A cybernetic methodology to study and design human activities

  • Raul Espejo

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis offers a methodology to study and design effective communication mechanisms in human activities. The methodology is focused in the management of complexity. It is argued that complexity is not something objective that can be worked out analytically, but something subjective that depends on the viewpoint. Also it is argued that while certain social contexts may inhibit, others may enhance the viewpoint's capabilities to deal with complexity. Certain organisation structures are more likely than others to allow individuals to release their potentials. Thus, the relevance of studying and designing effective organisations. The first part of the thesis offers a `cybernetic methodology' for problem solving in human activities, the second offers a `method' to study and design organisations. The cybernetics methodology discussed in this work is rooted in second order cybernetics, or the cybernetics of the observing systems (Von Foester 1979, Maturana and Varela 1980). Its main tenet is that the known properties of the real world reside in the individual and not in the world itself. This view, which puts emphasis in a, by nature, one sided and unilateral appreciation of reality, triggers the need for dialogue and conversations to construct it. The `method' to study and design organisations, it based on Beer's Viable System Model (Beer 1979, 1981, 1985). This model permits us to assess how successful is an organisation in coping with its environmental complexity, and, moreover, permits us to establish how to make more effective the responses to this complexity. These features of the model are of great significance in a world where complexity is perceived to be growing at an unthinkable pace. But, `seeing' these features of the model assumes an effective appreciation of organisational complexity; hence the need for the methodological discussions offered by the first part of the thesis.
    Date of Award1988
    Original languageEnglish


    • Complexity
    • law of requisite variety
    • design
    • methodology
    • organisation structure

    Cite this