What is a system

Ackoff (1971):A system is a set of interrelated elements. Thus a system is an entity which is composed of at least two and a relation that holds between each of it’s elements and at least one other element in the set.

But  the term ‘system’ and ‘boundary’ change their meaning according to the ‘langauge game’ being played by particular strands of systems thinking (Jackson, pg 43) .  This is something that needs to be defined for the purposes of my research.

Ackoff identified four different types of systems and four different types of systems models.  These are: Deterministc systems have no purpose and neither do their parts. Animated systems have purposes of their own but their parts do not. Social systems have purposes of their own, contain purposeful parts and are usually parts of larger purposeful systems. Ecological systems contain interacting mechanistic, organismic, and social systems but unlike social systems they have no purpose of their own.  they serve the purpose of the biological and social systems that they are part off.   According to Ackoff, problems arise when models of one type of system are applied to a different type of system.

According to Ackoff – a mess is a set of interdependent problems.


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