Systems: The Experts Speak Out

Systems: The Experts Speak Out

Knowledge of the human body depends upon knowledge of the whole man.

—Hippocrates on Medicine, 400 B.C.

The first question is whether there is a system.

—Francis Bacon, 1620

Without a system, it would be easy for elements to be omitted and for failure to step in.

—Johann Comenius, 1650

I speak of a system of government.

—Spinoza, Political Treatise, 1677

The center of the world system is unmovable.

—Newton, The System of the World, 1687

Observe how system into system runs ...

—Alexander Pope, 1734

In nature everything depends on everything else.

—Diderot, 1750

The principles of a system, which I shall explain and examine.

—Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776

Star systems, part of still vaster systems.

—Kant, 1790

To catch a system by the tail is like catching a lizard—the whole truth escapes and leaves the tail in your hand.

—Turgenev, 1850

Naturalists arrange species, genera, and families into what is called a Natural System.

—Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

Problems that are created by our current level of thinking can't be solved on that same level of thinking.

—Albert Einstein, 1910

In the past, man was first; in the future, the system will be first.

—Frederick Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911

Every system is inevitably incomplete: it will contain certain statements that cannot be proved within that system.

—Kurt Goedel, The Incompleteness Theorem, 1930

Systems are man-made organisms.

—Robert Gagne, 1962

Systematic: carrying out a design with thoroughness and regularity.

—Webster's Dictionary, 1982

A snowflake is itself a particular system.

—Paul Davies, The Edge of Infinity, 1990

Questioner: "I'm worried about the tail wagging the dog."

Systems Expert: "The tail is the dog."


Part II: General Concepts A to Z

Chapter List

General Concepts A to Z

Part Overview

This learning, what a thing it is!

—Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, 1594

General Concepts A to Z

Action Learning

Action learning, originally called "action research," is a tool of organizational development created in the 1940s by Kurt Lewin in the United States and Reginald Revans in England. In many ways a precursor of Japanese quality circles in the 1980s, action learning consists of small-group efforts in an organization to solve problems at a grass roots level. Designated teams work together to set tasks, come up with solutions, and effect change from below. The term sometimes is used in a much broader sense to simply mean "learning on the job."



Kurt Lewin: Resolving Social Conflicts: Selected Papers on Group Dynamics.


Kurt Lewin: Field Theory in Social Science: Selected Theoretical Papers.


Alfred Marrow: The Practical Theorist: The Life and Work of Kurt Lewin.


Reginald Revans: Action Learning: New Techniques for Management.


Reginald Revans: The Origins and Growth of Action Learning.


Mike Pedler (ed.): Action Learning in Practice. Anthology of articles on the British action learning movement started by Revans.


Marvin Weisbord: Productive Workplaces. A readable history of organizational development, including action learning.


David Garvin: Learning in Action: A Guide to Putting the Learning Organization to Work.

See also Learning Organization Lessons Learned Organizational Development (OD)