Participative Approaches for Dealing with Complexity

A Comparison between Interactive Management and Socio-Technical Systems Theory
  • A. R. Cardenas
  • G. Otalora
  • F. R. Janes


The ability to deal effectively with complexity has become a major focus of systemic methodologies. Among these methodologies, Interactive Management (IM) and Socio-technical Systems Theory (STST), represent two outstanding efforts to address complexity based on an explicit acknowledgement of a participatory/democratic principle. However, these approaches differ significantly in some respects at both the conceptual and the operational levels and, in particular, they differ in terms of the context and nature of the tasks that they propose for dealing with complexity. On the one hand, group work as promoted by STST was initially oriented towards the accomplishment of production activities within an organizational context, an orientation which helps to identify these sociotechnical systems as ‘action systems’. On the other hand, IM group work focuses on the development of shared representations of complex situations, as well as on the generation of consensus-based designed solutions for addressing those situations; in this sense, IM group activity could be conceptualized as an ‘inquiring system’. In this paper, the similarities and differences between these two approaches provide the basis for a reflection on some conceptual and methodological issues involved in dealing with complexity in terms of the relationship between ‘action’ and ‘inquiry’.


Human Mind Situational Complexity Participative Approach Cognitive Dimension Interactive Management 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. R. Cardenas
    • 1
  • G. Otalora
    • 1
  • F. R. Janes
    • 2
  1. 1.ITESM, Campus Monterrey, Suc. Correos “J”MonterreyMexico
  2. 2.City UniversityNorthampton Square, LondonUK

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