A peek in the Systems Library

shiftN Academy intro sessions

Systems thinking in some form or other is probably as old as humanity, but systems science came of age only after the Second World War. It has been a fascinating intellectual adventure that resulted in a powerful set of ideas. These ideas are shaping the way we address global challenges today.

Sadly, much of what the most prominent systems thinkers wrote in the latter half of the twentieth century has found only a very limited audience. Arguably, some of these books put significant demands on readers (and readers’ wallets!) too.

At shiftN we want to actively explore this intellectual legacy and make it accessible through focused introductions. We promise that anyone interested in systems ideas and contemporary societal challenges will benefit from these short and accessible introductions.

A typical 2-hour evening session focuses on a single, classic systems book. We discuss key ideas, author’s biography and the book’s position within the broader systems thinking tradition. Over the years we hope to build up a rich library of systems literature, spanning the whole journey from early cybernetics to the latest ideas in systems ecology.

In 2017-2018 we propose four books:

Bela Banathy: Guided Evolution of Society (2000).
Banathy’s key idea was that humanity had reached an evolutionary stage that offered it the potential to determine its own long-term fate. He also explains us how we should go about shaping our own future.
Introduced by Philippe Vandenbroeck


Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch: The Embodied Mind. Cognitive Science and Human Nature (1991).
A pioneering book by a distinguished trio of systems thinkers that explores a conception of mind and of being in the world that goes against the grain of our scientific worldview.
Introduced by Ivo Velitchkov


Luc Hoebeke: Making Work Systems Better (1994).
Hoebeke’s book is an excellent introduction to the ‘soft’, constructivist take on systems ideas. It is a very practical book too, that helps to tackle all kinds of messy organisational challenges.
Introduced by Philippe Vandenbroeck and Luc Hoebeke


Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature. A Necessary Unity (1979).
In Mind and Nature Bateson constructs a picture of how the world is joined together in its mental aspects. He asks: “How do ideas, information and logic, the classical procedure for making chains of ideas, relate to an outside world of things and creatures, parts and wholes?” It will be interesting to contrast his vision with Varela’s ‘Embodied Mind’.
Introduced by Philippe Vandenbroeck

Session language English
Course level Introductory, no prerequisite knowledge of systems thinking required
For whom Anyone interested in systems ideas and contemporary societal challenges
By whom Philippe Vandenbroeck, co-founder at shiftN; Ivo Velitchkov, Management Consultant and Enterprise Architect; Luc Hoebeke, consultant, author and lecturer in the field of organisational development, innovation processes and systems practice
Format 2-hour evening sessions, 19:00 - 21:00h
Dates
  • 4 October 2017: Bela Banathy: Guided Evolution of Society (2000)
  • 12 December 2017: Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch: The Embodied Mind. Cognitive Science and Human Nature (1991)
  • 13 Februari 2018: Luc Hoebeke: Making Work Systems Better (1994)
  • 17 April 2018: Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature. A Necessary Unity (1979)
  • Location To be confirmed, Leuven area, Belgium
    Price 80 €/session; 250 €/4 sessions, excl. of 21% VAT (includes refreshments)
    Launch offer - 20%
    Further reading
  • Guided Evolution of Society: A Systems View
  • The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience
  • Making Work Systems Better: A Practitioner’s Reflections
  • Mind and Nature
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