Lugano Summer School


Continuing Education in Systems Thinking

Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI), Lugano, Switzerland

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Not all active faculty will necessarily be teaching in every upcoming event. Consult the "Academic Program" page for information on which faculty members are scheduled to teach in currently announced or past events.

Short Biographies

Peter Checkland Peter Checkland was born in 1930 in England and graduated in chemistry at Oxford in the 1950s. He joined the British chemical giant ICI when it was developing a new industry: making synthetic fibers from nylon and polyester polymers. Working first as a technologist, than increasingly as a manager, he remained with ICI for fifteen years and became responsible for a research and development group of 100 people before starting a second career in university teaching and research.

During the years in industry he had turned to the management science literature for help in managing the multi-faceted projects for which he was responsible, but found it of little relevance for dealing with these problems. The literature was dealing with the logical shape that recurs in certain classes of problems – the queuing problem, the equipment replacement problem, the traveling salesman problem, etc.; but as a manager he found himself devoting most of his time not to this recurring logic of problem situations but rather to the many idiosyncrasies (many of them human) which made those situations unique. There was a set of ideas called “systems engineering” which aroused his interest as a way to think more holistically about  managing the many different aspects of a project – people, money, technology, materials, markets.

In 1969, when Lancaster University, incidentally with a grant from ICI, established the postgraduate Department of Systems Engineering (later Department of Systems, now Department of Management Science), he joined the Department to take up a new chair in systems engineering. The Department embarked on a research program that was to examine the possibility of using the methods of systems engineering in management problem situations rather than in the technically defined problem situations in which the methods had been refined. It quickly became apparent that this attempt at transfer failed, and thus the program had to move in a different direction. Checkland became the leader of an action research program that led to the establishment of Soft Systems Methodology as an alternative approach to tackling the ill-structured problems that managers face; an approach that also established the now well-recognized distinction between “hard” and “soft” systems thinking.

SSM is now taught and used around the world. Its development is described in some 100 publications, including his best-known book, Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (Wiley, Chichester, 1981). Peter Checkland’s work has been recognized in a number of awards: he holds honorary doctorates from City University (London), the Open University (Milton Keynes, UK), and Erasmus University (Rotterdam, The Netherlands); a Most Distinguished and Outstanding Award from the British Computer Society; and the Gold Medal of the UK Systems Society.

Jane Collier Jane Collier was born in Dublin in 1936.  She graduated in economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) and subsequently came to Cambridge where she has taught, primarily as an economist, all her working life. In 1989 she completed a Ph.D. at Birmingham University, which enabled her to align her interests in the philosophy of social science with a growing engagement with ethics and theology. She holds an M.A. of the University of Cambridge and is Emeritus Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, founded in 1965 to enable women to achieve their potential by studying as mature students for degrees in the University. She joined the Judge Business School when it began in 1991, and remains there as Senior Research Associate in Business Ethics and Corporate Accountability.

Dr. Collier’s main research interests are in the field of corporate social responsibility, investor engagement, global governance, partnerships and interdisciplinary approaches to corporate, public and professional ethics. She is sometime Editor of Business Ethics: a European Review, and currently Book Review Editor for Business Ethics Quarterly. She is committed to making responsible business a practical reality, nationally and internationally. She sits on the Advisory Board of the Responsible Shareholding Unit of CIS, one of the major UK institutional investors, and acts as a Trustee of the Institute of Business Ethics.

Recent publications include: "Responsible shareholding and stakeholder engagement in the UK," in G. Brenkert (ed.), Corporate Integrity and Accountability (Sage, London, 2004, pp. 238-252); "‘Thinking for the future: global corporate responsibility," Journal of Futures, Policy and Planning (Vol. 37, Nos. 2/3, March 2005, pp. 169-182); "Moral imagination and the practice of architecture," in N. Ray (ed.), Architecture and its Ethical Dilemmas (Spon Press / Taylor and Francis, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, 2005, pp. 89-100); “The art of  moral imagination: ethics in the practice of architecture,” Journal of Business Ethics (Vol 66, Nos. 2/3, June 2006, pp. 307-317); "Business ethics in China: a systemic perspective," in G. Enderle (ed.), Developing Business Ethics in China (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2006, pp. 78-92); and “Corporate social responsibility and employee commitment,” Business Ethics: a European Review (Vol. 16, No. 1, 2007, in press).

Hans G. Daellenbach Hans Daellenbach was born in 1934 in Switzerland. He has an MBA and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was studying with Professor C. West Churchman in the 1960s. He is the author of several textbooks in Operations Research/ Management Science, the most recent one embedding a soft systems thinking perspective, Management Science – Decision Making through Systems Thinking (Palgrave-Macmillan, New York, 2005). He is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Management at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Daellenbach worked for several years as an operations researcher for Standard Oil of California in San Francisco before entering academia. He held teaching positions at the University of California and the University of Washington. In 1970 he moved to the University of Canterbury, where he introduced Operations Research as an academic discipline. He launched the University’s MBA Program in 1983 and served as its first Director. This program quickly earned itself a reputation for excellence in New Zealand, due to the high level of professional skills of its students. During many years he also served as Head of Canterbury’s Department of Operations Research and later the Department of Management. He was appointed to a personal chair in 1988.

Frank Dixon Frank Dixon was born in the United States in New York City in 1958. He received an MBA from Harvard University in 1987, then worked in the finance and energy sectors for ten years. During this time he also did extensive reading in the areas of psychology, sociology, philosophy and comparative religion; this led to a strong interest in the field of sustainability. 

In 1998, he became the Managing Director of Research for Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, the largest corporate sustainability research firm in the world. For seven years, he oversaw the sustainability analysis of more than 2,000 corporations. His work involved creating models for comprehensively analyzing the financial impacts of corporate environmental and social performance, developing research methodologies, and helping financial sector clients develop socially-responsible investing products. He presented at many financial and corporate sector conferences.

As the head of research, he saw that many firms were working aggressively to become sustainable, but no firm was close to achieving the goal. The primary cause of this situation was reductionistically derived economic and political systems that essentially compel all firms to act unsustainably and irresponsibly. It became clear that sustainability could not be achieved without system change. To help business and other segments of society drive system change in a practical way, he developed a new systems-based approach to sustainability called Total Corporate Responsibility.

He is now an independent advisor of businesses, government agiencies, and other organizations on sustainability and systemic change. Some of the papers published by Frank Dixon are available at

Knut Ims Knut Johannessen Ims was born in 1951 in Norway, and graduated from the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH) in the 1970s. He has a Ph.D from the School of Economics and Legal Sciences, Gothenburg University, Sweden. In 1983, he became assistant professor at NHH's Institute for Computers & Information Systems Research. He was an eager fan of Peter Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and was teaching Systems Thinking at the Ph.D level. In 1987, he was appointed associate professor in NHH's Department of Strategy and Management. He has had a number of additional academic positions since, among them Member of the Board of the National Professional Ethical Network in Norway; Chairman of the Board of the Centre of Ethics and Economics at NHH; and Research Director of NHH’s Institute for Information Systems Research.

He has been a Research Scholar at several universities: 1999-2000 at the Centre of Technology, Innovation and Culture of the University of Oslo; 1991-1992 at the Weatherhead School of Management of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; and in 1987 he was affiliated to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Since 1990 he has been responsible for developing and implementing business ethics into the curriculum at NHH. He established a core course on "Business strategy and business ethics" and has been teaching it for 15 years.  Another course that he designed and implemented is “Ethical action”, in which role play is used extensively as a method.

Ims is an active participant and lecturer of the Business Ethics Interfaculty Group of the Community of European Management Schools (CEMS). In this context he has been coeditor (with Laszlo Zsolnai) of the book Business within Limits: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics (Peter Lang, Oxford, 2006). A topic of particular interest to him is the notion of personal responsibility, which he tries to understand in terms of a personal strugge between our inner subjective world (Man the Maker) and the external objective world (Man the Answerer), using a dialectic concept of responsibiility. He sees the two sides of responsibility as complementary to each other like yin and yang. In his present research, he is also particularly interested in the interconnection between a mechanistic worldview and competition on the one hand, and an organic worldview and cooperation on the other hand. Max Havelaar is seen as a paradigmatic example of how business might function in an economy based upon an organic worldview, creating a solidary partnership in the market while at the same time contributing to sustainability of communities and land.

Ims has a number of publications in well-known international journals.

 Kristo Ivanov is a Swedish citizen, born in 1937 in Yugoslavia from Bulgarian parents and educated in Italy, Brazil, France, and Sweden. He has degrees in electronic engineering, psychology, and computer science/ administrative data processing (informatics) with minors in industrial economics, statistics, and political economy. He is now a Professor Emeritus of Informatics at Umeå University in Umeå, Sweden.

Previously to becoming an academic teacher, during the sixties and seventies, Ivanov worked as an engineer in France, Sweden, and the USA, and in managerial positions in the computer industry. This led him to his early research interest in the issue of Quality Control of Information, the title of his 1972 dissertation at Stockholm University’s Royal Institute of Technology. He began teaching at Stockholm University and at the Department of Computer and Information Science of Linköping University, where he was responsible for the program of social informatics and systems analysis. In 1984 he became professor at the Department of Informatics of Umeå University; between 1986 and 1998 he was Head of Department and chairman of its board; since October 2002 he is retired.

Ivanov’s current research interests focus on the relation between systems science and its applications to business and government. He is especially interested in the interplay among technical, economic, political, psychological, aesthetic, and ethical considerations in the design and use of information technology, including philosophical and theological issues that lately have also been labeled as existential or phenomenological issues of culture and spirituality. One main question that dominates his research interest is what directs, and should direct, the development and application of information technology, a concern that was strongly influenced by his personal belief in the importance of values and spirituality and was nourished further by C. West Churchman’s work on the design of “Inquiring Systems.” More details on Kristo Ivanov's academic writings – among them many contributions to collections and working papers dealing with the search for a humanistic approach to information technology and computing science – can be found in his home page at Umeå University.

Jonathan Rosenhead Jonathan Rosenhead  was born in England in 1938, and educated at the University of Cambridge and University College London in Mathematics and Statistics respectively. Early operational research (OR) employment was in the UK steel industry in Sheffield and in management consultancy in London (both groups founded by Stafford Beer), as well as in the group led by Russ Ackoff at the University of Pennsylvania. Beer and Ackoff are both major figures who left OR for the systems movement. Rosenhead also found that the limitations of operational research as practiced in the 1960’s and 70’s excluded it from many social problems of significance. However he has remained within OR, and has been one of the main figures working to develop methods appropriate to "messy" problems characterised by multiple stakeholders, uncertainties, intangibles and conflict.

Rosenhead has been a teacher at the Operational Research Department of the London School of Economics since 1967, and Professor of Operational Research there since 1987. He was awarded the President’s Medal of the Operational Research Society in 1979, its Goodeve Medal in 1987, and its Beale Medal in 1992. He was President of the Society in 1986-7. In 2006 he was awarded the Society's Companionship in OR.

His edited collection Rational Analysis for a Problematic World published in 1989 was the book which established Problem Structuring Methods as a group of methods for messy or "wicked" problems. This has been substantially revised and updated in Rational Analysis for a Problematic World Revisited, with John Mingers (Wiley, 2001). Rosenhead is also credited with launching the community operational research movement, which provides decision support for grass roots organisations, and has worked and published extensively on problems in health care and in third world development. He is now (since 2003) retired but remains active as a practitioner and academic.

Ulrich Thielemann Ulrich Thielemann was born in 1961 in Remscheid, Germany. He has a doctoral degree in economics and during many years was teaching philosophy and business ethics at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, where from 2001 to 2010 he was Vice-Director at the University's Institute for Business Ethics (IWE). He is currently a visiting professor at the University of Vienna in Austria and is also engaged in efforts to found a new Institute for Business Ethics in Berlin, Germany, called "MeM Berliner Denkfabrik für Wirtschaftsethik."

As part of his endeavor to connect economic theory and ethical practice, Thielemann also teaches business ethics to MBA students at other institutions, currently at Steinbeis University, Berlin; at Danube University, Krems; Austria; and at the Graduate School of Management of Educatis University, a private, non-profit distance learning university located in Altdorf, Switzerland, where he is Associate Professor. In addition to his academic publications he writes essays in popular magazines and newspapers. He also is the “ethics controller” of the Alternative Bank, Switzerland (ABS).

Thielemann has been Visiting Scholar at The American University, Washington DC, and at the University of East London, UK, and has taught Business Ethics at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok.

Most of Ulrich Thielemann's publications are written in German, although some are written in English as well. His field of research spans from the philosophical foundations of business and economic ethics, general ethics (especially discourse ethics), and ethical dimensions of market competition, to issues such as fair remuneration of managers and fair tax competition among communities or states, the so-called business case for ethics, and questions on the relationship of compliance and integrity in organizations as seen from an ethical point of view. Major publications thus far include Das Prinzip Markt: Kritik der ökonomischen Tauschlogik ([The Market Principle: a Critique of the Logic of Economic Exchange] Haupt, Bern, 1996); Brennpunkt Bankenethik: Der Finanzplatz Schweiz in wirtschaftsethischer Perspektive ([Focus Banking Ethics] with P. Ulrich, Haupt, Bern, 2003); and his Habilitation thesis, Wettbewerb als Gerechtigkeitskonzept ([Competition as a Concept of Justice] Metropolis, Marburg, Germany, 2010).

Giorgio Tonella Giorgio Tonella was born in Switzerland in 1944. His university degrees include a Diploma in Mathematics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in Zurich, Switzerland, and a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from the University of Sussex at Brighton, UK (with research activities at the Science Policy Research Unit, SPRU). He recently retired as a professor at the Economic Faculty of the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, and a researcher at the Simulation and Modeling Research Center of the Universidad de los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela.

From 1970 to 1994 he worked as a Professor at the Universidad de los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela, first in the Sciences Faculty (1970-1972), then in the School of Systems Engineering (1972-1990), and later in the Simulation and Modeling Research Center (from 1990). He was teaching courses of Operations Research, Systems Engineering and Modeling. In addition he served the University in many different positions such as founding Director of the Simulation and Modeling Research Center (1990-1993), founding Director of the Consulting and Technological Innovation Unit (1980-1986), and Director of the Systems Engineering School (1975-1976). He was visiting professor and visiting researcher in the USA and Europe, among others at George Mason University in Fairfax, at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, and at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas.

His present research interests are in simulation and modeling, including theoretical aspects of simulation languages and applications of advanced computer techniques, and in their application in the areas of socio-economic systems and environmental systems. In these areas he coordinated international research projects such as GAIA; Venezuela Case Study (founded by the EC); and PANEARTH Venezuela (founded by Ford Foundation, NSF, and other institutions). He is noted in many “Who is who" biographies and received several distinctions for his academic activities (e.g., from the Universidad de los Andes and from the City of Mérida). He is a member of many scientific societies and senior member of the IEEE and SCS (Society for Computer Simulation).

Werner Ulrich Werner Ulrich was born in 1948 in Bern, Switzerland. He holds doctoral degrees in Economics and Social Sciences from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland (Dr.rer.pol., 1975), and in Philosophy of Social Systems Design from the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D., 1980), where he was studying and working with with C. West Churchman. Ulrich is known as a pioneer of "critical systems thinking" (CST), which he understands as the use of systemic thinking in the service of reflective practice and research. He has held teaching and research appointments at various universities in Switzerland, England, and New Zealand, and also has extensive practice as a researcher and policy analyst in government. His current research programs on "CST for Professionals and Citizens" and "Critical Pragmatism" explore the ways critical systems thinking and particularly its methodological core principle of systematic boundary critique can contribute to responsible professional practice as well as to preparing citizens for their role in a living civil society.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Ulrich was chief evaluator of public health and social welfare in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland. He built up and directed Switzerland’s first office of evaluation research within a state administration and also became a pioneer of poverty research in Switzerland. During the same years, until 2000, he was a professor of social planning, evaluation research, poverty research, and critical systems thinking at the University of Fribourg, where he was appointed Titular Professor of Theory and Practice of Social Planning in the Faculty of Arts (Philosophische Fakultät). In addition he engaged himself in adult education, by teaching during several years critical systems thinking in the joint “Continuing Education in Ecology” program of the Universities of Bern, Fribourg, and Neuchâtel. More recently he was appointed Visiting Professor of Critical Systems Thinking at the University of Hull, UK (Centre for Systems Studies of the Department of Management, now Hull University Business School, 1995-96); at the University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (Centre for Systems Research, Lincoln School of Management, now Lincoln Business School, 1997-2000); at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand (Erskine Fellowship, Department of Management, 1999), and at the The Open University in Milton Keynes, UK (Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology, 2005-2010). In 2000/2001, he initiated the Lugano Summer School of Systems Design at the University of Lugano, which he has been directing since.

Ulrich is currently on the editorial boards of three international journals: Systems Research and Behavioral Science (Wiley, New York), Systemic Practice and Action Research (Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht), and Journal of Enterprising Culture (World Scientific Publishing, Singapore). He is Coeditor of the Journal of Research Practice, an open-access online journal published by the International Consortium for the Advancement of Academic Publication (ICAAP) at Athabasca University, Canada's Open University in Edmonton, Canada.

Among some 200 publications, his major book is Critical Heuristics of Social Planning: A New Approach to Practical Philosophy (Haupt, Bern, 1983; paperback reprint edition Wiley, New York, 1994). Some major publications of the past few years are a 50-page introduction to "Critical systems heuristics," authored jointly with Martin Reynolds of the Open University, UK, and published in 2010 in Systems Approaches to Managing Change (M. Reynolds and S. Holwell, eds., Springer, London); an ongoing series of "Reflections on reflective practice," available in open-access mode in Ulrich's Bimonthly; an essay on "Critical pragmatism: a new approach to professional and business ethics" published in the Interdisciplinary Yearbook of Business Ethics, 2006 (L. Zsolnai, ed., Lang, Oxford, UK); and finally, the much-debated paper "Beyond methodology choice: critical systems thinking as critically systemic discourse" in the Journal of the Operational Research Society (Vol. 54, 2003, No. 4), which according to two alternative citation data bases ranked among this prestigious journal's ten most cited papers of the decade 2000-2009. A complete list of publications, along with a list of recommended readings and a large selection of articles for download in PDF format, can be found on Ulrich's home page.

Laslo Zsolnai Laszlo Zsolnai László Zsolnai was born in 1958 in Szentes, Hungary. He has a master’s in finance and a doctorate in sociology from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences (now Corvinus University of Budapest). He received his Ph.D. and DSc degrees in economics from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Laszlo Zsolnai is professor and director of the Business Ethics Center at Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary. He is also a Fellow at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK, and Chairman of the Business Ethics Inter-faculty Group of the Community of European Management Schools (CEMS). He is editor of the "Frontiers of Business Ethics" and "Interdisciplinary Yearbook of Business Ethics" book series published by Peter Lang Academic Publishers in Oxford.

Laszlo Zsolnai is editorial board member of the International Journal of Social Economics; the International Journal of Spirituality and Management; Business Ethics: An European Review; Finance and the Common Good; Society and Economy; and Society and Business Review. 

László Zsolnai has authored two books in Hungarian language and edited over ten books in English language, among them: The European Difference: Business Ethics in the Community of European Management Schools (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1998); Ethics and the Future of Capitalism ( with Wojciech Gasparski, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, 2002); Ethics in the Economy: Handbook of Business Ethics (Peter Lang, Oxford, 2003); Spirituality and Ethics in Management (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2004, 2nd ed. 2011); Business Within Limits: Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics (with Knut Johannessen Ims, Peter Lang, Oxford, 2005); Interdisciplinary Yearbook of Business Ethics, Vol. 1 (Peter Lang, Oxford, 2006); Ethical Prospects: Economy, Society, and Environment (with Zsolt Boda and Laszlo Fekete, Springer, Berlin, 2009) and The Future International Manager: A Vision of the Roles and Duties of Management (with Antonio Tencati, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009).

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