Evidence

For discussions of the Open University's T214 Systems course.

Evidence

Postby jsp_1983 on Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:38 am

So, one thing that I could never quite be at ease with on T214 was the idea of creating MCDs to project an understanding of a situation without drawing on evidence. This was something that was never discussed during the course or mentioned in the texts. This led me to conclude that you could use an MCD to create and draw any conclusion you wanted, without having to bother with substantiating it with anything. Obviously, I understand the point about 'perspective', but if we were to be in the 'real world' and not act deviously - particularly if we're acting with or for others - wouldn't we want to ensure due diligence of the information we're creating?

To move on to 'recommendations' and such conclusions drawn from the MCDs we created for Block 2 would seem to require some semblance of justification. I would find it hard to accept somebody's recommendations for a course of substantial and/ or fundamental action because they drew a diagram that suggested a cause and effect without any substantiation.

So if this was to be a question, it perhaps might be "was T214 focused on developing fundamental diagramming skills, or was it intended to give an overview of a systems thinking process?"
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Re: Evidence

Postby Teiana on Sun Dec 30, 2012 8:03 am

interesting...

i think mcds are intended to explicitly show perspective.
i agree that the desire for evidence is logical and ought to be considered. we (this site members) have discussed the dangers of relying on experts which is what you end up with if good evidence is not provided.
but - on the other hand - evidence, like statistics, can be flawed, biased, made to show 'someone's perspective'. so then you need evidence that your evidence is ok. which feels fractally.

i have struggled in the past with discriminating, ie, deciding where the boundary lies. is 'this' in the picture or outside it? i suppose it could be argued that well done systems practice would show what had 'not been included' as well as what had. in other words if evidence was missing, it would be clear that it was missing, whereas 'evidence' provided for an argument without any systems input would fail to do that.

so ideally you'd have 'systems thinking plus good substantiated evidence which was all fractally.. to a point - since even the best proof sooner or later winds up with an assumption like 'i think, therefore i am'.
and in the absence of that you'd have a choice
a) good evidence, but no systems input
or
b) good systems practice, but no evidence.

and i'd pick b) since with both a) and b) evidence could be missing, but with b) you would know that it was.
H.R.H. 8-)
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Re: Evidence

Postby jim_lewis1 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:51 am

It's an interesting point, but I would make the point that such approaches can be used for a variety of purposes. Your contention may be more or less relevant for each.

Broadly I would say you can use MCD and other Systems Thinking tools and techniques for sense-making, decision-making and communication with others.

For sense making, it's obviously important to recognise your own biases and the potential to overlook important information, but as Teiana says at least being aware of these limitations means the sense you draw from the situation should have some validity, at least for you!

The extent to which decisions made based on such an analysis are valid is obviously also dependent on the amount of relevant information that has been/not been included. Here you may come up with a decision to act, but with the proviso that at the time the decision was made the information was recognised as being potentially incomplete and later new information may alter your understanding and hence the validity of the decision.

Sharing your analysis and construction of your MCD as a collaborative activity should help to ensure that the likelihood important information is omitted is reduced. Reconciling the various differing perspectives in the creation of the MCD should lead to better sense-making and hence decision-making, but as you say, if everyone is working on the basis of assumptions and not evidence then this still may not be the case.

Evidence based decision making is a whole separate chapter and an area of some discussion in management at present.
Current OU study: A230
Studying towards: BA Humanities
Past OU Study: MBA (Tech Man), BEng/MEng (incl T214, T306) PG Dip EDM (incl T863, TU812), AA100, AXR272
(OU Systems courses)
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Re: Evidence

Postby Neill on Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:13 pm

I think that any method of understanding a problem will tend to include some information and ignore other.
This will happen just because of the experiences and level of experience of the person "looking" at the situation.
A ten year old child, an elder from a forest village and a university trained engineer will probable all three consider different things to be relevant and worthy of inclusion in the situation analysis and potential solution. But possibly all three will offer interesting aspects.
Neill Hogarth
Life is not a practice [www.hogarth.de]
T307-10
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Re: Evidence

Postby Teiana on Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:30 pm

and all three will have different criteria for what is acceptable as 'proof' or evidence.
H.R.H. 8-)
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Re: Evidence

Postby jsp_1983 on Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:51 am

I think where I see such activities having relevance is where they are used collaboratively by those with knowledge (and by that I mean those whose information and skills are shaped by their experiences and understandings, rather than 'experts') to iterate a product like an MCD in a cyclical, rather than linear, manner (eg, the Learning Cycle).

What perturbed me with the material in Block 2 was the potential (and I know this might be absurd) for a flat-Earther (they still exist!) to say that the Earth is flat, therefore a consequence of that is that we will drop off the edge if we sail towards it. At the same time, a reasoned and evidence-based assertion might be made that counters the flat Earth position. One says we drop off the edge, another doesn't. How this is dealt with in a diagram isn't something I've considered, but it doesn't appear to be productive to include the flat Earth assertion as the basis for some understanding of a situation. On a different tack of understanding perspectives, I would be perfectly comfortable to include that position, in order to take account of it and the effects it might have on the overall situation, but that is something different.

I still have an assortment of disorganised thoughts and questions about this, but I think I would like to read more about how practitioners use MCDs in real-world situations to better understand the context and what informs their structure.
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