Sunday, July 22, 2007

Systems Thinking and the Web

This recent post on Sam Lowe's EA blog reminded me of some of the more significant books I've read over the past twenty years or so and how relevant much of the thinking is today. In particular, I've found a recurring resonance between the world of System Thinking, as described by Pirsig and Capra, with the world of the Web. Interestingly, I've found abstracting up to System Thinking (Chunking Up) has been extremely useful when assessing impact and potential of Web 2.0/3.0 technologies on the future direction of corporate IT and looking at both the softer interaction and harder transaction aspects of an overall information system.

When I reflect on it, however, the theme that I find most compelling, is the importance of human behaviour, social norms and planned and unplanned events to information systems. Moreover, how these aspects, if left unexplored, often become the barriers to adoption of IT-enabled change. What I find most interesting is the search for the sweet-spot between classical engineering approaches and the early examination of adoption barriers. It seems to me that some of the most successful Web-enabled businesses (the likes of Google, Amazon and eBay) have used an adoption-led approach to the development of products and services. Corporate IT, in contrast, often continues to take a more traditional approach to 'engineering' their way to a solution. Is this difference in approach where we might find the long-sought value within the enterprise from the world of the Web?

Here's a few of the most thought provoking 'Systems Thinking' books on my read list:

Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by R.Pirsig

The Tao of Physics by F.Capra

The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems by F. Capra

The Labyrinths of Information: Challenging the Wisdom of Systems by C. Ciborra

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by S. Levitt and S. Dubner

Chaos by James Gleick

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by M. Gladwell

Digital Capital by D. Tapscott, D. Ticoll, and A. Lowry

The Self-Aware Universe by A. Goswami

Systems Methodology in Action by Peter Checkland

Systems: Concepts, Methodologies and Applications by Brian Wilson