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Recent contributions

Viable System Model: A theory for designing more responsive organisations

By Angela Espinosa

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Angela Espinosa (biography)

How can communities, businesses, regions, and nations – which can all be thought of as organisations – be designed to be capable of dealing quickly and effectively with environmental fluidity and complexity?

The Viable System Model, often referred to as VSM, is a theory that posits that a complex organisation is more capable of responding to a changing and unpredictable environment, if it is:

  • composed of autonomous, effective, and agile subsidiary organisations,
  • highly connected to each other, and
  • cohesively operating with shared ethos, purpose, processes, and technologies

A complex organisation therefore has multiple levels of nested organisations, each adhering to these principles.

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Externalizing implicit expectations and assumptions in transdisciplinary research

By Verena Radinger-Peer, Katharina Gugerell and Marianne Penker

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1. Verena Radinger-Peer (biography)
2. Katharina Gugerell (biography)
3. Marianne Penker (biography

How can implicit expectations and assumptions of team members in transdisciplinary research collaborations be identified?

We used Q-methodology as a tool to make diverse expectations and perceptions of transdisciplinary research collaborations tangible and thus negotiable.

Q-methodology is an established explorative, semi-quantitative method for investigating distinctive viewpoints of a given population based on inverted factor analysis. While we do not explain Q methodology here, it is increasingly used and we refer those who want to find out more to Watts and Stenner (2012).

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Managing complexity with human learning systems

By Toby Lowe

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Toby Lowe (biography)

How can those in public service – be they researchers, policy makers or workers in government agencies, private businesses managers, or voluntary and community organisation leaders – think more effectively about improving people’s lives, when they understand that each person’s life is a unique complex system?

A good starting point is understanding that real outcomes in people’s lives aren’t “delivered” by organisations (or by projects, partnerships or programmes, etc). Outcomes are created by the hundreds of different factors in the unique complex system that is each person’s life.

In other words, an outcome is the product of hundreds of different people, organisations, and factors in the world all coming together in a unique and ever-changing combination in a particular person’s life. Very little of what influences the outcome is under the control or influence of those who undertake public service.

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Seventh annual review

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

This annual end-of-year review presents the highlights from 2022 and examines how i2Insights is progressing in building a global community and a repository for sharing research tools to tackle complex societal and environmental problems.

There is currently no other repository that provides easy access to a range of research tools for addressing complex problems in ways that bring together systems thinking, transdisciplinarity, action research, post-normal science, implementation science, design thinking and many more approaches.

Progress is in the right direction, but the i2Insights team is keen to go further and faster. How can the number of contributions and readers be increased? What would you find helpful for i2Insights to do more of or differently? How can we promote productive discussions on more contributions? If you have thought about contributing but have not, what’s stopping you? 

This is the last blog post for 2022. i2Insights returns on January 10, 2023 (Australian time).

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Highlighted contributions

What is 3-dimensional team leadership?

By Bradley L. Kirkman

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Bradley L. Kirkman (biography)

It is useful to think about teams as having three dimensions:

  1. the team as a whole
  2. the individuals in the team
  3. the subteams within the overall team, or the smaller subsets of team members who cluster together to work on specific tasks. With teams taking on more and more complex tasks, it is not uncommon for members with similar skills to tackle various assignments over a period of time and then integrate their outputs into the larger, overall team.

How does a leader know when to focus on which dimension?

The secret lies in knowing how a particular team best carries out its tasks, specifically a concept known as interdependence. Team interdependence refers to the extent to which a team requires members to communicate, collaborate, integrate, and coordinate their efforts to get their jobs done.

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Six lessons from students about transdisciplinary learning

By Irina Dallo, Jan Freihardt and Juanita von Rothkirch

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1. Irina Dallo (biography)
2. Jan Freihardt (biography)
3. Juanita von Rothkirch (biography)

What is an effective way of providing students with practical experience in stakeholder engagement? How can students learn to communicate and engage with community members on a transdisciplinary project, as well as how to create a space for those community members to reflect on their daily lives through interactions and discussions with the student outsiders? What makes it possible for students to broaden their horizons and to acquire new competences and skills?

We present our reflections on how the Winter School 2020 “Science meets Practice” run by ETH Zürich successfully contributed to our transdisciplinary learning process. We suggest there are six key lessons for those who want to design a successful course.

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Applying human-centered design to virtual conference planning

By Kristine Glauber, Ben Miller and Christine Ogilvie Hendren

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1. Kristine Glauber (biography)
2. Ben Miller (biography)
3. Christine Ogilvie Hendren (biography)

What is needed to envision and create a virtual conference at which attendees have direct agency in execution of customized, richly interactive sessions?

We share three guideposts from a human-centered design framework in recasting the 11th Annual International Science of Team Science Conference from a face-to-face to a virtual meeting after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Develop your design principle

Develop your goals for the meeting overall and each individual conference element.These can be referenced when making decisions about how to accomplish a particular task.

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Are research institutes fulfilling their interdisciplinary roles in universities?

By Paul Bolger

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Paul Bolger (biography)

The number of research centres and institutes within universities has exploded in the last two decades, but how effective have they been in delivering on their interdisciplinary goals?

A key raison d’etre for establishing a research centre or institute is to bring together researchers from multiple disciplines in a particular area of research study, and to foster interdisciplinary collaboration. You don’t have to read too far into mission statements and websites to encounter a goal to be cross-, multi-, inter-, or trans- disciplinary.

The establishment of interdisciplinary research centres and institutes has been a key structural response for universities interested in embedding interdisciplinarity within the university research system, as it enables universities to retain traditional departments while having a locus to address the grand challenges of society in an interdisciplinary approach.

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