Heart of the Art

To the Heart of Living Systems

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Welcome

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Understanding living systems can seem impenetrable. Working out how all the inter-dependencies and relationships work leads into a morass of aligned and conflicting theories and practices. Trying to make sense of how these could reasonably help in addressing workplace questions becomes even more confusing. Instead of making things better, looking at our worlds as living systems seems to make them ever more complicated and confusing. The theory seems self-evidently right yet it can make us feel at times powerless.

Here at Heart of the Art we seek to explore the nature of living systems and how we may understand them. We look to make sense of the nature of things and how by understanding them better, we can be more effective in our work, our relationships, our lives. We offer you this site as a place where we share our own writing alongside articles and resources from others that we have found helpful or provocative. Please enjoy it and use it as you will, crediting the original authors in anything you share.

About us

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John Atkinson is a designer, architect and catalyst for whole system change. He has instigated and led projects around the world in corporate and public settings that help people design approaches that will make fundamental change to their work and lives.

Emma Loftus is a researcher and writer, specialising in organisational learning and the human process of change. Emma was the researcher and co-writer of The Art of Change Making. Emma provides support to national and international programmes for change, across public and private sectors, including work with open innovation and systems leadership programme.

Doing Change

Change will happen anyway, whether we like it or not. It has the potential to make the world anew. But that it’s not the change that makes the difference, but how we explore the possibility in the pain.

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.

Wicked Problems and Category Mistakes

Certain statements about problems are likely to be rendered false or meaningless if it can be shown that the problem is actually wicked,

Dialogue- Isaacs

Often the typical meeting room is full of people holding a series of conversations that come preloaded with hidden paradigms of belief, expectation and personal ambition. What this means is that the communication taking place is driven by a mixture of agendas, with everyone seeking to direct and steer the conversation in ways that withhold their point of view. This is limiting.

Event: Creating the Quality Ecosystem

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The Castle Conversations. Event: Creating the Quality Eco-System. 2nd- 5th October 2017. The Phillips Kay partnership Ltd, Schloss Ernegg, Austria

Flight of the Starlings

A beautiful example of murmuration from @NatGeo. Amazing .Must Watch. What are the rules governing their behaviour? What can we learn about change?

Acceptance

Acceptance can lead us to normalise and even ignore situations and events that we should instead stand up and shout about. Acceptance removes our desire to be heard, to fight for the things we believe are right and just and moral. In acceptance we become stalled and static, frozen, unable to move, blind to possibility and the promises in the tension of change.

Kantor – 4 Player Model

The Four Player Model developed by David Kantor is at the core of the theory of structural dynamics. Structural dynamics is rooted in systems dynamics, and is specifically concerned with how human communication does, or does not work. Kantor explains that people behave differently in different situations, contexts and conversations.

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

Myron Rogers – Reflections on A Simpler Way

A Simpler Way–a brief meditation on organizations as living systems. The book was born from our years long deepening exploration into the implications of living systems theory for social systems. If our organisations are not machines, but alive and subject to the same dynamics as all life, what would be possible? How would we understand what we are seeing and experiencing in institutional life? What would we do if we were working with the dynamics of life, rather than against them?

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?

The freedom of my lives

Over the years of my life, through the different lifetimes that I have lived, freedom to me has been an ever changing obscurity, that as at times been elusive in its presence, and yet it’s absence un-noted or a silent drowning.

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