Article Index

System Characteristics

Systems have predictable characteristics; they have boundaries, inputs, outputs, have internal processes, create outputs and receive feedback, they have regulators as well as emergent properties (the whole being greater than the parts).

The implications of this for how we think about the political economy are profound. We need to develop institutions and processes that allow feedback, learning and look to create virtuous circles.

Many businesses have already understood this and recognise that change management involves rapid feedback to reinforce what works; this is often referred to in the literature of continuous improvement in learning organisations.

Emergent properties

We are all familiar with a murmuration of starlings – this collective behaviour cannot be predicted by looking at individual starlings, it emerges from (is an emergent property of) the collective behaviour of a the flock of starlings and is observed from outside; in systems terms the behaviour needs to be studied by looking at the system as a whole.

Life is an emergent property of the particular organisation of molecules “biological life is chemistry only…we also state that life as a property cannot be reduced to the properties of the single chemical components” (Capra and Luisi, 7.2.3 p133)