Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
I was born in the Netherlands in 1941, at the time of the German occupation. During my Gymnasium (high school) years I preferred mathematics to Latin and Greek, and I acquired a lifelong fondness for philosophy. I studied Physics at the Delft University of Technology. Initially I was interested in nuclear physics; my involvement in this field culminated in a four months stay at the Haifa Institute of Technology in Israel, where I studied some obscure nuclear phenomena. When electronic computers started to emerge, however, I switched to Systems Engineering. I graduated in 1966 as a Physical Engineer on a Master’s Thesis with the elaborate title: “Some calculations and considerations with respectto an optimum seeking system based on the relayextremum control method”. This formed the basis for my first systems publication (in: Theory of Self-Adaptive Control Systems, Edited by PH. Hammond and published byPlenum Press, 1966).
For the next seven years I was a research manager at the Dutch Applied Physics Research Organization, TNO, where I became heavily involved in the simulation of blast waves. To learn the trade, I became a Fellow of the Canadian Defense Research Board in 1967 and spent a year on the prairies of Alberta at DRES, Ralston, Canada, studying the effects of simulated nuclear explosions. Several papers resulted from my findings. When I returned to TNO I managed, with TNO’s support, to write a dissertation. Working until the wee hours of the morning, I obtained my PhD, Doctor in the Technical Sciences, from the Eindhoven University of Technology in 1971. My doctoral thesis was my first interdisciplinary venture; it focussed on the interface between physics, particulary gas dynamics, and the chemistry of combustion in explosive gases. For this research lengthy computer simulations were necessary. At that time it took the IBM computer at DRES the whole weekend to produce a few results.
Through my job at TNO I eventually became more involved in managing people than in actual research. Ultimately I wanted to know more about the neglected human aspect of engineering education, so when the first Dutch graduate business school started and a position was offered in Systems Science, I decided that it was time for a change. In 1973 I became an Associate Professor of Systems and Organization Theory at the Delft Graduate School of Management, which ten years later merged with the Erasmus University and was renamed the Rotterdam School of Management. Now I am Professor of Management and Systems Sciences at this institution.
In 19781 was invited to spend a year at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, NIAS, at Wassenaar, The Netherlands. At that time my research interest was in the field of ReconstructabiIity Analysis and I cooperated intensively with George Klir. In this context, I developed Ross Ashby’s information theory into a General Information Theory, GIT; I was able to demonstrate that the Hartley measure of uncertainty is a very fundamental concept from which all the remaining information measures can consistently be derived (see a not widely-know publication, which is still my favorite one:
“On the Foundations of GIT”, Cybernetics and Systems, An
International Journal, 11,1 – 2,1980, p. 143).
In the early eighties, I became more and more involved in some large-scale international research and consulting activities for various Dutch multinationals. Although I had been teaching in the area of Strategy and Organization Design for years, my research focus switched to the development of a general management systems model, called the Consistency Model, that enables an assessment of and change methodology for total organizational transformation. The corresponding new management philosophy was baptized “Management by Matching”, which was soon abbreviated to MaMa-logic (see, for example, my article in Cybernetics and Systems Research, Ed. by R. Trappl, Elsevier, 1984 p. 413). After some administrative interruptions I was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Dean of the MBA program – I recently spent a sabbatical year, 1987′ 88, as Visiting Professor of Organization Behavior at the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University, Chicago, according to “BUSINESS WEEK” (Nov. 1988) the *- 1 business school in the United States. I gave a MBA course on Strategy Implementation, which brought me the Faculty Honor Roll (top 10%). I was also invited to MIU, Maharishi International University, in Fairfield, Iowa, where Itaught the PhD students a course on Strategic Management. The latter, in particular, was a very exciting experience. Whereas most universities, both in the USA and Europe, tend to become more and more fragmented to the point of utter dullness and deteriorating quality, MIU has a unique integrated system of education, which also helps unfold the inner potential of students (and Faculty). In this stimulating environment I began to ask myself what I will come after the Machine Age and its successor, the Systems Age. My conclusions can be found in a publication entitled “Beyond Systems: the Field of Consciouness”.
This title indicates the direction my research is moving in. My main interest is in new forms of intelligent organizations; or to put it into business school categorizations, in a revival of Organization Design, with particular emphasis on organizing the external environment of firms (value-adding partnerships, etc.). Systems ideas really could contribute significantly to thinking -about designing more flexible and creative organizations, but their impact on the practice of organizing has up until now been quite meager. In these turbulent times, however, it seems to me that people are becoming increasingly willing to apply systems thinking.
I have been active in the Systems Movement for quite some time. In 1975 I became the President of the Systeemgroep Nederland, the Dutch Society for Systems Research, and stayed on till 1981. This was an exciting period. There was a lot of interest in systems ideas, and the Society was thriving. With a number of good people, like our secretary Gerard de Zeeuw, we held many excellent meetings. A highlight for me personally was the First International Summer school on Systems Methodology which I organized in August 1979. It featured scholars like George Klir, Brian Gaines, Ron Atkin, Roger Cavallo, Bernard Zeigler, etc. For two weeks they adressed an international audience of about 40 people.
From its beginnings in 1979, I have been involved with the International Federation for Systems Research, the IFSR. This aspect of my life’s work has just been dealt with in John Warfield’s excellent Editorial in Systems Research, vol. 5, No.2, 1988, and in George Klir’s fascinating Systems Profile in the same issue. I strongly believe that the IFSR should continue to play a major supportive role as an international network-building and -maintaining organization. We can be grateful to the teams that worked with the previous Presidents, George Klir and Robert Trappl, for their pionieering achievements.
Apart from continuing the good work of my predecessors, I hope to be able to build more of a “community feeling” (a term launched by Robert while we were discussing my “networking” interests) into the IFSR. People across the globe should become more aware of each other’s research interests and activities. So, in the near future I would like to start organizing this undertaking which will result in a Global Directory for Systems Research (“Who-is-Who” type). My
idea is that we will work through the individual member societies whom I will contact shortly. My wife, Milady Cardamone, a systems scientist herself, will assist in the organization of the project. Have a good Systems Year 1989!