Heart of the Art

To the Heart of Living Systems


Systems Thinking

It’s Time for Quality Leadership in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The way that we have set about delivering this quality has led to an environment where improvements to processes and systems are typically gradual and linear — focusing on reducing waste and variability. Our ability to learn and adapt fast is seriously hampered by this approach. We have not paid enough attention to leveraging the differences we have as human beings — and how we when building on our differences can create much better solutions to our daily work and objectives.

Systems Thinking: The Super Power of Autism

It’s a sad fact that autism is still viewed as a disability. A disorder. That mis-wiring that characterises the neurobiological connections (or often lack there of) in the autist’s brain is at best considered a failing. But what if we look at autism differently? The absolute chaos of normal everyday life that drop-kicks those with autism and sensory disorder into meltdown and withdrawal, is in fact a super-power. This is systems thinking at its absolute beautiful edge, where every detail of the world stands out in excruciating, wondrous detail that can’t be ignored. This response to the unfathomable, the ability to absorb obscurity and sense pattern is not rigidity at all. It’s simply gorgeously mind-blowing. (By Emma Loftus.)

Linear to Complex

Here are some sound pieces of advice: the more you know about a system, the better you are at predicting its behavior. If you want a large outcome, then put a large amount of effort into the process. For the best execution, plan ahead. These are all powerful strategies – but only if you are dealing with a linear system. For a complex system, this approach spells disaster

Working with Systems

From John Atkinson. I get repeatedly asked about the difference between working with the ecosystem (or human system) and working with formal organisations. For me this is largely a perceptual difference and yet perception is a critical and deeply influential thing.

Ecological Systems Theory

The Ecological Systems theory states that human development is influenced by the different types of environmental systems. Formulated by famous psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, this theory helps us understand why we may behave differently when we compare our behavior in the presence of our family and our behavior when we are in school or at work.

Playing with time

From John Atkinson. Cause and effect analysis is quite hard. The connection between our actions and their impact can sometimes be quite obscure. Events will be explained away according to the version of history that is prevalent in the organisation, the stories we always tell. Each organisation has these and they are more than familiar, peopled with heroes who saved us and fools whose decisions nearly wrecked us.

Family Systems Theory

A family systems approach argues that in order to understand a family system we must look at the family as a whole. Two families living across the street from each other may each be comprised of a mother, father, and child. Yet it is in their rules of interacting with each other and their collective history that they are understood as uniquely different.

What is a System of Systems and Why Should I Care?

Another challenge in this area is that some systems belong to multiple SoS. In these cases, these systems receive requests from multiple SoS, some of which conflict with each other. It is typically up to the single system to decide which sets of changes to implement, leaving some SoS to pursue other alternatives for their desired SoS capability.

Dynamic Systems Theory and Sports Training

Performance and training science has traditionally been deeply influenced by the mechanical conception of human beings. It conceives the organism as a machine divided into parts and performance as the sum of different qualities. But instead of being thought of as machines, athletes should be considered as complex dynamic systems, self- organized and constrained by morphological, physiological, psychological and biomechanical factors, the properties of the task and the environment.

System of systems

With the emergence of the internet in the mid-90’s, the world became one global commons. In the past, we could understand that there was some mysterious unity to the various dimensions of life but we couldn’t understand its dynamics, we couldn’t observe and measure their interactions. We basically operated like the drunk who looks under the streetlight for his keys because that’s where he can see.

Knowing the Network and Knitting the Network

Lack of outside information, and dense cohesion within the network, removes all possibility for new ideas and innovations. We see this in isolated rural communities that are resistant to change, or Nodes with many direct connections that quickly disperse information; Nodes that connect otherwise disconnected parts of the network – they act as liaisons; Nodes that connect two or more clusters – they act as bridges between groups. We see this in isolated rural communities that are resistant to change, or in a classic “old boy network”. Yet, the dense connections, and high degree of commonality forms good work groups – clusters of people who can work together smoothly.

Seel: The Nature of Emergence

Intention is not a simple intrinsic property of human agents. Instead, it is often—perhaps always—co-created as a result of interactions with other people. Intention, therefore, can be thought of as an emergent property created from the interactions within a human system which then feeds back into the system and influences its future development. In particular, it influences the way in which at least one of the complex agents in the system will behave in future.

The benefits of big picture innovation

Systems thinking can provide some of its greatest benefits by giving companies a way to make sure that the befits of their innovation efforts are not compromised by the lack a big picture understanding. Without requiring any additional resources, innovation efforts targeted with the big picture in mind can produce greater, lasting benefits for the organisation, and a company that gets more benefit from it’s innovation efforts will have a competitive edge over it’s rivals.

Systems thinking for safety

Emergence is reflected in systems theory, but less so in safety management practice, or management generally. As systems become more complex, we must remain alert to the adaptive and maladaptive patterns and trends that emerge from the interactions and flows, and ensure a capacity to respond.

Creativity & Emergence

The most effective and meaningful changes I’ve observed have come from both embracing creative practices and also establishing new foundations: generative principles of engagement, expanded mind sets, new frameworks, and entering into a “co-creative partnering” type of relationship with each other, and with the unknown. For example, weaving improv-based principles as the rules of engagement in meetings can transform both the energy and outcomes

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