Complexity and the Viable System Model: A Proposal

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Roberto MANCILLA, (RC51 Member), Mexico, Freelance, USA
Stafford Beer intended with the viable system model to create a model of human organization that could be applied to any known institution. His intuition was that social systems tended towards the maintaining of their identity and organization in light of a changing environment; that is, their viability. This model is comprised of five interacting subsystems; systems 1, 2 and 3 are concerned with the day to day operations- the “here and now”- while systems 3, 4 and 5 are in charge of policy- the “there and then” that helps to secure viability on a long term.

Two striking features of this model are the fact that it can be used on both private and public organizations and the fact that it is recursive, as viable systems contain others of its kind that can be modeled using an isomorphic description, i.e. another viable system model. However, there are shortcomings on the original model, such as the lack of elaboration of what constitutes an environment; also, the perception of variety seems too unified, it does not take into account subjectivity from the subsystems.

Many of these aspects were corrected by Espejo, a close collaborator of Beer; he adds complexity management to the model and improves it a great deal, however, he changes the core model and makes it more rigid.  For this paper I will review existing literature on the model and I will retake Beer’s original model and adding some of Espejo’s improvements, I will further adapt VSM by adding: a) network theory and dominant coalition theory to both the relevant environment and the composition of the VSM, b) subjectivity in the perception of variety and c)organizational states in the perception of variety (homeostasis as low variety, dynamic equilibrium as changing varietal states and hypercomplexity as untenable variety).