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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Who owns a problem definition?

It’s no secret that I’m inspired by operation analysis when it comes to my scientific views. Operations analysis evolved as a problem oriented science with the focus to support decision makers when facing complex problems. Such problems depends on how they are defined and for example on where you put you system boundaries.
In the book ‘System – Att tänka över samhälle och teknik’ (English translation: ‘Systems – To think about societies and technology’) Professor Lars Ingelstam describes the idea of systems and system sciences. He also talks about operational analysis and what Ingelstam calls the democracy-analytical dilemma:

Whit what right does a researcher or analyst question how a politician elected by the people define their problems?
As Ingelstam states it is of course an analyst's role to also work with the problem definition. A decision maker can, despite good intentions, have defined a vague problem or misjudged assumptions or misunderstood the underlying causal relationships. But, as Ingelstam caustions, the challenge does not stop there. Who is to stop the analyst from trying to fit the problem to his or her favorite tool or own interest (maybe as a result of a too inbreeded academic environment).

Therefore, we system analyst cannot take problem definitions for granted, but should also encourage decision makers to challenge our analysis and it is in that dialog we can get closer to the ‘truth’. Today’s problems are complex in my field, and in most other fields as well, but as Mike C Jackson writes “we have no right to be pessimistic … given the suffering that results from these problems”.
Ingelstam, L. (2012). System, Att tänka över samhälle och teknik [Systems – To think about societies and technology]. Eskilstuna, the Swedish Energy Agency.