The Innovation of Multiview 3 for Development Professionals

The Multiview Methodology for Information Systems Development has never been a widely used or mass-market approach. It has always had a small user base, a localised approach to a global issue: coherent IS development. This paper concerns the underreported innovation of the Multiview3 methodology for Information systems analysis, design and development – specifically designed for non-specialists working in developing countries. The innovation emerged from the identification of a methodological ‘gap’ in support for non-specialists struggling with Information Systems problem structuring challenges. The Multiview3 story tells us how IS methodology can be innovated to address the needs of users. This version of Multiview is argued to be theoretically distinct from previous versions in terms of its focus (developing countries) and application (problem solving and co-learning in practice).

Innovation Multiview Methodology 3 for Development Professionals Simon Bell

PDF Link

Bell, S. and Wood-Harper, A. 2014. The Innovation of Multiview 3 for Development Professionals. Electronic Journal of Information Systems for Developing Countries. 63, 3, pp. 1 – 25.

Futurescaping Infinite Bandwidth, Zero Latency


Futurescaping Simon Bell Network Society Infinite Bandwidth

In the 1990s Castells analysed ‘the rise of the network society’ but this remains an ever- changing phenomenon. It throws up new concepts and issues. For example, no one foresaw what Mark Zuckerberg would create in terms of on-line social networks with the FaceBook project. Predicting the functionality and utility of the Internet is a mug’s game and yet it can be extremely profitable for those who ‘guess right’ and are able to influence the future applications and organisational forms of the network society.
Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband is promoted strongly by policy makers as underpinning future economic growth. NGA can be thought of as a potential future placeholder, the content and structure of which, while remaining tantalizing, is occupying many contemporary minds. In this paper we describe a process (Imagine/Triple Task Method) and an event structure IBZL (or Infinite Bandwidth Zero Latency), which explores potentially novel applications of NGA and provide some ideas as to the key components of the future inter-networked landscape.
In this paper we present the context of the IBZL initiative, review the ‘Imagine’ process as an effective method for ‘futurescaping’ and present some initial outcomes of the project.

PDF Link

Science Direct Link

Bell, S. and Walker, S. 2011. Futurescaping Infinite Bandwidth, Zero Latency. Futures. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2011.01.011

A Socio-Technical Approach to Evidence Generation in the Use of Video Conferencing in Care Delivery

Evidence of outcomes across multiple uses of video conferencing in health and social care delivery – a socio-technical perspective

Video conferencing in care delivery telemedicine socio-technical v-connect Adam Hoare

Use of Video Connection Platform in Multiple Verticals of Care Delivery

Care and support services need to respond to the rapidly changing demands of the population and available resources. The authors will present evidence that video conferencing can underpin many of the aspirations for future care delivery. However, if the necessary scale and pace are to be achieved a new model for evidence generation needs to be found. Using the experience of deploying video across health and social care a new model of evidence generation will be proposed based on a socio-technical approach where complexity and human capabilities are features of the intervention. A practice-based approach utilising action research will be used. The model will focus on four dimensions that are key to the success of an intervention using video: Practice, Outcomes, Technology and Evidence. Addressing the interactions between these four dimensions promotes a system that can evolve services that, in cooperation with the video technology platform, can satisfy changing care demands

The effects of current economic and demographic pressures on care and support systems are well documented. The need to do more with less is an established requirement of new models of care. However, there are significant barriers to the innovation of new ways of working in care delivery. Some of these barriers will be described through the experiences of one of the authors (AH) in deploying video conferencing to support people in their own homes or in a care environment.

The current use of video in care delivery is predominantly clinician-to-clinician communication between care organisations. Established examples are stroke or cancer networks. When developing a strategy for deploying a video intervention targeted at people in a residential environment it soon became clear that there was not a precedent to follow. In terms of Porter’s Five Forces the intervention was neither a new entrant to an industry that already exists or a substitute for a current product. Clearly any adoption of the video approach was going to disrupt internal systems in the care organisation and result in changes to practice. From a resources and capabilities point of view any strategy to deploy video requires close collaboration between the resources of the care organisation and the video service provider. This is a challenging engagement for care providers as they are more accustomed to transactional approaches where products or services are bought to a specification. Hence, each video deployment required sensitivity to the resources and capabilities of the customer and a collaborative approach to lowering the barriers to use of the technology. For example, modifying the user interfaces of the video conferencing equipment could lower some barriers and this has been done extensively to improve the experience of the people receiving care and of the clinicians providing it.

A further challenge to any deployment of video conferencing is the initial modelling of the economic benefits. As each deployment creates a network of contacts there is no template for a specific intervention. Within health care, each disease, e.g. diabetes, has its own ‘silo’, i.e. has its own care pathway, its own specialists, seeks its own technical support and is evaluated in terms of its ability to meet disease-specific outcomes. Engaging with a particular silo is very dependent upon the context of the engagement and each deployment raises its own challenges. Therefore, before video can be deployed in the residential environment its benefits and cost effectiveness within current siloes of care have to be proved.

IGI Global Link

Hoare, Adam and Ken Eason.  A Socio-Technical Approach to Evidence Generation in the Use of Video Conferencing in Care Delivery. IJSKD 6.2 (2014): 36-52. Web. 2 Nov. 2017. doi:10.4018/ijskd.2014040103

Afterword: The Past, Present and Future of Sociotechnical Systems Theory


Afterword: The Past, Present and Future of Sociotechnical Systems Theory Ken EasonIt is a rare privilege to have been the inspiration behind the production of this collection of papers and I warmly thank all of the contributors, especially Patrick Waterson, for reminding me of so many debates and giving me so much to reflect upon. I was especially pleased to find such a strong theme running through these papers, a theme that has been an obsession for me for over 40 years: sociotechnical systems theory. Throughout my career I have been concerned with systems approaches in ergonomics because they enable us to recognize that people at work often engage in tasks as part of a complex system and this has profound effects on them and their task performance. Of all the systems approaches that are available I have found sociotechnical systems theory the most powerful way of explaining systems behaviour and the most useful in designing new systems. My aim in these pages is to use the insights that the authors in this volume have provided to reflect on what has been important to me about sociotechnical systems theory, on where this approach is in the present day and what contribution it might make in the future.

Sociotechnical systems studies 1970-1990

I was very fortunate in the 1970s to work with Lisl Klein and Harold Bridger who were at that time stalwarts of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London, widely acknowledged to have been responsible for the development of sociotechnical sys- tems theory. The theory was developed to explain the human and organisational ramifications of the introduction of mechanization into coal mining, weaving and other industries. By the 1970s it was computer technology in all its forms that was beginning to have a major impact on work systems and when we started the HUSAT (Human Sciences and Advanced Technology) Research Group at Loughborough University, so graphically described by Tom Stewart and Leela Damodaran (Waterson, Stewart and Dam- odaran, this volume), it was natural for me to apply sociotechnical systems concepts in order to understand the impact of this new technology on people at work. At that time the main issue was that this technology was being used via ‘remote terminals’ linked to mainframe computers by ‘naïve users’, i.e. people who were not computer professionals, and these new users had to adapt to the unfriendly, rigid and literal ways in which computers operated. This started a major programme of work to render these devices easy to use for their new users leading to the ‘user friendly’ graph- ical interfaces used by most of the population today. My preoccu- pation, however, was that within each organisation there were different kinds of users whose work roles and tasks require specific service from the computer system. As a consequence we were soon writing papers about the needs of different kinds of computer user and my contribution to an early issue of this journal was a paper on ‘the manager as a computer user’. Sociotechnical systems theory, because of its emphasis upon the way technical and human resources are deployed to serve the needs of a collective task, was particularly well suited to examining how effectively the task needs of each user were served by computer systems and in most cases we found they were very badly served with the result that many systems were either rejected or ‘worked around’.

Science Direct Link

Ken Eason, Afterword: The past, present and future of sociotechnical systems theory, In Applied Ergonomics, Volume 45, Issue 2, Part A, 2014, Pages 213-220, ISSN 0003-6870,

Sustainable Development Indicators: The Tyranny of Methodology Revisited


One of the Rich Pictures which Emerged from the Slovakian Workshop on Sustainable Development Simon Bell

One of the Rich Pictures which Emerged from the Slovakian Workshop on Sustainable Development.

Indicators are increasingly dominating our lives; whether we are aware of it or not. They have been popular tools for sustainable development policy makers, planners and managers, largely because they do the hard work of condensing complexity into single values that can be more easily digested and acted upon. But much power rests with those who select the indicators deemed to be important. This paper explores some of these issues at what is now regarded by some as the new frontier in “indicatorology‟; their use and influence. The authors argue that a new tyranny of methodology may be at play.

Background: Tyranny from 1994-2010

The raison d‟etre for this article is to return to a paper from 1994 and explore our current state with regards to what was then described as a “Tyranny of Methodology‟ and which has been referred to variously in the journal Public Administration and Development and elsewhere as tyrannic approaches. The 1994 paper (Bell, 1994) observed that, in much the same way as conventional Empires are often experienced as tyrannical, projecting dominant mindsets and approaches onto subjugated (powerless) populations, so the products of western intellectualism can also be seen in terms of tyranny, oppressing local population and enforcing subtle forms of domination. Other journals have recently explored a similar area – that of multiple knowledge and the potential role for certain forms of technocratic dominance in development discourses. Ironically, forms of intended or unintended dominance are seen as being evident even for methods which are regarded by their proponents as “participatory‟ – and intended to be “liberating‟ and “empowering‟ for peoples of the developing world.

A key element of the 1994 paper was contained in the definition of the tyranny of methodology:

“ tyranny – ‘exercise of power over subjects and others with a rigour not authorised by law or justice” (Websters New International Dictionary)

In the 1994 paper this definition was extended to the area of applied intellect in method:

“Tyranny defies both law and justice in its impact upon its subject. The key factor here is the idea that methods ….. are often not justified by context (without adaptation). They are imposed in an arbitrary fashion without regard to what would be just or lawful. They are exercised with immense power over a population who have little capacity to either reject or modify them.”

Open University PDF Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2011. Sustainable Development Indicators: The Tyranny of Methodology Revisited. Consilience. 6, 1, pp. 222 – 239.

Brexit, Trump, Climate Change? They All Have something in Common. Weaponised Fear.

I have been studying fear for the last few years. My particular interest is in big, super-scary, existential fear, ‘our-way-of-life-is-doomed-and-nothing-to-be-done’ kind of fear. Themes from the likely effect of Donald Trump winning the US Presidency to the impact of climate change have provided me with much pause for thought. In my work on fear analysis I have come up with some interesting and overarching observations about how fear is manifest, applied and articulated. I also have been interested to see how fear is amplified and intensified, sometimes without any direct intention to do so on the part of the persons or persons doing the amplification and intensification.

Before I go too far, I do need to say a little in explanation.
I am an academic and I am particularly interested in systems approaches. By systems I mean mental model which help me to understand the world in terms of how things are wired up and connected. The world is very complex and it can be very, very confusing. In a sense everything is wired up to everything else and this can lead to a lot of confusion and indeed fear.
A systems approach can help us to gain insights into specific complexity and I am very interested in the complexity around fear.
Let’s take an example of complexity and fear: Brexit.
I should say at the outset that I am not in favour of Britain leaving Europe (for all kinds of reasons) and I have been looking at the discussions and arguments around Brexit and how they impact on me. They certainly make me feel fearful.
To deal with fear I have developed two systems models to help me. First I want to identify the fear process – to do that I have the scary (but accurate) sounding: ‘Paradigm of Fear’. Secondly I want to understand my response to fear. To do this I use a far more boringly labeled model called the ‘Fear response system’. How does the first part of this, the Paradigm bit, work? I will take a look at it and then see how I apply it to Brexit.
The Paradigm of Fear is actually a fairly simple circular model involving a fear weapon being aimed at a target, resulting in an emotion which can become a state which then encourages more weapons and more targeting etc. Here is a picture of it.
The paradigm works in a wicked way – by which I do not mean it is evil in nature but that it has some clever and tricky ways of tripping us up.
For example, Brexit. I am aware of a huge campaign of fear around Brexit. This is mainly aimed at people who fear immigrants – this is the primary weapon. The fear of large, possibly malignly intended groups of ‘others’ has been with us since long before Genghis Khan and I guess it will be with us for a lot longer. The weapon of un-contained numbers of ‘others’ coming to the UK is ramped up with no reference to existing or possible control mechanisms, benefits of immigration or the moral cases for aiding the destitute stranger. The immigrant is weaponised in stark and scary ways.

The target? Well that is you and me and everyone else but I think that the main target is those who feel that their lives or the lives of their children and friends are going to be severely impacted by these alien others taking their life chances. If the targeting is successful, then an emotion of fear is developed and if this in turn is allowed free range then it becomes a built-in state of fear. Here is the wicked part. When a state of fear is emergent – then the weapon can be refined, amplified and applied again and again to devastating effect. A real daisy-cutter of a fear bomb. Fear response in this case leads to a greater proclivity to a fear response. The cycle becomes reinforcing and amplification of fear almost runs on rails. A little more pushing and it is almost unstoppable. Look at the impact of the anti-Jewish campaign in Germany in the 1930s. It did not end well.
Of course the fear weapon can be used by all sides in a struggle. If we swop immigration for economic collapse, then we have a major theme in the Remain campaign. All sides use fear. What to do? Well, we can’t stop people using fear as a way to make us jump around.
What we can do is refuse to be stampeded on instinct. To try to understand the dog whistle, to understand how we are being manipulated by it and figure out for ourselves the rights and wrongs of the case. Systems approaches help.

Simon Bell is Professor of Innovation and Methodology at the Open University. His book: The Formations of Terror is due for publication with Cambridge Scholars early in 2017.

Prof. Simon Bell at the Open University

Formations of Terror

Bell, S. (2017). Brexit, Trump, Climate Change? They all have something in common. Weaponised fear. Open University Research Archive.

An Analysis of the Factors Influencing the Use of Indicators in the European Union

Indicators and indices (I&I) have been popular among a section of the policy and science communities for some years and are often promoted as a vehicle to help make sustainable development a reality. One of the claimed strengths of I&I is their ability to present complex data and trends to policy-makers. It is assumed that I&I can help to make policy and, indeed, management more transparently evidence based; yet this assumption has rarely been tested. This paper describes the results of a research project designed to address this assumption. Three main conclusions were arrived at:

  1. I&I are not static measures that are created and remain constant but instead they change with time as a result of a “natural selection” process;
  2. there is value in a move away from the dominance of a limited number of I&I in policy towards a more diverse set of I&I, but there are many obstacles to achieving this; and
  3. the evidence-based rationality of which I&I are meant to be a constituent does not exist. I&I are but one source of influence among many. Indeed, what is meant by “success” with regard to a policy influence of I&I is debatable.


The notion of basing intervention upon a body of evidence which predicts changes that would arise from that intervention has been around for some years. The logic is clear. Given that any intervention will require a “spend” of resource and could have a substantial impact (positive and negative) upon groups within a community, it seems reasonable to know what should be done in order to have the best chance of achieving the desired goals (European Commission 2008). This requires knowledge from research and prior experience and also the requirement to test out a planned intervention on a trial basis before scaling up. After all, the alternative is to imply that interventions should not be evidence based, and this is clearly against the current tide of thinking in public adminis- tration. The logic suggests that evidence-based policy should help with problems such as the following (Sorrell 2007):

  • conflict and confusion over key issues among policy-makers,
  • over-reliance on individual studies which may not have a wider applicability,
  • inadequate accumulation and synthesis of research results and
  • wide-ranging but inconclusive literature reviews that pay insufficient attention to methodological quality. Thus, it can be difficult for policy-makers to separate out the wheat from the chaff.

Taylor and Francis Online Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. (2011). An analysis of the factors influencing the use of indicators in the European Union Local Environment. 16, 3, pp. 281 – 302.

Surfing the Third Wave: Experiential Reflections on New Working Practices

This paper deals with issues and presents changes in practices relating to the new working as realized in the developing e-working world. The paper begins by reviewing my own experience. This is expressed as anecdote from my diary. Following this, the down- side of e-work is argued to be characterized by atomization and fragmentation and is depicted under four headings: being an e-worker, engaging with work as an e-worker, contextualizing experience as an e-worker, and managing self and work as an e-worker. This section is followed by a brief review of how this downside has been achieved. The paper then goes on to discuss two models for developing the e-work process be- yond the current debacle. The first model is one based on conventional practices and is concentrated on relieving the pressure. This conventional approach is also referred to as the “provision for . . .” model. The model deals with providing technologies and inducements and meeting expenses of e-workers as fragmented elements of the work- force. It is a patchwork quilt of piecemeal planning. The second model, arising from the research behind the paper, involves thinking again—Where might we be? The process develops an “invitation to join . . .” model, focusing on relationships. The paper goes on to describe a process for developing a systemic approach to e-work and non-e-work for large organizations and a means for applying the systemic development of e-work in full, and not just gesture. The paper concludes with an overview of the key learning points emergent from the research to date. Concerning the style of the paper, it is set out in the form of a Kolb learning cycle—this is the overarching methodology applied to the enquiry as a whole.

Open University Link

Bell, S. 2002. Surfing the Third Wave: Experiential Reflections on New Working Practices. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 15, 1, pp. 67 – 82

Smart Cities and M3: Rapid Research, Meaningful Metrics and Co-Design


Smart Cities and M3: Rapid Research, Meaningful Metrics and Co-Design Simon Bell
The research described in this paper is undertaken under the banner of the smart city, a concept that captures the way urban spaces are re-made by the incursion of new technology. Much of smart is centred on converting everyday activities into data, and using this data to generate knowledge mediated by technology. Ordinary citizens, those that may have their lives impacted by the technology, usually are not properly involved in the ‘smartification’ process. Their perceptions, concerns and expectations should inform the conception and development of smart technologies at the same extent. How to engage general public with smart cities research is the central challenge for the Making Metrics Meaningful (MMM) project. Applying a rapid participatory method, ‘Imagine’ over a five-month period (March – July) the research sought to gain insights from the general public into novel forms of information system innovation. This brief paper describes the nature of the accelerated research undertaken and explores some of the themes which emerged in the analysis. Generic themes, beyond the remit of an explicit transport focus, are developed and pointers towards further research directions are discussed. Participatory methods, including engaging with self- selected transport users actively through both picture creation and programmatically specific musical ‘signatures’ as well as group discussion, were found to be effective in eliciting users’ own concerns, needs and ideas for novel information systems.

Springer Link

Bel, S., Benatti, F., Edwards, N. R., Laney, R., Morse, D. R., Piccolo, L. and Zanetti, O. (2017) Smart Cities and M3: Rapid Research, Meaningful Metrics and Co-Design. Systemic Practice and Action Research. DOI 10.1007/s11213-017-9415-x

Groups and Facilitators within Problem Structuring Processes


Groups and facilitators within problem structuring processes Simon Bell
In problem structuring methods, facilitators often ask of themselves questions such as: what makes a ‘good’ problem structuring group (PSG) and indeed what does ‘good’ mean? How can group dynamics be improved and does it matter in terms of the quality of the problem structuring that that group engages in? On the surface these questions seem to be straightforward. Indeed, those who have helped facilitate many participatory workshops will think they intuitively know the answers to these questions; they can, from their professional practice, ‘feel’ which PSGs are doing well and producing novel insights and those which are functioning less well and perhaps generating something that is less imaginative and more routine as a consequence. The intuitive, practice-learned insight will depend upon a rich array of visual signals that become more obvious with experience. This paper asks whether there is value in being much more open and analytical about these questions and answers. If so, then how can we make the unwritten processes and outcomes of PSGs written? Indeed, open to whom? Finally, how much of any insights learned by facilitators should be shared with those engaged in workshops?

Springer Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2013. Groups and facilitators within problem structuring processes. Journal of the Operational Research Society. 64, pp. 959 -972