The Metaphorum Group
Developing Stafford Beer's Legacy in Management Cybernetics
Last updated 20th. November 2009
SPIN i.m. SB
From the Cottage
Thanks to Harry and Simon Beer
"The Chronicles of Wizard Prang" by Stafford Beer with illustrations by Vanilla Beer.
A Wizard of a philosophical turn of mind who lives in a cottage in Wales discusses pranayama, the sentience of stones (a topic much favoured by those of a theoretical turn of mind), pomposity and the purposes of systems that educate to starve, devastate and kill. White wine (who could this fellow be?), the value of criticism and a rather doubtful discussion of gravity or was it gravitas. So enter Magician Logician, do I know this man?- was I his assistant for many years? And what's behind all this tomfoolery with Fibonacci (decent chap modelled rabbit populations not unlike Lord May). Uh where's my messed up experiment- a collapsed straw icosahedron, a very pert golden section orthogonal triple and a Borromean ring. Ah business as usual, turn on the current and another tree grows. The wisdom of knowing it- that liquids may not (be ?) matter but circularity is it! (This almost makes sense in precis.) Now back to ego and assertion: cereal (of toast and rice) seriality?- of guru and sishyah. Bogus questions. Energy and Information- a nod at noise and could it be concurrence? The great thing about thinking is Spells on a computer...
"Think before you think: Social Complexity and Knowledge of Knowing"
An Anthology of Stafford Beer's writings
|Monday 30th June|
|9:30 - 10:15||Registration and Coffee|
|10:15 - 10:35 am||Opening and introductions||Prof. Mike Jackson, A. Espinosa & R. Harnden||Welcome|
|10:35 am - 12:05 pm||Action Research in Business and Management I (Chair A Espinosa)||Luc Hoebeke (20 mins)||Learning the VSM-language from experience, not from the classroom|
|Steve Morlidge (20 mins)||Money, Time and Variety Engineering: the application of cybernetics to the diagnosis and design of Financial Performance Management Systems|
|Stefan Wasilewski (20 mins)||Emergence of Viable Businesses from a Complex Economic Landscape in the Banking and Insurance Industries|
|Discussion 30 mins|
|12:05 am � 1:05 pm||Organisational Cybernetics in Education and Learning (Chair A Leonard)||Robin Asby Penny Marrington (20 min)||Education and learning: creating the autonomous survivor?|
|Mark Johnson (20 mins)||The Viable System Model, Learners and self-efficacy|
|Discussion (20 mins)|
|2:00- 3:40 pm||Complexity and Sustainability (Chair R Harnden)||Angela Espinosa (10 mins)||Complexity Management and Sustainability: Research Approaches and ongoing Projects|
|Russell Clemens (20 mins)||Applying the VSM to Environmental Scanning and Foresight Development: A system Four Perspective on the Meta-system Communication Dynamics involved in Success|
|Discussion 30 mins|
|Pedro P. Cardoso (15 mins)||Self organisation in community regeneration|
|Kathryn Knowles (15 mins)||A Cybernetic Approach to Environmental Management Systems and the Engagement of an Organization's Culture|
|Discussion 40 mins|
|3:40�3:55 pm||Coffee Break|
|3:55- 5:30 pm||Cybernetics, Science and Philosophy||Javier Livas||The Kubernetes Universe � Film and discussion|
|Tuesday July 1st|
|9:00 � 10:00 am||Global, national and regional Governance (Chair � R. Harnden)||Leonie Solomons (Workshop 1 hour)||Governance Issues in Sri Lanka, A Cybernetic Diagnosis and Solution 'Process': Workshop|
|10:00-11.00 am||Michelle Watts (20 mins)||Collaborative implementation network structures: Cultural tourism implementation in an English seaside context|
|Jon Walker (20 mins)||A Global Meta-system for a Viable Planet|
|Discussion 20 mins|
|11:00- 11:20 am||Coffee Break|
|11:20 - 12:20 pm||Methods and Tools I (Chair: L Hoebeke)||Arthur Dijkstra & Steve Brewis (Workshop 1 hour)||Workshop: VSM Modelling of an airline organisation. Aim: to assign system 1s of the generic airline model. Download the ACOS Model|
|12:20 - 1:20 pm||Lunch & Ask||Opportunities for students to question experienced practitioners at designated tables|
|1:20- 2:20pm||Methods and Tools II (Chair: L Hoebeke)||Gabrielle Harrer (20 mins)||Systemic and cybernetic planning and management with the Sensitivity Model of Prof. Vester|
|Mari Runardotter (20 mins)||Organizational Issues for Digital Preservation|
|Discussion 20 mins|
|2:20 - 3.10 pm||Conflict resolution (Chair A. Leonard)||Dennis Finlayson (Workshop 40 mins)||A 'Soft' approach to 'environmental conflict resolution' and other community action research situations: A case study on the Amnesty Group in Arauca, Colombia|
|3:10 - 3.30 pm||Coffee Break|
|3.30 � 5:30 pm||Allenna Leonard & Angela Espinosa||Workshop: Metaphorum as a learning community|
Seminar Room 5 (SR5) �all talks/ workshops
Seminar Room 3 (SR3) � break out discussion groups
Download Agenda in .doc format.
30th June to 1st July 2008. £50 including lunches and coffee breaks. The organizers particulary invite more junior researchers (e.g. postgraduate students) wishing to demonstrate the focus and direction of their research. Full announcement. Further details: Booking forms for University accomodation at Ferens Avenue and Salmon Grove. An additional note from Angela and Roger requesting registration by June 18th (fees payable at Conference).
Hands on Training with the biocybernetic instrumentarium "Sensitivity Model Prof. Vester®" and its computerized system tools on complex problems of economic and political planning and management.
Announcement from Angela Espinosa with notes on travel.
This event is the climax of PEACEPOINTE 2008 September 1st-17th in Stavanger, Norway. This year's core themes:
Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden, August 7th-8th, 2008. Speaker abstracts submission deadline is July 1st. Contact Professor Stig C Holmberg. Conference flyer and further details at Conference website.
This is a free, EPSRC Emergence and Complexity funded, one day workshop at Hull University Business School on May 14th 2008. Speakers include Professor Ralph D. Stacey, University of Hertfordshire; Elizabeth McMillan, co-founder of the Innovation, Knowledge and Development Research Centre, Open University; Professor Terry Porter , Maine Business School, University of Maine; Dr Angela Espinosa, Centre for Systems Studies,The University of Hull. Further details.
At the Transmediale 08 conference in Berlin one session was on the "Chilean Network Experience": Project Cybersyn. Professor Raul Espejo has pictures and a short account at Syncho, his consultancy website. Thanks to Leonid Ototsky.
Our member Professor Czeslaw Mesjasz of Crackow University of Economics announces this forthcoming event for 10th- 13th September 2008 in Polanczyk, Poland.
Topics include development of R&D strategy, competition�strategy, flexible�manufacturing�systems�and�logistics,� innovations�and�intellectual�capital�management,�organizational�structures, social�potential�and�competences�management, management�information�systems, information�management�and�e�business. Details. Booking form.
At the "YOU_ser. The Century of the Consumer" exhibition Enrique Rivera views his installation of a recreation of one of the seven famous management chairs with Professor Raul Espejo, who was the Cybersyn project manager, from the forthcoming CyberSyn exhibit in Chile.
One of the seven project chairs showing the icon pad.
Raul Espejo and Enrique Rivera at the exhibition.
After almost 35 years Raul sits in a Cybersyn chair again.
Video of Stafford Talking at Manchester Business School on Project Cybersyn (click on single red triangle at bottom right of the cluster). Short video reminiscences from Fernando Flores, Roberto Cañete, Humberto Maturana, Angel Parra and Raul Espejo.
YouTube video of Cybersyn installation.
Angela Espinosa and Roger Harnden write:
Several of us met in London in July to consider the communication means open to Metaphorum (Alfredo Moscardini, Nick Green, Paul Stokes, Clive Holtham, Luc Hoebeck, Roger Harnden and Angela Espinosa �with Jose Perez-Rios at distance). We had a useful discussion about the different mechanisms available, as well as ways to coordinate them. Download a summary of the meeting.
We'll communicate soon more news on plans for next year's Conference. If anyone else knows about possible interest from an institution to sponsor the Syntegration, we are still open to suggestions. Also if anyone wants to help its organisation please contact us as soon as possible, as we'll be defining the organising team in the next few weeks.
Angela & Roger 12/10/07
Papers and slides from:
Professor Dr Fredmund Malik: The way forward
Prof Malik describes his milestone work in the production of the VSM Management Control Room and its application. Download video (.wmv format 49'22'') from the St. Gallen conference. Please excuse the technical shortcomings of the recording.
Dr Karl-Heinz Oeller: Effective Management of Complexity
Dr Oeller, Zentrum Management Board member, talks about the Operations Room and its cybernetic constraints (the four screens, averages destroy varety, the need for alarms (algedonic alerting), the management cockpit, step, slope changes etc). Download video (.wmv format 30'29"). Again apologies, the recording is of poor quality.
Malik Management Zentrum website.
Evolution from and development of the work of Stafford Beer
The Fourth Metaphorum Conference
March 9-10 2007
New Developments of Organizational Cybernetics after Stafford Beer
Metaphorum held its 2007 annual conference at the Waaghaus of St Gallen, Switzerland, March 9th and 10th.
The goal of the conference is to push the boundaries of the original work, to explore, disseminate innovative approaches, methodologies and tools, as well as share insight from current research projects in Organizational Cybernetics.
There will be keynotes conveying the international dimension, as well as presentations of individual research. These will be the trigger for discussions to which more space will be dedicated than usual. Professor Markus Schwaninger from The University of St Gallen will host the Conference.
Full details of both agenda and methodology will be provided once we have received proposals from interested participants.
For registration please contact:
Institute of Management
University of St. Gallen
CH-9000 St. Gallen
Phone: (+41) 71 224 39 15
Fax: (+41) 71 224 23 55
For any further (logistic) details on the conference, please communicate to:
Ralf-Eckhard Türke (email@example.com).
Important deadlines for presenters
January 15th, 2007: deadline for abstracts
Tentative Workshop Schedule
Thursday, March 8th
Friday, March 9th
Saturday, March 10th
Travel and accommodation
There are direct connections from Zurich Airport to St. Gallen every 30 minutes. Ryan-air has a cheap connection to the nearby airport Friedrichshafen (FDH), Air Berlin has a cheap connect to Zurich. More information on train, bus and ferry schedules can be found at www.sbb.ch. Travel is via Zurich Airport and train to St Gallen [one hour], and recommended accommodation will be two nights.
2007 is the 50th anniversary of System Dynamics created by Jay Forrester at MIT. The UK chapter of the System Dynamics Society is holding its 10th annual conference at Harrogate on 1st-2nd February 2007. The theme this year is "Reaching Out with System Dynamics" and the gathering will be focusing on how System Dynamics can be used by business to engage with potential customers. In addition, we will be looking at Systems Dynamics education for both students and government ministries - reaching out to new practitioners. Further Details
Speakers include Dr Robert Thurlby on BT Business development, Michael Bean on websims, Dr Khalid Saeed on distance learning and Professor Alfredo Moscardini on recent work in Egypt.
This Metaphorum conference appeared to be another success for the group.
A number of papers were presented including keynotes by Raul Espejo and by Patrick Hoverstadt, and an invited paper by Neil Stewart.
These three papers differed significantly, Raul's being centred on the development of theory beyond Beer's VSM in the area of identity, Patrick's being generally reflective, and Neil�s being case study centred while introducing an element of methodological complimentarism.
The nature and relationship of these keynote/invited papers was reflected in the other presentations that were made during the two days of the conference. Together these papers will provide a useful development for the group. Some papers will be selected to appear in the journal of Organisational Transformation and Social Change. Others will likely in due course be structured into a book. Other options include listing case applications on the Metaphorum website.
During the conference two items where brought up. The first concerned the further development of Cybersyn (see below) and their success in obtaining a small amount of funding from the Chilean Government to develop the project, and the other concerned the web development of Leonid Ototsky at http://www.ototsky.mgn.ru/it/OSJmenu.htm.
A round table at the end of the conference was useful to enable discussions to develop about the theme of the conference. The VSM software developed by Jose Manuel Perez from University of Valladoloid at Platform for Change website will be made available for Metaphorum membership to use free and freely. Prof Raul Espejo's ViPlan software is available at the Syncho website.
Fourth Conference, details, abstracts and presentations with some full texts.
In Chile (1970-1973) Project Cybersyn was the first attempt to apply Stafford Beer's Viable System Model to Government.
Catalina Ossa, multimedia artist, and Enrique Rivera, film maker and audiovisual artist of or_am write:
If you want to help us to develop or learn more about the Cybersyn project, we encourage you to contact us:
The Proposal (.pdf format) seeks to contact the participants in Cybersyn, assemble graphical materials, produce animations and interviews and explain the cybernetics which drove the design in all its socio-technical dimensions. An Internet website, an hour long film documentary and a travelling exhibition will be produced. A home in La Moneda Palace, which is Chile's main government building, is proposed. The Operations Room was housed there when President Allende died in the Pinochet military coup which was "helped" by America, according to Henry Kissinger speaking on President Nixon's tapes. Sound management was seen as a threat in those days. Further brief commentary at the Cybernetics Society website.
At a recent joint conference between Metaphorum and the Cybernetics Society, (September 2004) Kybernetes offered us to develop a special issue with papers from this and last Metaphorum Conference (Sunderland, April-May 2004). We are pleased to announce that we have produced a special issue for Kybernetes (Vol 35 Nos 01/02) which is currently in press and will be published in February 2006. The papers include an array of theoretical approaches to issues related to governance as well as applications to analyse structural problems of governance and to illustrate application of these ideas in particular situations like development programs, national accounts, political stability and others. The case studies show situations in contrasting nations, like Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Ukraine, Colombia and the United Kingdom.
Some theoretical considerations are offered to understand ideas of societal identity and structure, organisational closure, political structures and media design. Illustrative cases applying Beer's ideas show a diagnosis of a national economic system, design of a peace process and implementation of socio-economic development programs. Open research paths for the re-design and implementation of multi-national programs are illustrated through analysis of current AIDS policy and structure of programmes. Also addressed are issues like the possibilities that more systemic and cybernetic approaches will offer for improvement of government control philosophy, accountability systems, education bureaucracies, and even decision making on defence technology.
Dr. Paul Stokes and Dr Angela Espinosa write:
Last May 5th and 6th Metaphorum developed the conference "Designing Governance" in National University of Ireland, Dublin. Paul Stokes organized the event.
The first morning the presentations (P. Stokes, L. Hoebeck and A. Espinosa), went into theoretical aspects regarding the framework that organisational cybernetics offers to re-understand society and nation states, to understand self governed communities and to design representative democracies. The last presentation from S. Wright introduced recent research on weapons for social control and open questions on the future and ethics of such developments.
The afternoon we heard L. Solomons research on using the VSM in the Sri Lanka's peace process as well as A. Sergeyev proposal to analyse the transition to a post soviet economy in Ukraine, using the VSM to describe structural constraints and provide criteria for economic re-design. L. Ototsky send us a report on applications of the VSM in Russia's university education; R. Thomas made a critical analysis of the ideas of autonomy inherent to the VSM in comparison to other philosophical and scientific approaches to autonomy in individuals and organisations.
The second morning, E. Reynolds started with a debate on what he coined as "political physics" and reviewed some of the fundaments that he considers political practices in western countries follow, compared with more holistic principles. S. Heuer presented her work on rank abuse and her conclusions about the value that current western values attribute/deny to people according to their status. M. Yolles closed the morning presentations with his most recent research framework on Knowledge Management, explaining the epistemological differences with more traditional approaches to knowledge management.
A. Leonard started the afternoon with a reflection on issues of accountability and risk at the global level. She questioned the validity of non systemic approaches and structures operating in the international, global environment and the risks involved in not having the required tools for managing accountability of main social affairs at that level. R. Türke followed then and introduced a conceptual framework, based on cybernetic concepts on interactions and complexity management to support e-governance. The conference was closed with R. Espejo presentation of a recent application of the VSM in the nuclear waste issue, that involved participation from communities and industries in several EU countries, and showed in practice elements of what he coins as "inclusive governance".
A. Moscardini and A. Espinosa leaded there a brief overview of Metaphorum previous events and current plans. M. Yolles offered to devote a special issue of his journal Organisational Transformation and Social Change, to publish a selection of papers from this event. P. Stokes and A. Espinosa accepted to coordinate the special issue that will be coming in 2006.
Also M. Yolles offered to be the organiser of the next Metaphorum Conference in Liverpool John Moore University in April or May 2006. More news on this next conference will be announced soon.
Conference participants are reminded Prof. M Yolles offered to publish a special issue on his journal Organisational Transformation and Social Change with a selection of papers from this conference. An issue entitled "Designing Governance" has been agreed by the editorial board.
If you consider you have a paper of good academic quality to submit for this journal, we will be receiving submissions until the 1st December 2005. Over the next three weeks we will announce which papers have been accepted after peer review. In January 2006 we will announce the definite content of the issue and will ask to the selected authors to do the corrections suggested by the reviewers.
We expect the issue to be published during the first semester 2006.
Metaphorum member Rod Thomas and Nigel van Zwanenberg look at the NHS. Their Kybernetes paper is currently available for free download. Stafford's Cybernetics is applied to many of the problems that have beset NHS information management strategies: lack of operational research, problems in the commodification of information, financial scandal, and bureaucracy. The paper closes with a personal reminiscence.
Metaphorum is pleased to announce its co-sponsorship of the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) 2005 Conference. This conference theme is "The Many Interpretations and Applications of Cybernetics".
As part of our sponsorship of the conference, Metaphorum members who both attend and present papers at the ACS conference will be eligible for up to £100 contribution towards their conference fees. Please email our treasurer Leonie Solomons for further details.
The Cybernetics Society has found an audio recording (1hr 27mins) of Stafford's lecture in 1990 "Forty Years in Cybernetics". This has been followed by two pieces from radio. A six minute interview with Roger Cook on his reaction to the Chilean Coup and his contribution to a Ray Gosling documentary (27 mins) on Buckminster Fuller. The recordings are of excellent quality. Inspirational. Stafford in full flow engineering a better society and with Cook lamenting the destruction of the Chilean democracy.
Fourth Conference at Liverpool John Moores University
Third Conference at University College Dublin
Metaphorum Conference with The Cybernetics Society London
First Metaphorum Colloquium at University of Sunderland
Denis Adams Rosemary Bechler, Harry Beer, Jenna Bishop, Steve Brewis, John Clarke, Wayne Conrad, Chris Cullen, Angela Espinosa, Nick Green, Roger Harnden, Brian Hilton, Patrick Hoverstadt, Mike Jackson, Allenna Leonard, Alfredo Moscardini, Annamaria Moscardini, Ian Perry, Ern Reynolds, Andrey Sergeyev, Leonie Solomons, Rod Thomas, Joe Truss, Stefan Wasilevski.
Join or leave the Listserv Metaphorum email discussion group.
Listserv archive (password required)
Register your personal profile.
The Livas videos introducing cybernetics and applications of Stafford's work
View at Javier Livas on YouTube.
14th World Organistion for Systems and Cybernetics Conference next September
The next WOSC conference will be in Wroclaw, Poland September 9- 12, 2008. Further information.
The Viable System Model and its Application to Complex Organizations
Prague Seminar: Or_Am presented their proposals. Via Skype Leonid Ototsky gave a short paper "The Cybersyn project and the future of humankind".
Or_Am will be participating in the Transmediale.07 Festival for art and digital culture in Berlin, Jan 31 - Feb 4.
Call for Real Time
Ernst, for whom Stafford consulted, joined with the "Big Six" Accounting companies to call for real-time reporting of performance on the web to replace quarterly and annual financial reports- which the group point out "no one understands". At last. The end of corruption? The beginning of ethical development? Happy consulting! Details
Cwarel Isaf renovation is complete.
You can apply to stay in Cwarel Isaf. The price is £30.00 per night for the cottage (not per person). More details and a brochure from Cwarel Isaf team.
The Metaphorum email Listserver is now active. Contact Paul Stokes.
Prof Antonia Jones Gamma Test software for detecting non-determinism in multiple time series, prediction and neural net modelling is now available for free download. This software a novel approach to Stafford's Harrison and Stevens short term forecasting software for alerting used in Chile.
A Tutorial on the Gamma Test from Kemp et al. I.J Simulation vol6, No 1-2 pp 67-75.
"Cybernetics of Cybernetics": The classic collection of early papers and notes edited by Heinz von Foerster. All the greats contributed. Details.
Stafford's taped 1990 talk "40 Years in Cybernetics" at the Cybernetics Society
|Moscardini on Metaphorum|
|Governance and Cybernetics Colloquium|