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Exploring complex sociocultural situations through soft operational research

Author(s): Maurice Yolles

Journal: Pesquisa Operacional
ISSN 0101-7438

Volume: 30;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 345;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Operational Research | paradigms | commodity systems | normal science | post-normal science | uncertainty | soft operational research | sociocultural problem situations | intervention strategies

A paradigm can be thought of as a living commodity system, carried by a self-organising group. The commodity is often "practical knowledge", and the paradigm maintains a life cycle that begins with commodity gestation, leading to commodity depreciation through death or transformation. During its normal life processes paradigm grow their commodities incrementally, but the growth processes become bounded through the very conceptualisations that made them successful, limiting their pragmatic capabilities. Paradigms have not only normal lives, but also post-normal lives. In the current cultural environment normal paradigmatic life processes are said to be hard, while post-normal ones are said to be soft, with this change being facilitated through epistemological shift. An illustration of a new framework called sociohistory is shown to be a soft OR approach. Its purpose is to describe, explore and evaluate complex sociocultural problem situations, with the potential to create intervention strategies that might be able to improve them.
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