The Complex Puzzle Game: Systemic Action Research

The Complex Puzzle Game: Systemic Action Research

A blog inspired by Burns, D. (2014). Systemic action research: Changing system dynamics to support sustainable change. Action Research, 12(1), 3-18.

I chose this article to learn the basics of systems thinking and to understand how to apply systems thinking in action research. Reading this article made me think of puzzle games and how complex they can be. Good players would not look at the puzzles only as separated pieces, but they would picture the puzzle as a whole.

Similar, in systemic action research, the researchers deal with complex issues, so they need to consider the system as a whole to be able come up with sustainable solutions. The importance of understanding the relationships within the system resonated with me the most because it helps to understand the system itself and how it functions. Danny Burns mentioned that systems change constantly and this leads to change the relationships within the system. Therefore, he believes that action researchers should adopt systemic solution approach to deal with complex situations and implement action research effectively.

Let’s think about the puzzles and how each piece has its own shape to both fit in a specific spot and be connected to other pieces in an emergent puzzle “whole”. If I placed one puzzle piece in the wrong spot, it could lead to misplacing other pieces, which would make the game more challenging. This is why it is important to understand the relationship between puzzle pieces “the elements of the system”.

However, there is a significant difference between puzzle games and systems, which is that system itself and its elements do not have predetermined physical shapes or boundaries! Therefore, although the systems, sub-systems within the larger systems, and elements of the systems have nominal shapes and boundaries, they do not fit perfectly together, even as they are interconnected.

Reading this article did not only help me to understand the implication of systems thinking in action research but also makes me curious to learn more about systems thinking. For novice action researchers and Ph.D. students who are interested in learning about action research, conducting action research is not as easy and linear as some people think, especially when we are looking for systemic and sustainable solutions. Therefore, I encourage you to read this article because it provides general explanation of systems thinking and it included some useful examples of actual systemic action research projects.

 Blog post by Hussain Sama
 Hussain Sama
Hussain Sama is a husband, father, and Ph.D. student in International Education and Entrepreneurship. He is passionate about youth development and he wants to focus on youth entrepreneurship research. He is novice to the action research world and he wants to invest some time to learn about it and find the connections it to his research interests.