Heart of the Art

To the Heart of Living Systems

Author

John Atkinson

Post Truth is Fake News

The idea is increasingly being propagated that we live in a ‘post truth’ world. In truth (ha!) the stories we receive have always been partial. Sometimes our story telling is deliberately disingenuous.

The ethics of systems leadership

When you consult to a system who is your client? How do you know if you are doing the right thing? What constitutes doing good here and who decides? You cannot please everyone all the time. There is a difference between a reflexive action, changing the mood of a conversation through a comment or smile just because it feels to be going in an unhelpful way and a deliberate one such as considered reflection on events

Does inspection harm you?

‘What gets measured gets done’ is an old and familiar phrase. If we pay attention to product or patient safety then those measures improve. But over what time frame does this hold true? And is it the measures or the safety that gets better?

Reconciliation and Forgiveness

Surely the right way forward in Northern Ireland is to move past police enquiries and public enquiries? Instead we need to create the space where the real truth can surface, where peoples’ stories of hurt and anguish from all sides can be heard and acknowledged. Where we can see the players for what they were, and see what they are now?

Are you good enough to lead?

Are you good enough to lead? Is there a problem in your organisation? Are you a senior person in that organisation? Have you been there any length of time? If the answers are yes then there you are part of the problem.

The Queen!

what happens when your organisation is so evidently getting it wrong that people are suffering, that their work is becoming meaningless? What do you do then? Can you continue to ask for this loyalty? Should you?

John Atkinson on Complexity in Systems

Here, in the video and transcript) below, John Atkinson in conversation with Stacey Hale at Design4Emergence, discusses Complexity in Systems. Answering questions such as: Any advice on keeping work in a complex ecosystem within manageable boundaries? True or false: “There are no best practices.” How do you put people at ease in a world obsessed with big data? You’re not saying to abandon strategy? Are you talking about designing an attractor? What do you say to a brand new consultant who wants to apply the Big Five of living systems to an organizational problem to create change? How much does it matter that people know that you’re pulling from the principles of biological systems to design organizational change?

Size does matter

In the video that we link here, MIT Professor Cesar Hidalgo adds another perspective and some numbers. In his studies of network theory he has explored whether markets are meritocratic or topocratic. Put another way, do you succeed because of your talent or because of who you know?

What is systems leadership?

The challenges that require you to work together are complex. You don’t ‘deliver’ a change in global quality standards and you don’t ‘deliver’ a healthier or wealthier population. Lots of people will need to change what they do if you are to succeed. Some are already way ahead of you. You will need to connect all this up, nurture some stuff and weed out things that aren’t helping. You will need to help people see how what they’re doing contributes towards something meaningful. You will have to constantly improve people’s experiences. Does that sound like deliver?

Noticing my noticing

Travelling through northernmost Norway I am caught by the nature of scale. The grand and the delicate. The power and the finesse. In my awareness it becomes alive within me.

Understanding Identity

Every time we change our business or political structures, we provoke questions about our identity. Who really are we? What matters to us? How must we now connect? Here John Atkinson explores issues of identity and relationships in the light of the U.K. Brexit vote and the US 4th of July celebrations.

A binary issue

Whenever you try to reduce a complex dilemma to a binary issue you are wrong. The ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ question asked of the British people this week was therefore always incomplete. Politics in its most visible and visceral form tries to resolve issues in this way. The Brexit vote in the UK has brought to the fore tough questions of identity, relationships and information. These are Myron Roger’s dynamics of organising. He reminds us that it is by addressing issues at this level that meaning is made, trust is rebuilt and we take appropriate action. Only then will good policy, structures and protocols be formed. (By John Atkinson)

The illusion of control

‘Take back control!’ was the slogan for the UK’s leave campaign. A palpable desire to have control over our own affairs throughout the campaigning and the vote to leave the EU. Yet the immediate aftermath of the vote is a brutal and sharp reminder that control is illusory. The harder you grasp for it the more slippery it becomes. Control does not reside in the structures we create or in winning a referendum. (By John Atkinson)

To be British is to Remain connected

By John Atkinson. To vote Leave is not a choice to return to greatness but a confirmation of decline. It is to deny that we are intimately connected to Europe, and to pretend that we are in some way special, unique and different. God is not an Englishman and nor was St George.

Embrace Complexity- Don’t Suppress it

By John Atkinson. If we genuinely believe the world to be a complex place, we need to consciously embrace that complexity, not suppress it. Once we do this, we realise we cannot resolve our activity into standardised processes without forever generating unintended consequences to our actions. Recognising the world we live in as a complex environment doesn’t allow us to control it

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