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System (from Latin systēma, in turn from Greek σύστημα sustēma) is a set of entities, real or abstract, comprising a whole where each component interacts or is in relatonship with at least one other component. The whole will have properites which cannot be found in the elements as parts. Any object which has no interaction with any other element of the system is not part of that system but rather of the system environment. A subsystem (Holon) then is a set of elements, which is a system itself, and a part of the whole system.

Every division or aggregation of real entities into systems is arbitrary, therefore it is a subjective abstract concept.

The scientific research field which is engaged in the transdisciplinary study of universal system-based properties of the world is general system theory, systems science and recently systemics. They investigate the abstract interactions and relationships of the matter and mind, their organization, searching for concepts and principles which are independent on the specific domain, independent of their substance, type, or spatial or temporal scales of existence.

Types of systems

Systems in information and computer science

In computer science and information science, system could also be a method or an algorithm. Again, an example will illustrate: There are systems of counting, as with Roman numerals, and various systems for filing papers, or catalogues, and various library systems, of which the Dewey Decimal System is an example. This still fits with the definition of components which are connected together (in this case in order to facilitate the flow of information).

System can also be used referring to a framework, be it software or hardware, designed to allow software programs to run, see platform.

Systems in engineering

In engineering, concept system is usually well defined. It is used in numerous different concrete contexts, and it is the subject of the basic engineering activities, such as: planning, design, implementation, building and maintaining. Systems engineering is also a generalized theoretical branch of the different engineering approaches and paradigms.

Systems in social and cognitive sciences and management research

Social and cognitive sciences recognize systems in human person models and in human societies. They are: human brain functions, human mental processes and as well as, normative ethics systems and social/cultural behavioral patterns.

In management science,operations research and organizational development (OD), human organizations are viewed as systems (conceptual systems) of interacting components such as sub-systems or system aggregates, which are carriers of numerous complex processes and organizational structures. Organizational development theorist Peter Senge developed the notion of organizations as systems in his book The Fifth Discipline.

Systems thinking is a style of thinking/reasoning and problem solving. It starts from the recognition of system properties in a given problem. It can be a leadership competency. Some people can think globally while acting locally. Such people consider the potential consequences of their decisions on other parts of larger systems. This is also a basis of systemic coaching in psychology.

Organizational theorists such as Margaret Wheatley have also described the workings of organizational systems in new contexts metaphoric contexts, such as quantum physics, chaos theory, and the self-organization of systems.

In socio-cognitive engineering the concept system is generalized to, so called, intelligence-based systems, what enables to analyze heterogeneous human-organization-technology aggregates and recognize their pathological properties such as organization: vulnerability, crisis and changes.

Systems to Improve Performance

Systems can also refer to a specific consistent method to perform a task. Once a successful way to accomplish a task is perfected, that method can be repeated over and over again establishing a "systematic process" for performing the work. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award describes systematic as: "approaches that are repeatable and use data and information so that improvement and learning are possible."

These types of systems of performing work are used to improve human performance and equipment reliability. They are often written - in the form of a procedure - and then a workforce can be trained to use the system. In that way others may also use the same system to perform the work.

Thus systems can be used to improve performance. This has been done in several performance improvement systems including Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, root cause analysis, and statistical process control. Thus performance improvement itself can be systematized and can be applied to the improvement process. And example of using systems to improve performance can be seen at the Great Systems web site.

Systems in Physics

Systems in Physics means action-reaction pairs, for example a car is in motion or moving, but through some unforeseen situation the car hits a concrete wall and stops. Thus the car was the action in this system and the wall reacted by pushing back at the car totalling it. The concrete wall and the car were a system when touching and when both forces were acting upon each other. This relates very greatly to Newton's third law of motion.

See also


  • Hertz H.(1956). Principles of Mechanics. Dover, USA.
  • Korotayev A., Malkov A., Khaltourina D. (2006). Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Compact Macromodels of the World System Growth. Moscow: URSS. ISBN 5-484-00414-4 [1].

External links