This means that entity systems contain sub-entity systems and are, in turn, contained by larger super-entity systems.
For example, the planet contains human, animal, plant, and other societies, which contain individuals, which contain cells, etc. And vice versa, atoms are contained by cells, cells by the organism, the planet by the solar system, etc.
Each of these entity systems is a whole in its own right. It is also contained within a larger whole (i.e. a super-system) in the outer environment and contains sub-systems in its inner environment. It is the choice of the viewer to select a system of focus within the systems hierarchy and what represents outer (i.e. super) and inner (i.e. sub) in relation to it.
Each type of entity system marks a level in the systems hierarchy. In the naturosphere the levels are relatively fixed (see the left column in the figure). In the sociosphere, similar patterns of organisation are observable in all human societies, such as the two parallel containing hierarchies of nation, cultural group and family and nation, institution and organisation (see the two columns on the right in the figure). These levels are social constructs and can change (e.g. forming new international alliances).
The organisation of entity systems within a containing hierarchy gives rise to the paradox that an entity system is both a (relatively) independent whole as well as a dependent part.
A containing hierarchy is NOT a control hierarchy. Control (i.e. governance) in a containing hierarchy flows both top down (actually from the outside to the inside of the containing hierarchy) and bottom up (i.e. inside – out), as well as from the self to itself.
relevance for the change manager
The analysis, design and intervention in a system need to determine the appropriate level of focus (i.e. which is the system to be changed) and guard against trying to change a system other than its own.
The connecting stakeholder systems in the outer and inner environment are determined in relation to the level of focus.
what is the relevance of this concept for you?