"Systems" is about seeing things as wholes, not just as their parts. So the statement "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is the classic systems statement. Traditional approaches tend to work by breaking complex wholes down into bits to make them easier to grasp, but of course when we do this what we lose is the ability to see the whole picture and sometimes that is the most important thing. So, Systems approaches are about dealing with complexity that comes with seeing the "whole".
Different systems approaches deal with different types of complexity and complex problems: dynamic complexity, complexity driven by differing perspectives and value sets, organisational complexity. One of the approaches widely used in SCiO is the Viable System Model (VSM) which is a way of understanding how organisations function.
Why Viable Systems?
When Stafford Beer originally created the Viable System Model (VSM) he was seeking to develop a "science of organisation", a set of invariant laws that could be applied to any sort of organisation of any size. So far, we have not found any organisational context in which it does not apply. It is an approach which helps us to make sense of organisations, or groups of organisations of any degree of complexity and tells us something about how they operate, why they function the way they do and what we might be able to do to change them.
The Viable System Model has a very different view on how organisations work from conventional approaches and provides radically different answers to many common and intractable management problems.
SCiO members come from a wide variety of disciplines, but share an interest in how organisations work, so this science of organisation is core to SCiO's work.