A Different Approach to a New Year: the Ham Systems Think!

Discussion in 'General Announcements' started by NW7US, Jan 2, 2021.

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  1. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    What is the most important aspect of life? Having fun! (Of course!).

    Perhaps it is unusual to wax philosophical in an amateur radio forum, but I am going out on a limb to share a perspective that hopefully is refreshingly new and full of life: Systems thinking -- an amateur radio approach.

    What I'm sharing herein, I find very intense, invigorating, challenging, and motivational! The more I think about amateur radio with this perspective--the Systems Thinking perspective--the more fun I'm able to define, and then accomplish.

    In my opinion, this approach to life is REVOLUTIONARY! Why isn't this knowledge distributed far and wide? Why aren't these precepts taught in the schools for young children, so that they can be equipped for a life full of accomplished purpose? Perhaps it is due to the deceptive simplicity of approaching life with the perspective of Systems Thinking.



    What is Systems Thinking?

    In a very simplistic sense, a system is any group of parts that make up one complex whole. Each part cannot function as the whole, and each part interacts with other parts, such that this behavior affects that end result which is expressed by the whole.

    Think about a motorcycle. Let's play with that thought: I disassemble my motorbike in your living room. Once the bike completely taken apart and the parts are scattered all over your living room floor, can any one of those parts support my riding it out to the countryside, and back again? No. Only the bike can act, when it is made whole again, as a motorbike. But, even if the individual parts, doing their part well, try to be the bike all by themselves, but fail, in the end realize that the parts are very important. Each part has a place and a job. Each part belongs.

    By now, as you think about this, you probably realize that there is a difference between collections, and systems, of course. A bag of rocks is not a system. A motorcycle is a system. A bag of motorbike parts is not a motorbike. The assembly of the motorbike parts does make a motorcycle.

    What does this have to do with amateur radio?

    The amateur radio service (hobby) is a system, not a collection. There are many parts--and one of the most important component of the amateur radio system is you and me. We interact with each other, exchanging knowledge, reports, friendships; we each function, lending our functioning the the autonomous self, the amateur radio service.

    It takes more than one of us to make up the amateur radio service. It would take at least two amateur radio operators, at the most extreme emaciated existence as a public service. It is obvious that one ham, all by herself, does not make the amateur radio service. No one of us is the amateur radio service, by ourselves. We need each other in order to have a ham radio community--the amateur radio service. Ourselves, our radios, antennas, computers, knowledge, schedules, and so on, are all parts of the big system with which we participate in our community.

    Let that sink in.

    Ponder the long-term repercussions of this revelation: We need each other, and we need our resources (time, skills, knowledge, radios, etc.).

    How do we shape our System? What will elevate our System so that it is effective? And, so we begin to do this, SYSTEMS THINKING.

    Please read, and ponder these thoughts, as you read through this article:


    Additionally, you should check out this video--it is great!

    Bonus (not necessary but still VERY good deeper dive):

    In my estimation, Dr. Russell Ackoff is amazingly wise, and inspiring!


    At the moment, I am studying and trying to implement system thinking. It is the topic I am mostly studying right now.

    The following is an introduction to Systems Thinking:


    Download this useful paper that helps you understand system thinking:


    I would very much like to hear your thoughts on all of this. Seriously. Take your time. But, let's start wading through this pool of refreshing water...

    Happy New Year!

    Tomas Hood

    Attached Files:

    KI4ZUQ and W9EBE like this.
  2. PU2OZT

    PU2OZT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'll be reading Nietzsche instead of opening your links
  3. WD4ELG

    WD4ELG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Excellent, Thomas.

    I have followed you for many years, and learned a lot from your sharing of knowledge and experience.

    I don't think that a systems approach is applicable to all situations....rather a simple root cause analysis is more appropriate.

    I don't want to get into politics, but I have one comment about the link https://thesystemsthinker.com/ regarding Israel/Palestine conflict where the author (David Peter Stroh) says:

    Instead, I began to ask a different set of questions:

    • Why does this problem persist despite people’s extensive efforts to solve it?
    • Why do Israelis invest so much to increase their sense of security, yet feel so insecure?
    • Why do Palestinians, despite enduring the loss of lives and extreme economic hardship, gain so little of the respect and sovereignty they try so hard to achieve?
    • Why is it difficult for those people on both sides who want a workable compromise to gain sufficient support for solutions they perceive as possible?
    • Where is the leverage in the conflict, that is, what can people do to produce a sustainable systemwide solution?

    Systems thinking assumes logical moves and rational actors in this scenario (just as we assume rational actors in Game Theory, see "A Beautiful Mind" and John Nash's "Nash Equilibrium")

    Why do we not have rational actors in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? To quote the great Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir:

    Peace will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.

    Analysis of problems must look at the root causes and motivations. And it's the hatred that ultimately undermines the peace process. No solution will be achieved until that hate is eliminated...or there is a greater incentive that outweighs the hate (e.g., common threat from Iran).

    Let's leave politics and visit a Ham Radio example - what about AMSAT (see the AMSAT board for the ongoing struggles regarding leadership, funding, open source code, transparency, etc). What's at the root of the AMSAT struggle? It's the desire to exert/demonstrate control and power. There is an ongoing fight over perceived (perception = reality) insults and nefarious actions. This leads to mistrust and lack of cooperation.

    The only way to resolve this is through a dialogue where each side has the chance to express candid views...and believes the other side is listening to the concerns. Then a compromise must be reached. AMSAT friction is not based upon racial/ethnic tensions; if we assume each party has the success of AMSAT as a priority, then we conclude that it's the lack of control which causes the friction. But again, systems thinking does not account for non-rational actions from emotional human beings.

    No systems thinking needed for these two cases, Thomas. Thoughts, Kind Sir?
    NW7US likes this.
  4. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page


    Thank you for responding. I'm happy that there was something in this post that caught your interest, and that you have taken the time to form your response. It is inspiring me to think more carefully about these issues.

    I concur.

    Let me say, I do not necessary agree with every perspective, conclusion, or point made by Dr. Russell Ackoff, David Stroh, or anyone else. Never-the-less, the overarching idea of systems thinking seems valid, and is worth considering.

    With that said, I agree with you that a systems approach is not always applicable to all situations. At least that's how I think, at this point in my discovery of the complexities of the Systems Thinking process/methodology to leadership, innovation, education, communications, and so forth. Perhaps Systems Thinking can apply to some degree. I see the potential, but I must think more deeply and take more time to ponder these ideas, as well as learn more about Systems Thinking, as well as root causation, and so forth.

    I don't know if Systems Thinking requires, at all levels, an assumption of logical moves made by rational actors, theoretically. I'm too new to the domain of this methodology to be qualified to make an intelligent response to that specific.

    But, from a perspective of deal-making and foreign policy (and, yes, I am very deeply interested in foreign affairs, the foreign policy of nations, and the agreements made between countries), I would concur that rational actors are prerequisite in all parts of an agreement between humans and the societies of which they represent when acting in the capacity of a leader and negotiator.

    North Korea comes to mind, and the negotiations with the USofA.

    For that matter, the two-party system of our current US political antics comes to mind.

    Turning to Amateur Radio -- I strongly maintain that our approach to amateur radio should think (collectively from a policy perspective, from a promotional perspective, and from an educational perspective) of the hobby and activity as an expression of humanity coming from the system of individual amateur radio operators all who have distinct skills, interests, issues, limitations, ideals, etc. We are NOT a collection of individuals, but a complex community. And, we need each other — it is a hobby about communication. Communication requires more than the single participant, if a QSO exists.

    In my estimation, I concur: She was great.

    Perhaps all problems must include looking at root causes--and certainly, motivations. Perhaps what cannot be realized, though, is any lasting solution, so long as motivations born out of belief, perspective, and conditioning do not change. It is my thought that as humans begin to make the attempt to understand each other, we can begin to heal the rifts between us.

    Do not all people desire safety, equal opportunity, and so on? Do we not care about our children and their futures?

    Turning to Amateur Radio as a hobby and a service: What do we really want for the future of the hobby?

    Systems Thinking asks us to ponder, first, how we even frame our questions of that which we are attempting to consider. Is the right question, "What do we really want for the future of the hobby?"

    We must be careful, though, not to project our assumptions about the motivations of others into the judgement of others. Otherwise, bridges may never come to inclusion in our journey toward unity in our community.

    And, this is where Systems Thinking might be apropos. Compromises between which alternatives, and to what outcome are the alternatives in the compromise seeking?

    I think an approach to such things must be a combination of both root-cause analysis (and some resulting effective approach to building bridges), and systems thinking in which AMSAT (as an example) is not the ONLY sub-system of the amateur radio universe.

    I'm still in the learning process. Perhaps I always will be learning and never feel that I am an expert. What I desire, though, is to be an ambassador of good will, and to use amateur radio as a conduit by which I spread good will.

    Tomas - NW7US

  5. WD4ELG

    WD4ELG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thomas, thanks for the response and your thoughtful/articulate analysis.

    And I agree, you truly are an ambassador for the hobby!
    NW7US likes this.
  6. W9EBE

    W9EBE Subscriber QRZ Page

    As do I.

    Thank you for this interesting perspective. I hope more people consider this valuable concept.

    Now, more than ever in these stressful times, I believe that it is especially important that we all examine our pursuits that are for fun (and otherwise), along with the methodology involved therein, to ultimately realize the magnitude of each of our individual endeavors, and how those individual endeavors affect the far-reaching whole -- of ham radio, society in general, and the planet.

    Well done, OM!
    NW7US likes this.
  7. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Spot on! You've succinctly summed up the impatice of my post! All of what we do, even in our small sphere of immediate influence as we interact in any social space--but especially in our ham hobby universe--has an impact. That by its nature (in my humble opinion) obligates each actor in that space to a responsibility of some kind. And that, is worthy of contemplation and perhaps becomes an influence on our pursuits and interactions.

    I love your QRZ page. I am a CAT man. I have stories...

    73 ZUT HNY de NW7US dit dit
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  8. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just a note as an addendum to my original post: My opening line makes the claim that happiness is our main pursuit in life. Is that true? In one of the founding documents of the United States of America talks about, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." From that, I deduce my opening claim.

    Cheers, 73
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  9. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Side note:

    See 2 videos:
    1. https://odysee.com/@Styxhexenhammer666:2/you-either-side-with-free-speech-or-you:6
    2. https://odysee.com/@RobBraxmanTech:6/Live----Privacy_-Check!,-Freedom-of-Speech_-Check!,-and-Q-A:9

    Spot on observations and insights are expressed in these two videos (not mine, these are other people's expressions of opinions).

    I concur that there is no middle ground. That is a ponderous thought, as it conveys a responsibility of some sort, right? Each of us are actors in a larger "system" of life. Each of us are not mere autonomous actors on the stage. We are integral to the life of communities, societies, movements, and so forth. So, are we not responsible for something in this interaction with fellow humans? Regardless of our opinions and convictions, worldviews, we still have an overarching responsibility to each other to protect our freedoms and rights.

    Amateur radio, is a social network, worldwide, via radio communications--shortwave, satellites, moon-bounce, VHF, and so forth--and transcends the politics of any one country.

    73 de NW7US dit dit

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