The John N. Warfield Digital Collection

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Complexity has become embedded in the very framework of our society. Modern science and technology have achieved wonders, but they have also greatly increased the likelihood of encountering complex situations. Multifaceted problems and challenges can cripple organizations that are not properly prepared. Dr. John N. Warfield has dedicated his life to the study of complexity and developing methods of coping with it.

Warfield began his intellectual career studying electrical engineering and mathematics. This led him to work with early computer prototypes. Besides math and electrical engineering, Warfield became interested in group pathologies. He began to look at how and why people make decisions—especially in situations that involve a great deal of complexity. This led him to establish Interactive Management, a computer assisted process designed to help groups manage complex problems unique to their organizations.

Warfield bases his research in the empirical evidence of human behavior pathologies, application of design concepts in groups, and philosophical works dating back to Aristotle. One of Warfield’s greatest sources of inspiration was the pragmatist, Charles Sanders Peirce. Warfield dealt with a number of different subjects ranging from “thought about thought” to the current state of higher education.

His long and successful career has yielded a number of publications, honors, and awards. The John N. Warfield Collection presents many of Warfield’s most significant and influential works. This digital collection contains select textual and non-textual documents from the physical collection housed in the Special Collections Research Center in George Mason University Libraries.

Using This Collection

Search or browse by title of item, subject, or author. To view a digital object, click on link posted in yellow box under the heading "Files in This Item." This collection includes a number of multimedia objects. To ensure proper viewing we recommend using an up-to-date version of the QuickTime media player for video viewing.

Researchers may also browse the Guide to the John N. Warfield papers and the digital exhibition Attacking Complex Problems: The Life and Work of John N. Warfield



Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 164
  • Item
    The impact of structural modeling on the creation of new perspectives in problem solving situations
    (2016-02-29) Kapelouzos, Ioannes
    A system of process management known as Interactive Management (IM) is a major component of an emerging science of generic design. It facilitates the management of complexity through the participative building of structural models by groups. Data from applications of IM are presented which support the hypothesis that the process of structural modeling enables group members to appreciate and conceptualize new perspectives on the problematic situation. A case is also presented that illuminates this hypothesis.
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    Paper: "The Center for Interactive Management," October 1981
    (1981-10) Warfield, John
    This spiral bound 1981 document was the first brochure ever produced for the new Center for Interactive Management at the University of Virginia. Warfield designed the logo seen on the cover. John N. Warfield Collection 90.4
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    Paper: "Major Impacts from Recent Applications of Interactive Management (April 1983-July 1988)"
    (1988) Unknown
    This document lists out 33 case studies of the Interactive Management process conducted by the Center for Interactive Management at George Mason University between 1983 and 1988. It provides a descriptive "major impact" for each study. John N. Warfield Collection 30.25
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    Paper: Major Physical Design Factors in Creating a Demosophia
    (1987) Warfield, John
    This short 3 page memo produced by the Center for Interactive Management at George Mason University outlines the basic requirements of a demosophia. It includes a plan view of the room with accompanying furniture and computer equipment.
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    Patent: Double Bridge Network for Producing Signals Having A Modulation Envelope Phase Difference, June 27, 1967
    (United States Patent Office, 1967-06-27) Warfield, John
    Warfield's patent for Double Bridge Network for Producing Signals Having A Modulation Envelope Phase Difference. The original name for the patent was "Electronic Goniometer." Includes schematic and summary narrative. He signed over the patent rights to his employer Wilcox Electric Co., of Kansas City, MO. The original application was filed May 7, 1967 with the Patent Lawyers Hovey, Schmidt, Johnson & Hovey. John N. Warfield Collection 6.4
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    Photo: "Short Course on Design of Digital Control Circuits" - Professors and Staff, 1953
    (1953) Anonymous
    This 1953 photo shows Warfield with colleagues at the "Short Course on Design of Digital Control Circuits" in Murray Hill, N.J. Warfield is in the third row, fourth from the right. John N. Warfield Collection 6.2
  • Item
    Paper: "Systems Engineering"
    (Ordnance Research Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, 1955-08-10) Warfield, John
    In this 1955 paper written for the Ordnance Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, Warfield provides a high level overview of systems engineering. At the time, systems engineering was a new field, searching for definition. The paper approaches systems without bias to their nature, and provides planners with generic, basic tools and checklists for designing a system. The report was well received in Navy research circles, as the included letter following the report attests. Warfield referred to this project later in life as one of the first steps on his march towards understanding complexity and systems science.
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    Video Segment: Warfield walks students through planning stage of an Interactive Management Session, April 17, 1999
    (1999-04-17) Warfield, John
    In this segment, Warfield discusses what goes into a plan for a session of Interactive Management. The proper facilities to hold an IM session, the scope statement, context statement, and the triggering questions are discussed. He then has the students design their own scope statement. The original VHS is located in the John N. Warfield Collection Box 62.
  • Item
    Video Segment: Warfield speaks about economy, February 20, 1999
    (1999-02-20) Warfield, John
    Warfield argues that graphic representations are needed to help people understand complex problems. Specifically, he speaks to the tendency of economists to be vague and confusing when dealing with the general public. He also touches on the ballooning federal deficit. The original VHS is located in the John N. Warfield Collection Box 68.
  • Item
    Video Segment: Methodologies incorporated into Interactive Management, February 20, 1999
    (1999-02-20) Warfield, John
    In this clip from a lecture, Warfield responds to a question on whether he would consider incorporating any new methodologies into Interactive Managemen (IM). He outlines the seven different methods used in IM and explains why they were adopted. He concludes that unless there is a need, or new technology can fill a void, it is not likely that he will change the basic structure of Interactive Management. The original VHS is located in the John N. Warfield Collection Box 68
  • Item
    Paper: "Implications of Scale for System Design," June 1-6, 1987
    (Society for General Systems Research (SGSR), 1987-06) Warfield, John
    "A proposal that scholars and professionals must work together with political leadership to develop reasonable standards for large-scale design, ultimately to strive for world-wide legislation to protect humanity against irresponsible design of systems which produce world-wide consequences, which would affect all of humanity." This paper was presented at the International Society for General Systems Research, June 1-6, 1987 in Budapest, Hungary. John N. Warfield 76.47
  • Item
    Paper: "Influences: Warfield Class and Seminar Lectures at CIM," 1986-1987
    (1986) Warfield, John
    These are the abstracts to the Influence Seminar videos included in the John N. Warfield Collection. The lectures are described by Warfield as "Aimed at identifying semi-forgotten influences from the past on our present ways of thinking and acting." They can be found in Box 61. John N. Warfield Collection 76.46 The dates are October 30, 1986 "Inability of Social Systems to Self-design for Results;" March 17, 1987 "Organizational Strategy for Progress: Error Embracing;" March 24, 1987 "Organizational Strategy for Progress: Reconciling Variety, Parsimony, and Saliency;" March 31, 1987 "Organizational Strategy for Progress: Dual-Basis Organization Design;" April 14, 1987 "The Role of the Engineer in Building and Destroying Societies."
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    Paper: "Notes on the Strategic Defense Initiative," November 28, 1987
    (1987-11-28) Warfield, John
    Warfield prepared these notes as a handout for a class to be taught in the Spring of 1988. Because of the poor state of the American software industry and the lack of importance attached to the President's Science Advisory Council Warfield believed that President Ronald Reagan's proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), nicknamed "Star Wars," was doomed to fail and could potentially cost the American taxpayers significant sums of money. Because the same type of problems plagued the Soviet Union, Warfield did not believe there was a chance the USSR would develop similar program. John N. Warfield Collection 76.42.
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    Paper: "Oversight and Steering for Effective System Design," 1987
    (1987) Warfield, John
    This paper suggests that much more emphasis on philosophy, logic, linguistics, psychology and generic design science be included in a curriculum for educating and training more powerful managers and designers than are now in operation. Includes a list of detractors to effective system design and how they can be overcome. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for General Systems Research, May 21-27, 1988 in St. Louis, Missouri. John N. Warfield Collection 76.41
  • Item
    Paper: "Philosophy Ignored: The Achilles Heel of the Software Industry," 1989
    (1989) Warfield, John
    In this partially complete paper, Warfield argues that the software industry in 1989 lacked a concrete philosophy. "Software science," he writes "which could could furnish a sound basis for analyzing and correcting most or all of the difficulties facing the software industry today, is almost non-existent." Until the software industry addressed this problem, Warfield predicted it would suffer indefinitely. John N. Warfield 76.40
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    Preface: "About the Warfield Special Collection," June 2004
    (2004-06) Warfield, John
    In this Preface to the John N. Warfield Special Collection, Warfield presents a broad overview of his life's mission as documented in the Collection. John N. Warfield Collection 81.14
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    Paper: "Philosophy Behind This Collection," June 21, 2004
    (2004-06-21) Warfield, John
    A one page Preface to an updated, revised 2004 version of "A Guide to the John N. Warfild Collection." In this paper Warfield lists the "basic ideas" behind this collection of work. John N. Warfield Collection 81.13
  • Item
    Transcript of Oral History: Benjamin J. Broome, February 3, 2009
    (2009-02-03) Houpt, David; Broome, Benjamin
    In this interview, Professor Broome discusses his relationship with Dr. John N. Warfield; offers his perspective on the development of Interactive Management (IM) and its popularity over the years; shares thoughts about what makes for a successful IM session, using the work of the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska as an example; and touches on his experience applying some of the Interactive Management technology in Cyprus. John N. Warfield Digital Collection.
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    Paper: "Systems History," March 2009
    (Systems History, Literary Paritantra (Systems), 2009-03) Warfield, John
    Systems history is the study and integration of the jagged eruptions of creative thought that have taken place through time: those events which have brought proper thought about systems to the current state. The study smooths out the jagged eruptions and seems to present a smooth perspective on that current state. But only an understanding of the past can yield a true picture of the present. John N. Warfield Digital Collection.
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    Dissertation: "Complexity: A Cognitive Barrier to Defense Systems Aquisition Management." August 1999
    (1999-08) Perino, George
    This research effort proceeded from the presumption that complexity is a matter of perspective; it resides within the observer, not the issue under investigations It is the observer's inability to grasp the interplay of multiple factors and events that lead to the perception that problems. issues or systems are "complex." The researcher sought to find answers to the following questions: Are members of the defense systems acquisition workforce prepared to meet the demands of complexity? Study participants included highly schooled engineering- and management-orientated government employees responsible for the acquisition and life-cycle support of large-scale socio-technical defense systems costing billions of taxpayer dollars. These individuals were attending an intensive 14-week course in systems acquisition managmente at the Defense Systems Management College (DSMC). The college is considered to be the premier center for learning about management principles and the Department of Defense systems acquisition process. John N. Warfield Collection 37.28