Publication 2800

Brocklesby J. (2007) The theoretical underpinnings of soft systems methodology-comparing the work of Geoffrey Vickers and Humberto Maturana. Systems Research and Behavioral Science 24(2): 157–169. Fulltext at
This paper seeks to juxtapose the work of Sir Geoffrey Vickers and Humberto Maturana with a view to thinking more about the theoretical underpinnings of Peter Checkland’s soft systems methodology (SSM) and of soft systems and soft operational research more generally. The paper argues that Maturana’s ‘Theory of the Observer’ can usefully complement Vickers by specifying more precisely the nature of the cognitive structures that underpin people’s descriptions of situations, by clarifying the relationship between cognitive creativity and the historical and relational constraints that bear upon people’s descriptions and explanations, and by providing a more complete description of the dynamics that underpin individual and social learning.


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