What’s in a picture of a system

The etymology of the word system originates from the Greek sum (with) + histanai (a cause to stand) – meaning a cooperative and supportive set-up, stance or position, of multiple interconnected elements

The Collins dictionary list the following meanings for the word:

  • Way of working
  • Set of (working) devices (powered)
  • Set of parts to supply water, heat etc.
  • Network of things to enable travel or communication
  • Body parts that together perform a particular function
  • Set of rules for measuring or sorting things

Notice if you will that all definitions from above fall in just two categories:

  1. Structures, arrangements of elements or things (products)
  2. Rules, constraints, change procedures, algorithms, interactions (processes)

The definition from the ’93 Systems Engineering Management (draft) standard (Mil Std 499B) adds people to the mixture:

“System – An integrated composite of people, products, and processes that provide a capability to satisfy a stated need or objective.”

Meaning that people may meet while doing things they love (like hiking) and maybe strike a conversation on the top or on the way down the mountain. They may decide to take the next trip together and they may use some products such as maps and hiking tools and gear to plan and during the next hike. On the planned start day, they will engage in the actual conduct of the planned trip, while supporting and helping each other in the evolving process and through any unknowns they may encounter. At the end of the trip they will probably congratulate each other on the job well done, have a lunch and start planning for the next hike.

This is in short a typical story about how every, so called, STS (Socio-Technical System), works with clients. The Kihbernetics Institute is such an STS so we decided to use this concise depiction of the story as the logo for our site.

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