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Robert L. Flood

British organizational scientist

Robert Louis Flood (born 1955) is British organizational scientist, and former Professor of Management Sciences at the University of Hull, specialized in applied systemic thinking, particularly in the areas of strategic management, organizational behavior and organizational improvement



  • In general, we seem to associate complexity with anything we find difficult to understand.
    • Robert L. Flood (1987) "Complexity: a definition by construction of a conceptual framework." Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 4, p. 177.
  • Critique in its many manifestations puts up a common opposition to instrumental rationality, because such a rationality can be linked to control in the human condition in a similar way to the idea of power in the control of the natural world.
  • Quality means meeting customers' (agreed) requirements, formal and informal, at lowest cost, first time every time.
    • Robert L. Flood (1993) Beyond TQM. p. 42.
  • Churchman recognized in his critical systemic thinking that the human mind is not able to know the whole. … Yet the human mind, for Churchman, may appreciate the essential quality of the whole. For Churchman, appreciation of this essential quality begins … when first you see the world through the eyes of another. The systems approach, he says, then goes on to discover that every worldview is terribly restricted. Consequently, with Churchman, a rather different kind of question about practice surfaces. … That is, who is to judge that any one bounded appreciation is most relevant or acceptable? Each judgment is based on a rationality of its own that chooses where a boundary is to be drawn, which issues and dilemmas thus get on the agenda, and who will benefit from this. For each choice it is necessary to ask, What are the consequences to be expected insofar as we can evaluate them and, on reflection, how do we feel about that? As Churchman points out, each judgment of this sort is of an ethical nature since it cannot escape the choice of who is to be the client—the beneficiary—and thus which issues and dilemmas will be central to debate and future action. In this way, the spirit of C. West Churchman becomes our moral conscience. A key principle of systemic thinking, according to Churchman, is to remain ethically alert. Boundary judgments facilitate a debate in which we are sensitized to ethical issues and dilemmas.
    • Robert L. Flood (1999, p. 252-253) as cited in: Michael H. G. Hoffmann (2007) Searching for Common Ground on Hamas Through Logical Argument Mapping. p. 5.
  • An example from soft systems thinking is Checkland's appreciation of soft systems methodology. He wants to introduce hard systems approaches to deal with hard problems only after and through a soft systems analysis.
    • Robert L. Flood (1993) Dealing with Complexity: An Introduction to the Theory and … - Pagina 127.
  • If Critical Systems Thinking is to contribute to enlightened societal practice, e.g., with respect to the pressing environmental and social issues of our time, it should be accessible not only to well-trained decision makers and academics but also to a majority of citizens.
    • Robert L. Flood, Norma R. A. Romm (1996) Critical Systems Thinking: Current Research and Practice. p. 165.

Dealing with Complexity (1988)Edit

Robert L. Flood and Ewart R. Carson (1988) Dealing with Complexity: An Introduction to the Theory and Application of Systems Science (2nd ed. 1993).

  • Cybernetics, although not ignoring formal networks, suggests that an informal communications structure will also be present such that complex conversations at a number of levels between two or more individuals exist.
    • p. 79.
  • So far it has been ascertained that a root definition is a core description of purposeful activity taken from a specific point of view.
    • p. 111.
  • Positivism : knowledge is hard, real, and capable of being transmitted in a tangible form.
    • p. 247.

Creative Problem Solving (1991)Edit

Robert L. Flood and Michael C. Jackson (1991) Creative Problem Solving: Total Systems Intervention Chichester, Wiley.

  • In the modern systems approach, the concept "system" is used not to refer to things in the world but to a particular way of organising our thoughts about the world.
    • p. 2.
  • We consider the notion of "system" as an organising concept, before going on to look in detail at various systemic metaphors that may be used as a basis for structuring thinking about organisations and problem situations.
    • p. 2.

Quotes about Robert. L. FloodEdit

  • To Flood and Carson (1988, p. 19) systems science is about dealing with complexity, and systems notions are particularly valuable when individuals are confronted with something which appears to them to be complex.

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