It appears that even within the systems thinking academia and practitioners there is no consensus on what constitutes systems thinking and systems practices but there are different traditions which need to be considered and ‘accomodated’ when discussing this concept.
Checkland (2000) believes, I think!!, that the concept that systems exist and therefore can be discovered is part of the ‘hard systems’ tradition. So the opposite to this then is that of someone who uses systems thinking to formulate a ‘system of interest’ by distinguishing a system (interconnected set of components in order to fulfill a purpose) from a particular background (environment) with a specific purpose of learning about it in order to bring about change/intervention. So one, hard systems, is about a system being treated as a thing that ‘can be engineered to achieve objectives’ (Checkland 2009) and the other one, soft systems, is thinking of ‘systems’ as the process of ‘engaging’ with the world in order to learn more about a given situation in order to gain systemic insight.
I will have to come back to this and develop it further.