous for his very wide interests, extremely incisive mind and personal warmth, but also for his absent-mindedness, low self-esteem, and severe mood-swings. He was born in midwestern USA (Missouri) in 1894 to a Jewish family – his father had emigrated fr...
Chapter
This is a tale of two brothers, Howard and Eugene Odum, and how they introduced ideas from general systems theory and cybernetics into the field of ecology, in the process coming to dominate ecology as an academic discipline for decades. While both drew on systems ideas, our focus is on the younger brother, Howard, as it was he who more explicitly...
Chapter
Werner Ulrich is a pioneer of a critical approach to systems thinking. Most importantly, he has developed a highly useful method for applying this approach, Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH). He has carried out his work in both academia and in government, and applied his ideas to issues as diverse as public planning, evaluation, reflective practice...
Chapter
Gregory Bateson, anthropologist and philosopher, was a deeply original thinker who crossed multiple disciplines, always sitting on the edge between them. He began only late in life to attempt to synthesise his work, and eventually described his intellectual journey as: “from biology at the beginning, into anthropology, into systems of ideas, pathol...
Chapter
‘Systems thinking’ is a portmanteau term for a body of theories and techniques that unite around a focus on whole systems and relationships between entities, rather than breaking systems down into their individual components and considering those components in isolation. Various forms of modelling are central within systems thinking, with many of t...
Chapter
One of the greatest contributions made to a humanistic approach to work organisation started with a coal mine. In the late 1940s, Eric Trist, social psychologist and deputy chairman of the Tavistock Institute in London was supervising a postgraduate industrial fellow called Ken Bamforth, a former miner. The fellows were encouraged to return to thei...
Chapter
Kurt Lewin was a visionary and deeply original thinker. He was highly committed both to social change and to developing theories about human behaviour, summing up the connection between the two in saying that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory” (Lewin 1951, p. 169). The list of ideas that he originated is long, notably including group...
Chapter
Full-text available
Systems Thinkers presents a biographical history of the field of systems thinking, by examining the life and work of thirty of its major thinkers. It discusses each thinker’s key contributions, the way this contribution was expressed in practice and the relationship between their life and ideas. This discussion is supported by an extract from the t...
Chapter
Norbert Wiener was a unique personality, a larger-than-life character famous for his very wide interests, extremely incisive mind and personal warmth, but also for his absent-mindedness, low self-esteem, and severe mood-swings. He was born in midwestern USA (Missouri) in 1894 to a Jewish family – his father had emigrated from Russia and his mother...
Chapter
Peter Bernard Checkland has had a huge influence on systems thinking, especially in the fields of management and information systems, although his ideas have been taken up in a wide range of fields. He is most notable for the development of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), deriving from an action research programme lasting more than 30 years. As wel...
Chapter
Charles West Churchman was a philosopher of systems and management, who did more than anyone to bring ethical considerations into the field of systems thinking. He was a pioneer in several academic fields, always driven by what he described as his “moral outrage” (Churchman 1982, p. 17) that the human intellect is capable of organising society to s...
Chapter
Russell Ackoff (usually known as ‘Russ’) is a pioneer of the application of systems approaches to management, both through theoretical developments and through a deep and practical engagement with many different organisations. He is a passionate advocate of the need for systems approaches to take full account of the complexity of inter-related prob...
Chapter
Warren McCulloch resembled an Old Testament prophet – he had a long beard, bright and intense eyes, great personal warmth but also great passion. Indeed Gregory Bateson (1991, p. 225) describes him as “like Moses, a leader who could and did bring us to the edge of the promised land, where he himself could never enter”. His prophetic status can also...
Chapter
Chris Argyris is a theorist and practitioner of organisational development. For more than 50 years, he has written, taught and acted as a consultant in helping people and organisations to learn. He has published over thirty books and a large number of articles, many written with a high degree of scientific rigour, but his focus has always been on r...
Chapter
James Lovelock is an unusual figure in the sometimes rather homogeneous world of science. In a scientific community founded on team working and institutions, he works alone from his rural home. While many start from others' work and are content to make advances through small steps, he is deeply committed to starting from experimental data and drawi...
Chapter
Donella Meadows – known as Dana to her many friends – was an environmental scientist and activist. She was a prolific writer, best known for a single book, The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972) which sold millions of copies, but she was also the author of several other books and a widely-read weekly newspaper column. As an activist, she lived...
Chapter
Kenneth Boulding was an economist and one of the founders of general systems theory. He led a long and varied life, being involved in the founding of peace studies as well as general systems, writing volumes of poetry as well as many academic books, and making a significant contribution to ecology and social theory as well as his original field of...
Chapter
Stuart Kauffman is a theoretical biologist and one of the founders of complexity theory. Through a series of highly detailed computer models, he has explored the nature of evolution and self-organisation – the ways in which order and organisation can spontaneously arise in biological systems. His research is driven by the goal to prove a hypothesis...
Chapter
Stafford Beer was a consultant, manager and cybernetician. He was the first person to apply cybernetics to management problems. He combined theory and practice in a highly integrated way, always working as a practitioner but making a number of important contributions in both methodology and theory. His writing was highly inspirational as well as ac...
Chapter
Sir Geoffrey Vickers was a lawyer and manager, and provides an outstanding example of deep reflection after a long and varied career. He produced a series of important and thought-provoking works in retirement, which had a strong influence upon the developing use of systems thinking in management, decision-making and politics. He had such an impact...
Chapter
What is the nature of life? How do our cognitive processes relate to our perception of the world? These are big questions of both biology and philosophy, and answering them is the life-work of Humberto Romesín Maturana. His work has been massively influential in systems thinking, and has been applied to many other fields. It is deeply philosophical...
Chapter
Margaret Mead was one of the most well-known and well-respected social scientists of the twentieth century. She worked as an anthropologist, carrying out fieldwork over a number of years on a number of south Pacific islands. Her fame arose from the clarity of her writing, from her ability to express anthropological ideas in a way that the public co...
Chapter
Michael Jackson is a British management academic. He has made considerable advances in systems thinking and practice, especially in management and organisations, through his development of the Critical Systems Thinking (CST) approach. This approach emphasises the importance of politics and power in organisations. Jackson has been the main champion...
Chapter
Mary Catherine Bateson is a social anthropologist and linguist. She has written about topics including cross-cultural issues, social and individual learning, women's life patterns, ageing, family dynamics, AIDS, and the nature of knowledge. Her work is suffused with systems ideas, especially a highly-developed form of cybernetics. It is deeply huma...
Chapter
Peter Michael Senge is a management academic and consultant. He has been principally responsible for drawing together and popularising the concept of the learning organisation. Through his work he has brought systems thinking (or at least a particular form of it) to the attention of a very wide audience. His ideas have primarily been applied in bus...
Chapter
Jay Wright Forrester is an American engineer and management thinker. He is the founder of System Dynamics, an approach based on computer modelling which arguably has done more than any other method to provide a practical and realistic analysis of change processes in systems. System Dynamics (SD) has been taken up across the world, initially by Forr...
Chapter
Ilya Prigogine was a chemist and physicist. He made enormous advances in the field of thermodynamics, historically the study of the behaviour of energy, heat and work in physical systems. His theory of dissipative structures, which describes the self-organising activity of systems ‘far from equilibrium’, has been foundational in complexity theory....
Chapter
Niklas Luhmann was a theoretical sociologist, who built a unified theory of society based on systems theory. He particularly drew upon the tools of second-order cybernetics, notably the theory of autopoiesis. He was extremely prolific, publishing over 50 books and several hundred articles. His research programme, as stated when he took up his profe...
Chapter
Werner Ulrich has carried out pioneering work on a critical approach to systems thinking for over 25 years. Most importantly, he has developed a highly important and useful method for applying this approach, Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH). He has carried out his work in both academia and in government, and applied his ideas to issues as diverse...
Chapter
Donald Alan Schön was a pre-eminent scholar of professional practice and learning. He is most celebrated for his work on the reflective practitioner and on organisational learning. He made significant contributions to the fields of education, management, urban planning, and design. His original intellectual home, however, was philosophy and through...
Chapter
Paul Watzlawick made significant advances in applying a systems approach in a number of related fields: family therapy, communications theory, and change management. His ideas were firmly rooted both in theory and in practical experience, especially as a psychotherapist. His many writings included several books which are highly engaging and easily...
Chapter
Ross Ashby was a deeply original thinker, who produced innovative work in a number of different areas. He was a psychiatrist by training, and his core concern was in understanding how the mind and brain worked, to find “what principles must be followed when one attempts to restore normal function to a sick organism that is, as a human patient, of f...
Chapter
Gregory Bateson, anthropologist and philosopher, was a deeply original thinker who crossed multiple disciplines, always sitting on the edge between them. He began only late in life to attempt to synthesise his many contributions. As Brockman (2004) wrote, “Bateson is not easy … To spend time with him, in person or through his essays, was a rigorous...
Chapter
Heinz von Foerster was a physicist and philosopher, who worked extensively in cybernetics, biology and family therapy, although he hated being categorised as belonging to a particular academic discipline. Indeed he once remarked that “I am Viennese. That is the only label that I have to accept. I come from Vienna; I was born there, that's an establ...
Chapter
This is a tale of two brothers, Howard and Eugene Odum, and how they introduced ideas from general systems theory and cybernetics into the field of ecology, in the process coming to dominate ecology as an academic discipline for decades. While both drew on systems ideas, our focus is on the younger brother, Howard, as it was he who more explicitly...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past four years, the Open University has been working on an internal project of systems scholarship, called ‘Systems Thinkers’. We have examined the life and work of fifty key thinkers, held discussions on their significance, and are in the process of writing a book and a postgraduate course about these thinkers. This work has raised many...

Citations

... He described himself as an 'idealistic pragmatist' (Noah, 2012, p. 157), but the underlying philosophy of his LO model lies in the postmodernist camp. Being a postmodernist enabled him to advocate some abstract ideas, which cannot be done in the positivist tradition (Ramage & Shipp, 2009). ...
... Systemic methodology is one of the most efficient new ways of approaching and interpreting the complexity of the world, since the last concept can be traced only to the set of interactions of all the elements of a system. This means that the approach of complex systems can be understood in terms of the whole and interactions rather than the detailed thinking and isolation of the parties (Ramage & Shipp, 2009). The concept of system complexity refers to the system-environment relationship (Willke, 1996) and reflects that kind of property, which makes it able to be in many situations or to show unlimited behaviours (Kodakos, 2011). ...