Magnus Ramage and Karen Shipp, "Systems Thinkers" (Springer, 2020)


In this episode I spoke with Magnus Ramage, co-author of Systems Thinkers (Springer, 2020). This second edition provides an update to Ramage’s and co-author Karen Shipp’s earlier exploration, and presents an enlightening—often inspiring—biographical history of the field of systems thinking. Systems thinking is necessarily interdisciplinary; as such, the people highlighted in the book come from a wide range of areas such as biology, management, physiology, anthropology, chemistry, public policy, sociology and environmental studies among others.

Systems Thinkers examines the life and work of thirty of its major thinkers—some, like Gregory Bateson, only today becoming well-known outside systems circles, others less-known and in Ramage’s view, underappreciated. The book explores each thinker’s key contributions, and the way their 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 flavor of their work and to give readers a sense of which thinkers are most relevant to their own interests. The thinkers are usefully categorized into six groupings ranging from ‘Early Cybernetics’ to ‘Learning Systems’.

A significant aim of the book is to broaden and deepen the reader’s interest in systems writers, providing an appetizing ‘taster’ for each of the 30 thinkers, so that the reader is encouraged to go on to study the published works of the thinkers themselves. Ramage describes Systems Thinkers as a “collective love letter to some of most remarkable people in academia and professional practice over the past century”. His passion for these thinkers comes through in his writing and in our conversation. It is a passion shared by others who stand on the shoulders of these thinkers.

Kevin Lindsay is a 25+ year Silicon Valley software product strategist and marketer, and graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

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Kevin Lindsay

"What is the pattern that connects the crab to the lobster and the primrose to the orchid, and all of them to me, and me to you?" - Gregory Bateson
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