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 International Conference on Complex Systems (ICCS2007)

Coping with complexity: Systems thinking, complex responsive processes, and systems intelligence

Jukka Luoma
Systems Analysis Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technolo

Raimo P. Hämäläinen
Systems Analysis Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology

Esa Saarinen
Systems Analysis Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology

     Full text: Not available
     Last modified: June 6, 2007

This paper attempts to set a dialogue between Complex Responsive Processes of Stacey et al. [Stacey et al. 2000] and Systems Thinking. In this endeavor, we propose Systems Intelligence [Saarinen and Hämäläinen 2004] as an integrating perspective on the two seemingly distinct approaches. Systems Thinking builds upon the premise that in coping with complexity, the concept of the whole is of primary importance although that whole can never be fully grasped. The developers of the theory of Complex Responsive Processes suggest that, instead, the primary focus should be on the actual processes which give rise to what can be conceived as wholes and to the understanding of those wholes. To them, Systems Thinking reflects an undue bias towards abstract descriptions and general methodologies for organizational interventions. They argue that ordinary everyday human interaction is short shrifted in Systems Thinking. With their emphasis on the microlevel features of organizations, Stacey et al have devised a major contribution, but one that is not incompatible with the systemic insights of Systems Thinking. The Systems Intelligence perspective, which we advocate, builds upon Systems Thinking and, like Stacey et al., highlights the ongoing influence of ordinary actions as essential for any adequate account of an organization.

[1] Stacey, R. D., Griffin, D., & Shaw, P. (2000). Complexity and Management: Fad or Radical Challenge to Systems Thinking?, Routledge (London).

[2] Saarinen, E., & Hämäläinen, R. P. (2004). Systems Intelligence: Connecting Engineering Thinking with Human Sensitivity, in Systems Intelligence: Discovering a Hidden Competence in Human Action and Organizational Life, edited by R. P. Hämäläinen and E. Saarinen, Systems Analysis Laboratory Research Reports A88, Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo).

Full manuscript is available at the website of the Systems Intelligence Research Group (

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