Systems Thinkers (2nd edition)

Ramage, Magnus and Shipp, Karen (2020). Systems Thinkers (2nd edition). London: Open University/Springer-Verlag.



In our profoundly complex and interconnected world, there is a pressing need for systems thinking, to consider environmental, societal and organisational issues as interconnected wholes rather than separating them into parts and looking at each in isolation. This book presents a biographical history of systems thinking, by examining the life and work of thirty of its major thinkers.

Systems Thinkers discusses each thinker’s key contributions, the way this contribution was expressed in practice and the relationship between their life and ideas. This discussion is supported by an extract from the thinker’s own writing, to give a flavour of their work and to give readers a sense of which thinkers are most relevant to their own interests.

Systems thinking is highly interdisciplinary, so the thinkers selected come from a wide range of areas, including biology, management, physiology, anthropology, chemistry, public policy, sociology and environmental studies. Some are core innovators in systems ideas; some have been primarily practitioners who also advanced and popularised systems ideas; others are well-known figures who drew heavily upon systems thinking although it was not their primary discipline. The book provides an appetising ‘taster’ of the writings of each of the thirty thinkers, to encourage the reader to explore the published works of the thinkers themselves.

This second edition has been updated to reflect continuing scholarship in the academic community about the thirty thinkers, and in some cases new writing by them, bringing fresh insights about these inspiring and deeply relevant figures who challenged accepted ways of thinking and seeing, and continue to do so.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 69810
  • Item Type
  • Book
  • ISBN
  • 1-4471-7475-5, 978-1-4471-7475-2
  • Extra Information
  • Contents:


    Early Cybernetics

    Chapter 1: Gregory Bateson

    Chapter 2: Norbert Wiener

    Chapter 3: Warren McCulloch

    Chapter 4: Margaret Mead

    Chapter 5: Ross Ashby

    General Systems Theory

    Chapter 6: Ludwig von Bertalanffy

    Chapter 7: Kenneth Boulding

    Chapter 8: Geoffrey Vickers

    Chapter 9: Howard Odum

    System Dynamics

    Chapter 10: Jay Forrester

    Chapter 11: Donella Meadows

    Chapter 12: Peter Senge

    Soft and Critical Systems

    Chapter 13: C. West Churchman

    Chapter 14: Russell Ackoff

    Chapter 15: Peter Checkland

    Chapter 16: Werner Ulrich

    Chapter 17: Michael Jackson

    Later Cybernetics

    Chapter 18: Heinz von Foerster

    Chapter 19: Stafford Beer

    Chapter 20: Humberto Maturana

    Chapter 21: Niklas Luhmann

    Chapter 22: Paul Watzlawick

    Complexity Theory

    Chapter 23: Ilya Prigogine

    Chapter 24: Stuart Kauffman

    Chapter 25: James Lovelock

    Learning Systems

    Chapter 26: Kurt Lewin

    Chapter 27: Eric Trist

    Chapter 28: Chris Argyris

    Chapter 29: Donald Schön

    Chapter 30: Mary Catherine Bateson

  • Keywords
  • biographical history; systems ideas; systems thinkers
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Computing and Communications
    Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2020 The Open University
  • Depositing User
  • Magnus Ramage