General Systems Theory

My first look at Systems Theory was with Lars Skyttner’s General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice. Originally published as its first edition in 2005, the second edition (what I will be referring to) was released in 2014.

Nine years is not long in the publishing world but is a period of time in which the technological developments (and supplementary edits and additions) are grand.

Skyttner began the text with a brief history of System’s Theory, and its evolution from the parent “General Theory”. The goal of General Theory was to identify a system’s unifying principles. This inquiry gave forth to Systems Science, which is understood as the holistic study of systems, and their complex dynamics.

Scientist in this field looks for properties that are applicable to each part of a system, usually approaching trans-disciplinary research methods. The central difference between this field and formal/classical research is it’s motive. System’s research is meant to provide a more comprehensive understanding of man, nature and society, rather than uncovering a definite ‘truth’ about a process or object. The field is recognized for its pursuit of solve real world problems: to do things rather than just abstractly describe things.

“The sciences and engineering have been unable to keep pace with the second order effects produced by their first order victories” – Gerald Weinberg

Systems Science (SS) compiles fragmentary research from formal, natural and social sciences, as well as business and engineering. Joining these previously specialized roles allows for an improved outlook (to see better), a stronger network (understand more) and a far-reaching platform (so one may act smarter) (Skyttner, 38).

As an applied Science, SS applies computational methods to synthesize and integrate knowledge regarding knowledge structures. A classic lab Science that will use computing is neither actual or imaginary, nor a phenomenon or mode, since their research is deliberately restricted by controlled environments and variables.

In Systems Science, the virtual research method intentionally creates an abstract process that is meant to project or mirror the real world environment. The studied systems at hand could not be captured in it’s dynamic entirety without a computing method. Computing can relay a very large (like a weather system) or very small (like white blood cell production) system’s multidimensional elements in an abstract and simplified setting.

There are a number of specific methods within Systems Science that have been developed for a multitude of different problems. Systems Approach is meant to apply System’s Theory (holistic thinking and dynamic research) in reality, highlighting aspects of organizational knowledge and management science (Skyttner, 42).

“Information without communication is no information at all” – Wurman, 1991




Works Cited:

Skyttner, Lars. General Systems Theory : Problems, Perspectives, Practice. Singapore ; Hackensack, NJ : World Scientific, c2005., 2005. EBSCOhost,

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