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Unbounded Systems Thinking

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The nature of enquiry we were required to make in the assignment calls for “Unbounded Systems Thinking” as the most appropriate mode of enquiry. Reconciling real world pressures in IS design and forecasting and foreseeing advances in IS/IT in the next five years are “Soft” or “messy” problems and messy problems demand a creative approach to their solution as they are inherently Human Activity Systems(HAS).


Unbounded Systems Thinking(UST) or as Ian Mitroff calls “The Fifth Way of knowing” or as Churchman’s philosophy calls “Singerian IS” is about adopting the Multiple Perspectives when making an enquiry.

The value in using multiple, T, O, and P perspectives lies in their ability to yield unique insights. None by itself suffices to deal with a complex system, but together they give a richer base for decision and action. Each dimension facilitates comprehension.[1]

All complex problems вЂ"especially social ones, involves multiplicity of actors, various scientific / technical disciplines and various organizations and diverse individuals. In principle, each sees a problem differently and thus generates a distinct perspective on it. Both the problems discussed in Task 1 and Task 2 are good examples of such problems and therefore the Multiple Perspective Concept of the Unbounded Systems Thinking strives enable us to understand the problems of IS design better.



• As mentioned earlier its major strength of UST is its suitability to undefined ill-structured problems where other modes of enquiry fail. It can be applied to a wide spectrum of “messy” systems ranging from a corporate acquisition and integration of a new technology into a business unit to the prediction process in a public power administration.

• UST includes all the other inquiry systems as sub-models and adds to the enquiry the notion of Human Activity Systems. It therefore yields to the inquirer the benefits of using all the other types of inquiry systems together with its own pros.

• UST is fairly very well supported by Peter Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology that provides the framework to practice and implement UST.

• UST strives to ensure the usefulness of IS Strategies and design not only in the current environment but also that of the future.

• It requires continuous assessing of the situation which incorporates dynamism and change вЂ" a prevalent characteristic of the environment in which today’s organizations work.

• It uses the вЂ?holistic’ approach where every system is part of another system and therefore looks at a broader and wider perspective.

• Individual ethics and value judgments are implicit in UST. Strong consideration of ethics, values, judgments and background experiences underlie all applications of UST.[1]

For the Singerian enquirer “information is no longer merely scientific or technical, but also ethical as well’.[6]


• The major weakness of this approach is its complexity. As mentioned earlier “Singerians alternate between making things simpler and making them more complicated”. UST is the most difficult to represent. Its various вЂ?components’ are the most complex and are more highly linked that in any of the other IS.

• Another weakness of this approach is that the inquirer needs to spend substantial time and effort using this approach which may have cost implications. This is because “Singerians are continuously assessing” so the approach non-terminating.

• Since it looks at analyzing from the personal perspective that is view of all stakeholders, actors can change and so can their perspectives.

• UST does not lead the analyst to a solution that can be implemented. Rather it allows for deeper understanding of the problem at hand. There is then the need to apply hard methods in order to implement the solution.

• SSM is not as well documented as the other Structured or Object Oriented methodologies. For example it says “there is no right or incorrect rich picture”.




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