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1.1 Overview

Why are disasters important? They attract public attention because there is great loss of life, or because the event happened suddenly and quite unexpectedly, or because the accident occurred to a new project that had been regarded as completely safe. Certainly, the aspect of suddenness is one that features in many catastrophes, and indeed, it is this feature by which a catastrophe is defined.

Great disasters are always traumatic, especially for those who endure them and come through al
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Conclusion

This free course provided an introduction to studying Engineering. It took you through a series of exercises designed to develop your approach to study and learning at a distance, and helped to improve your confidence as an independent learner.


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1 Biological materials

Materials engineers have long recognised the impressive range and combination of properties offered by biological materials. Figure 1 shows some representative examples of the combination of tensile strength and toughness (measured by Young's modulus, or elastic modulus for polymers) offered by natural ma
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Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • describe and give examples of how self-assembly enables construction ‘from the bottom up’ in natural materials

  • explain what is meant by primary and higher-order structure in proteins and give examples

  • give examples of the range of functions carried out by proteins within cells

  • describe how a combination of strong and weak bonding within biopolymers and lipids is used to build hier
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Acknowledgements

The following material is Proprietary and is used under licence:

Naughton, J. (1998) ‘Arts: Internet: It's free and it works. No wonder Bill Gates hates it’, Observer, 8 November 1998, © Guardian News and Media Ltd 2005;

Wilkins, E. (1994) ‘Rescued from £1 a day for girl's upkeep’, The Times, 31 January 1994. Copyright © Times Newspapers Ltd 1994;

‘Agency demands 1p from father’, The Times, 22 December 1993. Copyright © Times Newspapers
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3.8 Reviewing some implications for systems practice

The following anecdote exemplifies one of the main reasons why I think juggling the B ball is important for systems practice. The story relates to two practitioners who were able to connect with the history of organisational complexity ideas. It describes the process they chose to take in response to a highly specific organisational-development tender document couched in traditional ways:

Our first decision was to
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8.1 Loose ends

Before moving into a discussion of the missing element of the rich picture, I want to direct your attention to all the thoughts and ideas I have encouraged you not to put into your rich picture. I imagine you might have collected quite a list of loose ends. The next activity will involve some of these.

Expect to take about half an hour to do the next activity.


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7.5 Summary

I hope that, by now, you have a rich picture you are pleased with. This is a considerable achievement because, despite the informality of the rich picture's style, a rich picture that effectively captures the complex situation takes a lot of effort to achieve. It depends crucially on being prepared to enter into the experience of the situation of interest and to interrogate that experience thoroughly. Noticing is not enough. Each feature of the situation has to be carefully captured by repres
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7.2.3 Trap 3: interpretation, structure, and analysis

If you deliberately impose an interpretation or analysis on your picture, you preclude the possibility of seeing other, potentially more interesting, features later. Remember the rich picture is a representation of the complexity. If you structure that complexity, you are no longer representing it as you experience it. You also lose the possibility of using the drawing process itself as a means of encountering the complexity in all its fullness.

The trap takes a number of forms.
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7.2.2 Trap 2: the impoverished rich picture

A distinguishing feature of rich pictures that turn out to be useful seems to be they are just what they say they are, rich. If I take usefulness as the criterion, the useful rich pictures are the ones bursting with interest and activity. They don't seem to tell a single story, there are lots of stories going on simultaneously. They reveal stories you didn't consciously build into them.

How is such a rich picture to be achieved?

Use everything you find in the situation. This means
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7.2 Complexity and rich pictures

This section is mostly concerned with thinking about your rich picture and the complex situation it depicts.

There are lots of ways of drawing a good rich picture and very few ways of drawing bad rich pictures. So my next strategy in supporting your learning, and your experience of this complex situation, is to propose a number of checks you might use to ensure you have not fallen into the trap of the less-effective rich picture.

Although my discussion will focus on rich pictures,
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2.5 Review

The title of this unit could have been Juggling with complexity: searching for system. This title seemed to capture something essential about the unit. Juggling is a rich metaphor and will be used explicitly in Part 3. But it also carries the idea of a skill that needs to be practised and that might seem incredibly awkward to begin with. You may find this idea helpful as you review your work in Part 1. Juggling is also a skill that, once practised, becomes second nature. This too may b
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2.4 Appreciating epistemological issues

Common sense tells me my experience and understanding of the world are limited. I am 173 cm in height. That limits my view of the world. It may not matter much that I cannot see what my house looks like from above but it does mean there will be things going on in the roof I may not notice until they impinge on areas that I can experience.

More significantly, there is a real limitation on understanding the experiences of other people. You might tell me about your experience but your desc
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2.3 Taking responsibility for your own learning

Not much of this unit conforms to the traditional pattern I mentioned earlier – the theory-example-exercise pattern. In particular, you will find you are expected to discover much of it for yourself. Why is this? This is a legitimate question and deserves a full answer. One year, a student at a residential summer school complained I had not taught him properly. I was, he told me, an expert and so why did I not demonstrate how to tackle the problem he was working on and pass my expertise on
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2.2 The nature of systems thinking and systems practice

There are no simple definitions for either systems thinking or systems practice. It's difficult to find definitions that capture all the perspectives that the ideas carry for people who think of themselves as systems thinkers and systems practitioners. Most systems practitioners seem to experience the same kind of difficulty in explaining what they do or what it means to be systemic in their thinking. Through experience I've developed some criteria by which I characterise systems thinking, bu
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3.2 Learning by experience

It's a familiar idea but it implies two activities: learning and experiencing. Both activities need to happen if I am to say that learning from experience has happened. Experiencing seems to have two components. The first is the quality of attention that allows me to notice the experience and its components. The second is memory. Calling experience to mind allows me to examine the experience and to think about it in ways that were not possible at the time. Learning is what I take away from th
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3.1 What are you hoping to learn?

Anticipations and preconceptions are an important determinant of how people learn, so before you read on, I would like to you to record some of what you are experiencing now as you begin the course.

It's important to get these impressions noted down now, because new ideas and new impressions will quickly overlay the experience. What you are experiencing now will be re-interpreted as new understandings emerge. You are also likely to form some judgements about your expectations. So before
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2 Part 1 Starting the unit

Welcome to T306_2 Managing complexity: a systems approach – introduction. As I write, I experience a sense of excitement. For me, as for you, this is the beginning of the unit. These are the first few sentences I'm writing and so, although I have a good idea of how the unit is going to turn out, the details are by no means clear. Nevertheless, the excitement and anticipation I, and maybe you, are experiencing now is an important ingredient in what will become our experiences of the u
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Conclusion

You can experience this free course as it was originally designed on OpenLearn, the home of free learning from The Open University: Author(s): The Open University

Analysing European Romanticism
The principal tenets of the movement known as Romanticism first began in Germany and England, with the former pioneering the moral and philosophical beliefs and the latter producing the first Romantic artists and poets. This album concentrates on the development and spread of Romanticism in mainland Europe, analysing in clear, concise terms the metaphysical questions and beliefs that engendered the movement, along with the cultural and historical contexts that encouraged its development. The alb
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