- Charles Geoffrey Vickers
Charles Geoffrey Vickers (13 October 1894 - 16 March 1982) was an English lawyer, administrator, writer and pioneering
systems scientist. He had varied interests with roles at different times with the London Passenger Transport Board, Law Society, Medical Research Counciland Mental Health Research Fund.
He also had a distinguished military career, being awarded the
Victoria Crossin WW1 while serving in the The Sherwood Foresters (The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment), and in WW2 he was Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, in charge of economic intelligence and member of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
He was knighted in 1946. The
Sir Geoffrey Vickers Memorial Awardhas been presented by the International Society for the Systems Sciencesevery year since 1987 in his memory.
Geoffrey Vickers was born and grew up in
Nottingham, where his father Charles Henry Vickers ran a successful lace business, Vickers & Hine Ltd. [cite web|url=http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Fields/1404/notts.html|title=Vickers Lace Company of Nottingham|accessdate=2008-01-18] He described his first day of school as "school introduced me to the anguish reserved both for the non-conformist who wishes to conform and the awkward who long to excel in dexterity". He attended Bramcote, a preparatory school near Scarborough and then Oundle School; an public school before entering Merton College, Oxford where he briefly studied Classics from 1913 until the start of war.
He later described his home as "a place of unalloyed happiness.The only stresses of the time came from the external world of school or the internal world of awakening conflict and confusion ... I remember nothing desired that was satisfied by spending money of mine and nothing that was denied for lack of money ... we moved by bicycle and bus, played in each other's gardens and stayed in farmhouses". He described his father as "the best and most lovable man I ever knew; and be seemed to combine the two superlatives without the slightest effort".
World War I
His education was interrupted by
World War 1. He and his brother William Burnell Vickers volunteered for service in the army, joining the Sherwood Foresters(7th Robin Hood Battalion) and was in France before the end of 1914cite book|title=My Family - Memories of four generations before my own|date=1972|author=Geoffrey Vickers] first as a second lieutenant, promoted to temporary Captainin 1915 and then to Majorand as Second in Command, 1 Bn, The Lincolnshire Regiment in 1918. Explaining his thoughts about going to war, he later wrote "In August Germany invaded Belgium, we had a treaty with Belgium, so we all stopped what we were doing and went off to war. It was as simple as that". He was awarded the Victoria Crossfor action in 1915 and the Croix de Guerre(Belgium) in 1918. [http://libraryarchive.open.ac.uk/ead/search/?operation=full&recid=gb-2315-gv Biographical History] Reprint from the Institute of Internal Studies, University of California Berkeley. Also includes photocopy of the article taken from "Human Relations". Volume 24, number 5, 1971.]
He won the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 14 October 1915 when he held a barrier across a trench in the
Hohenzollern Redoubt, Franceagainst heavy German bomb attacks (the 'bombs' of the citation were early grenades) ordering a second barrier to be built behind him in order to secure the safety of the trench regardless of the fact that his own retreat would be cut off holding back the enemy for long enough for a second barrier to be completed.cite web|url=http://www.wfrmuseum.org.uk/vcwinners.htm|title=WORCESTERSHIRE AND SHERWOOD FORESTERS REGIMENT -VICTORIA CROSS WINNERS|publisher=Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental museum|accessdate=2008-01-18]
His brother Burnell was killed in action in action in 1916.
In June 1918 he commanded a battalion in the
Second Battle of the Marnefor which he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.cite web|url=http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10355150|title=Charles Geoffrey Vickers|publisher=Find A Grave|accessdate=2008-01-19]
After the war he returned to Oxford and took a pass degree in French,
European historyand lawin 1919. He qualified as a solicitor in 1923 and by 1926 he was a partner in the leading London law firm of Slaughter and May. He specialised in the legal aspects of large financial operations, many of which has international dimensions. In 1930 he was one of the first to take the five day commercial flight from the UK to India and during the 1930's he was also involved in negotiating the extension of the German debt.cite web|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Jv7pAost3hUC&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=%22Association+for+Service+and+Reconstruction%22&source=web&ots=cAL9l3pTwk&sig=IPM9I3F9nmYRRLdj_xel9Pl9xWg&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result|title=Policymaking, Communication, and Social Learning|accessdate=2008-10-10|publisher=Google Books]
In 1938 he established and chaired the 'Association for Service and Reconstruction. The above initiative put him in touch with a number of people who met regularly in a group called 'The Moot' that also included Joe Oldham,
Karl Mannheim, Reinhard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Middleton Murray, T. S. Eliot, Michael Polanyi, Sir Walter Moberly and Adolph Lowe. The Moot itself grew out of a conference on Church, Community and State held in Oxford in 1937. [cite web|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Jv7pAost3hUC&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=%22the+moot%22&source=web&ots=cAL9l3pZBf&sig=-1OGywuB6xs0jWrzACyvAuVbzqE&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result|title=Policymaking, Communication, and Social Learning|accessdate=2008-10-10|publisher=Google Books]
World War II
Vickers served in
World War II; he was re-commissioned as a Colonel, and was seconded as Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, in charge of economic intelligence. From 1941 to 1945 he was a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Chiefs of Staff. [http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/frames/fulldesc?inst_id=1&coll_id=213&full=1&template=1 VICKERS, Col Sir (Charles) Geoffrey (1894-1982)] British library of political and economical science, retrieved 2007.]
After the war, Vickers had a successful career in management and administration before becoming a prolific writer and speaker on the subject of social
systems analysisand the complex patterns of social organisation. He wrote many booking including The "Art of Judgement", "Freedom in a rocking Boat" and "Human Systems are Different". He introduced the concept of 'Appreciative Systems' to describe human activity which is related to the concept of Appreciative inquiry. His work was taken-up by researchers at the Open Universityin particular.
From 1946 to 1948 he was also first Legal Adviser to the
National Coal Board. At the time of creation on the 1st January 1947 when some 750,000 workers from 800 different private companies [cite web|url=http://www.rhondda-cynon-taff.gov.uk/stellent/groups/public/documents/hcst/content.hcst?lang=en&textonly=on&dDocName=01630| title=Coal Industry Nationalisation - 60 Years On|accessdate=2008-01-18] became part of the largest employer in the western world [cite web|url=http://systems.open.ac.uk/page.cfm?pageid=resourceVickers|title=Geoffrey Vickers|accessdate=2008-01-18] where he worked alongside E. F. Schumacher. Afterwards he beacme a member of National Coal Board in charge of manpower, training, education, health and welfare (1948-55).
From 1952 until 1960 he was member of the
Medical Research Counciland was chairman of the Research Committee of Mental Health Research Fund from 1951-1967. In 1977 he was president of the Society for General Systems Research, now the International Society for the Systems Sciences.
Between 1955 and 1958 he took part in the 'Round Table on Man and Industry' a project sponsored by the School of Social Work at the University of Toronto, the conclusions of which were published in 'The Undirected society'. [cite book|title=The Undirected Society|page=preface] On the inside jacket cover he muses 'The Industrial band-wagon rolls ever faster onwards, remaking the world we live in and with it ourselves. Are we in the driving seat or merely passengers - or even under the wheels? What part does human decision making play in directing or controlling the process?'.
His second wife, and close companion died in 1972 and his manuscripts for 'Western Culture and Systems Thinking' and 'Autonomy and Responsibility' were constantly rejected for publication.cite book|title=Rethinking the Future - Correspondence between Geoffrey Vickers and Adolf Lowe|page=14]
In 1977 he moved to a retirement home, on the same street in Goring on Thames on which he had lived for many years. Geoffrey died in 1982, however the influence for his work is still alive. The International Society for the Systems Sciences presents the
Sir Geoffrey Vickers Memorial Awardeach year in his memory. [cite web|url=http://www.isss.org/projects/vickers_award|title=Vickers Award|Publisher=International Society for the Systems Sciences|accessdate=2008-01-18] His military medals were left to the Sherwood Foresters Collection and are on display in Nottingham Castle.
In the later years Vickers wrote and lectured on the subject of social
systems analysisand the complex patterns of social organisation. His work was taken-up by researchers at the Open Universityin particular. [In 2004, a collection of archive papers, mainly relating to systems analysis and his publications, were donated to the [http://library.open.ac.uk/waltonhall/collections/archive.html Open University Archive] .] Vickers is regarded as a systems practitioner rather than an academic. He introduced the concept of appreciative systems to describe human activity. He recognized that appreciation of systems requires the participation of not only the observer, but also that of the subject. [http://www.open2.net/systems/practice/files/geo_vick.pdf]
Much of his work is devoted to the analysis of judgement in terms of what he called 'appreciative behaviour': this is described most effectively in "The Art of Judgement" (1965). He believed that social institutions are best analysed as systems, and his published work, notably "Human Systems are Different" (1983), made far-reaching contributions to systems thinking in its applications to human society.
Appreciative System is a term invented by Vickers in 1968 to refer to "the activity of attaching meaning to communication or the code by which we do so". [ Vickers, "Science and the Appreciative System", in: Human Relations.(1968); 21: 99-119 ] . This term is related to the concept of
Vickers has stated:
* 'I find it surprising that we have no accepted word to describe the activity of attaching meaning to communication or the code by which we do so, a code which is constantly confirmed, developed or changed by use. I have for many years referred to this mental activity as ”appreciation‘; and to the code which it uses, as its ”appreciative system‘; and to the state of that code at any time as its ”appreciative setting‘. I call it a system because, although tolerant of ambiguity and even inconsistency, it is sensitive to them and tries to reconcile them‘. [ Vickers 1983, p. 43 ]
* 'I'm interested in Systems from the personal up to the very large, human, social systems, I'm also interested in systems of concepts and values through which we see all the others which I call appreciative systems.' [Open University interview with Vickers filmed in 1978 - [http://www.open2.net/systems/practice/sir.html Video Clip] [http://www.open2.net/systems/practice/files/geo_vick.pdf Transcript] ]
A response by
* "Vickers argues that our human experience develops within us 'readiness to notice particular aspects of our situation, to discriminate them in particular ways and to measure them against particular standards of comparison..."These readinesses are organized into 'appreciative system"' which creates for all of us, individually and socially our appreciated world....the appreciative settings condition new experience but are modified by the new experience; such circular relations Vickers takes to be the common facts of social life, but we fail to see this clearly, he argues, because of the concentration in our science-based culture on linear causal chains an on the notion of goal-seeking."
* "Vickers suggests replacing the goal-setting and goal-seeking with feedback models by one in which personal, institutional ,or cultural activity consists in maintaining desired relationships and eluding undesired ones. The process is a cyclical one which operates like this: Our previous experiences have created for us certain ”standards‘ or ”norms‘, usually ”tacit‘ (and also, at a more general level, ”values‘, more general concepts of what is humanly good and bad); the standards, norms and/or values lead to readiness to notice only certain features of our situations, they determine what ”facts‘ are relevant; the facts noticed are evaluated against the norms, a process which both leads to our taking regulatory action and modifies the norms or standards, so that future experiences will be evaluated differently". [
Peter Checkland"Systems Thinking Systems Practice" (p. 262)]
Geoffrey Vickers continued corresponding with Peter Checkland in the years before Vickers' death and discuss about the relationship between systems ideas and real-world experience. From those discussions Checkland created the model of the appreciative process, that may be used as a basis for making sense of the world we live in. Checkland (2004) worked on numerous examples to demonstrate the way in which the model may be applied in very different situations. [
Peter Checkland(2004), "Webs of significance: the work of Geoffrey Vickers" in: "Systems Research and Behavioral Science", Vol 22, Is 4 , Pp 291-298.]
Moral and political philosophy
Geoffrey Vickers' perspectives on moral and political philosophy can be presented through three key terms: [ Garrath Williams (2004), "Geoffrey Vickers: philosopher of responsibility", in: "Systems Research and Behavioral Science", Vol 22, Is 4 , Pp 291-298.]
* Our human capacity to respond aptly to our situation;
* The analysis of modern society in terms of institutions; and
* The moral importance of responsibility to the maintenance of human culture and cooperation
Geoffrey Vickers wrote several books, articles and papers:
* 1959, "The Undirected Society". Essays on the human implications of industrialisation in Canada 1959
* 1965, "The Art of Judgment : A Study of Policy Making" (1965 - Republished December 1995) (In Print)
* 1967, "Towards a sociology of management". (1967)
* 1968, "Value systems and social process" (1968 - Republished 2001) (In Print)
* 1972, "Freedom in a rocking boat: changing values in an unstable society" (Paperback - April 1972)
* 1973, "Making Institutions Work" (Textbook Binding - January 1973)
* 1980, "Responsibility Its Sources and Limits" (Paperback - June 1980)
* 1984, "Human Systems Are Different" (Paperback - December 1984)
* 1994, "The Vickers Papers", Edited by the Open Systems Group (Paperback - December 1984)
* 1987, Guy B. Adams, John Forester and Bayard L. Catron (Ed.), "Policymaking, Communication, and Social Learning", (Hardcover - July 1987)
* 1991, Jeanie Vickers (Ed.), "Rethinking the Future : The Correspondence Between Geoffrey Vickers and
Adolph Lowe", (Hardcover - June 1991)
* 1995, Margaret Blunden and Malcolm Dando (Ed.), "Rethinking Public Policy-Making : Questioning Assumptions, Challenging Beliefs : Essays in Honour of Sir Geoffrey Vickers on His Centenary" (Hardcover - September 1995). (In print)
* 2004, Ray Ison (ed.), "Geoffrey Vickers 2004: Contemporary Applications and Changing Appreciative Settings", Special Issue of "Systems Research and Behavioral Science", Volume 22, Issue 4.
;Vickers writings in Adolph Lowe Archive [cite web|url=http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/findaids/ger022.htm|title=Adolph Lowe Papers|publisher=
University of Albany|accessdate=2008-01-18]
* "Purpose and Force; The Bases of Order" (pub), 1940.
* "Incomes and Earnings–A Steady State?" (pub.), circa 1960.
* "The Management of Conflict" (pub.), 1972.
* "Towards a More Stable State" (pub.), 1972.
* Copies of Vickers-Simon Correspondence (unpub. TS), 1973.
* "Whither the Mixed Economy?" (pub.), 1973.
* "Some Implications of Systems Thinking" (unpub. TS), 1978.
* "The Poverty of Problem-Solving" (unpub. TS), 1980.
* "Autonomous Yet Responsible?" (unpub. TS), undated.
* "The Weakness of Western Culture" (unpub. TS), undated.
Monuments to Courage
The Register of the Victoria Cross
VCs of the First World War - The Western Front 1915
* [http://www.open2.net/systems/practice/sir.html Video clips of Sir Geoffrey Vickers] filmed in 1978 by the BBC for the Open University.
* [http://library.open.ac.uk/waltonhall/collections/TheGeoffreyVickersCollection.html Geoffrey Vickers Archive at the Open University]
* [http://www.som.salford.ac.uk/ccru/Documents/APPRECIATIVE%20SYSTEMS.pdf Appreciative Systems] A summary of the work of Sir Geoffrey Vickers by Dr Richard Varey
* [http://ideas.repec.org/p/dgr/uvatin/20030022.html The Appreciative System of Urban ICT Policies] paper by Galit Cohen and Peter Nijkamp
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10355150 Find a grave - Biographical Detail]
* [http://www.jwhalley.freeserve.co.uk/Notts%20&%20Derbys/VC's.html The Victoria Cross Awards to the Sherwood Foresters] "(photos, site includes other articles on SF)"
* [http://www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/stewart/oxfordsh.htm Location of grave and VC medal] "(Oxfordshire)"
* [http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma/summary/vi50-001.shtml Liddle-Hart Centre for Military Archives]
* [http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/etext02/nicbt10.htm Additional detail of events of 14th October 1915]
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