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A general theory of generic modelling and paradigm shifts: part 1 – the fundamentals

Maurice Yolles (Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)
Gerhard Fink (IACCM, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




Anticipating behaviour and responding to the needs of complexity and the problematic issues that they can generate requires modelling to facilitate analysis and diagnosis. Using arguments of anticipation as an imperative for inquiry, the purpose of this paper is to introduce generic modelling for living systems theory, and assigns the number of generic constructs to orders of simplex modelling. An nth simplex order rests in an nth order simplex cybernetic space. A general modelling theory of higher orders of simplexity is given, where each higher order responds to every generic construct involved, the properties of which determining the rules of the complex system being that is represented. Higher orders of simplexity also explain greater degrees of complexity relatively simply, and give rise to the development of new paradigms that are better able to explain perceived complex phenomena.


This is part 1 of three linked papers. Using principles that arise from Schwarz’s living systems set within a framework provided by cultural agency theory, and with a rationale provided by Rosen’s and Dubois’ concepts of anticipation, the papers develops a general modelling theory of simplex orders. It shows that with the development of new higher orders, paradigm shifts can occur that become responsible for new ways of seeing and resolving stubborn problematic issues. The paper is composed of two parts. Part 1 establishes the fundamentals for a theory of modelling associated with cybernetic orders. Using this, part 2 establishes the principles of cybernetic orders using simplex modelling. This will include a general theory of generic modelling. Part 3 extends this, developing a fourth order simplex model, and exploring the potential for higher orders using recursive techniques through cultural agency theory.


Cultural agency theory can be used to generate higher simplex through principles of recursion, and hence to create a potential for the generation of families of new paradigms. The idea of conceptual emergence is also tied to the rise of new paradigms.

Research limitations/implications

The use of higher order simplex models to represent complex situations provides the ability to condense explanation concerning the development of particular system behaviours, and hence simplify the way in which the authors analyse, diagnose and anticipate behaviour in complex situations. Illustration is also given showing how the theory can explain the emergence of new paradigms.

Practical implications

Cultural agency can be used to structure problem issues that may otherwise be problematic, within both a top-down and bottom up approach. It may also be used to assist in establishing behavioural anticipation given an appropriate modelling approach. It may also be used to improve and compress explanation of complex situations.


A new theory of simplex orders arises from the new concept of generic modelling, illustrating cybernetic order. This permits the possibility of improved analysis and diagnosis of problematic situations belonging to complex situations through the use of higher order simplex models, and facilitates improvement in behavioural anticipation.



The authors thank Jose Manuel Perez Rios for his constructive comments on an early version of this paper.


Yolles, M. and Fink, G. (2015), "A general theory of generic modelling and paradigm shifts: part 1 – the fundamentals", Kybernetes, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 283-298.



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