Posts by John Atkinson

The Big Five

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heart of the art
By John Atkinson  The idea is increasingly being propagated that we live in a 'post truth' world. In this world, ...
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Post Truth is Fake News

ethics of leadership
When you consult to a system who is your client? How do you know if you are doing the right ...
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The ethics of systems leadership

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I have recently been struck by the parallels between two large organisations in the health sector. One is a major ...
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Does inspection harm you?

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As an ex-soldier who served in Northern Ireland during 'The Troubles' my Facebook timeline is full of outrage from former ...
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Reconciliation and Forgiveness

john atkinson leadership
Is there a problem in your organisation? Are you a senior person in that organisation? Have you been there any ...
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Are you good enough to lead?

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(By John Atkinson) ‘The Queen doesn’t issue bad kit’. These were the words of ‘Droz’, my Battery Sergeant-Major for the ...
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The Queen!

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Here, in the video (and transcript) below, John Atkinson in conversation with Stacey Hale at Design4Emergence, discusses Complexity in Systems. Answering ...
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John Atkinson on Complexity in Systems

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(By John Atkinson) I wrote a blog a few years ago called ‘Too big to succeed’ which captured some of ...
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Size does matter

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(By John Atkinson) What is 'systems leadership'? Well it means a lot of things to a lot of people. In ...
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What is systems leadership?

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(By John Atkinson) Travelling through northernmost Norway I am caught by the nature of scale.  At one level, the majestic ...
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Noticing my noticing

identity
(By John Atkinson) It is a real privilege to be in the US for the 4th of July. I didn’t ...
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Understanding Identity

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(By John Atkinson) Whenever you try to reduce a complex dilemma to a binary issue you are wrong. There is ...
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A binary issue

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(By John Atkinson) ‘Take back control!’ was the slogan for the UK’s leave campaign.  A palpable desire to have control over ...
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The illusion of control

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(By John Atkinson) If you lift the level of people's anxiety, unease or distress by fanning the flames of nationalism ...
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To be British is to Remain connected

complexity
By John Atkinson  When we talk about the complexity of modern life we often use the term quite loosely. We ...
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Embrace Complexity- Don’t Suppress it

systems
(By John Atkinson) I get repeatedly asked about the difference between working with the ecosystem (or human system) and working ...
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Working with Systems

john atkinson the big five
By John Atkinson  One of the characteristics of systems that are inherently complex and chaotic is that cause and effect ...
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Playing with time

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(By John Atkinson) The article we’ve linked below explores whether you could ever reproduce a brain by understanding its neural ...
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The neuro science that contradicts pilot and roll out?

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On the 28th January 2016, John Atkinson took part in the NHSTformathon. John introduced The Big Five characteristics of Living ...
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John Atkinson’s #NHSTform Transcript

Introducing The Big Five.
(By John Atkinson) Understanding living systems can seem impossible. Working out how all the inter-dependencies and relationships work leads into ...
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Introducing The Big Five.

Complexity (The Big Five).
(By John Atkinson) The world in which we live and work feels increasingly complex. We use phones, branded by Apple ...
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Complexity (The Big Five).

Emergence (The Big Five).
(By John Atkinson) In a world that is chaotic and complex how does anything ever get done? What is it ...
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Emergence (The Big Five).

Cognition (The Big Five).
(By John Atkinson) How do we know anything? It seems a simple question doesn’t it? And yet as soon as ...
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Cognition (The Big Five).

Networks (The Big Five).
(By John Atkinson) Social networks have become an omnipresent element of modern life. We have become tied to our phones ...
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Networks (The Big Five).

Self Referencing (The Big Five).
(By John Atkinson) As an officer cadet at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the thing I hated most was foot ...
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Self Referencing (The Big Five).

© John Atkinson (2016) ...
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Live on The Big Five.

the big five
(By John Atkinson) Understanding living systems can seem impossible. Working out how all the inter-dependencies and relationships work leads into ...
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Introducing ‘The Big Five’

complexity
To The Heart Of Living Systems (By John Atkinson) The world in which we live and work feels increasingly complex ...
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Complexity- The Big Five

emergence
To The Heart Of Living Systems (By John Atkinson) In a world that is chaotic and complex how does anything ...
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Emergence- The Big Five

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To The Heart Of Living Systems (By John Atkinson) How do we know anything? It seems a simple question doesn’t ...
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Cognition- The Big Five

networks
To The Heart Of Living Systems (By John Atkinson) Social networks have become an omnipresent element of modern life. We ...
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Networks- The Big Five

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To The Heart Of Living Systems (By John Atkinson) As an officer cadet at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the ...
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Self Organising- The Big Five

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John Atkinson introducing The Big Five during his session on Whole Systems Change with NHS Transformathon. (Available from The Edge)   The ...
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Live on ‘The Big Five’

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Living systems act to preserve their own identity. For our current global corporations and governmental bureaucracies that means investing a ...
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Cheshire Cat Grins

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John Atkinson's session on Whole Systems Change with NHS Transformathon. (Available from The Edge) This session will explore how change ...
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John Atkinson on Whole Systems Change #NHSTform

humanitarian action
(By John Atkinson) September 2015 I wrote this piece in September 2013 after the UK parliament had voted not to ...
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Humanitarian Action

meaning and murmuration
(By John Atkinson) This is an example of emergence, the way that global patterns of behaviour appear from basic underlying ...
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Meaning and Murmuration

passive resistence
(By John Atkinson) ‘I’m finding a lot of passive resistance’ or ‘death by passive resistance’ Passive resistance and passive aggression ...
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Death by Passive Resistance

culture change pogroms
(By John Atkinson) We are all familiar with cultural change programmes. Sadly most of them are more like ‘Culture Change ...
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Culture Change Pogroms

a new model for change
(By John Atkinson) The goal of politics should be to discover what we are collectively capable of, but has become ...
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A New Model of Change

slashing 40%
(By John Atkinson) If you just slash the Public Sector budget without changing the circumstances in which it operates you ...
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Slashing 40%

happiness bhutan
(By John Atkinson) A little while back there was a bit of a splash about how Bhutan was the only ...
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Happiness isn’t made in Bhutan

It aint what you do
(By John Atkinson) It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it... So says the old song, ...
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It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it…

the new commons
(By John Atkinson) I take a very simple view of local government. It is the space where a place comes ...
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The New Commons

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(By John Atkinson) The Oxford Canal is less than ten minutes drive from the house. That means no getting changed ...
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Paddling Just Paddling

an organisation is a living thing
(By John Atkinson) Since Descartes we have tried to understand the world by dividing it into its constituent parts. By ...
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An Organisation is a Living Thing

The Art of Change Making
(By John Atkinson) An introduction to The Art of Change Making. Curated and Produced by John Atkinson, Emma Loftus and John Jarvis ...
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The Art of Change Making

nhs
(By John Atkinson) The NHS is alive but rather unwell. Much great work is being done and we remain the ...
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The NHS is alive but rather unwell

cocreation
(By John Atkinson) Myron Roger’s first maxim for working with living systems is that ‘people own what they create’. As ...
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People Own What They Create

killing the change agent
(By John Atkinson) Living systems act to preserve their identity. If you perturb them they try to remove the source ...
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Killing the Change Agent

5 qs for change makers
(By John Atkinson) What is my work? Who is my work for? How do human systems change? Why do I ...
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5 Q’s for Change Makers

too big to succeed
(By John Atkinson) The NHS is the world’s fifth largest employer. It sits behind the US and Chinese defence forces, ...
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Too Big To Succeed (Reflections on the NHS)

failure
(By John Atkinson) Fail fast fail often, learn a new route through. That is the mantra that now accompanies most ...
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Is it really so good to fail?

rules that limit us
Have you ever watched a flock of birds, swirling in the low sunshine of an Autumn afternoon? Without an apparent ...
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Rules That Limit Us (Emergence)

bolivian leadership
(By John Atkinson) I was fortunate enough to travel through Bolivia in the early 90s. The capital, La Paz, sits ...
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Bolivian Leadership

soul
Great places have soul. They aren't simply about great architecture, great infrastructure or great locations. There is a life to great ...
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Great Places Have Soul

myron's maxims
(By John Atkinson) Sometimes working with living systems and complexity can seem overwhelming. Complex theories combine with a huge inter-related ...
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Myron’s Maxims

irreducible uncertainty
(By John Atkinson) Donella or ‘Dana’ was one of the key early systems people at MIT, mostly around cybernetics, but ...
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Irreducible Uncertainty

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The value of counter cultural change is its power to break existing paradigms. What happens when instead of trying to ...
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Culture and Counter Culture

vive la revolution
(By John Atkinson) I was fortunate to be trained in leadership for a year at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst ...
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Vive la revolution!

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By John Atkinson What must I do to change my organisation? Times are hard. The reality of 'delayering' is that ...
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3 Q’s for Leaders

complex or complicated
By John Atkinson I'm not usually a stickler for language. I like to find a way of getting things across that ...
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Complex or Complicated?

navigating complexity
(By John Atkinson) Navigating complexity can be tricky but you can learn to develop an eye for a route. To ...
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Navigating Complexity- Eye For A Route

drucker
By John Atkinson Peter Drucker is credited as saying that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. It is certainly manna from ...
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Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

fractals
By John Atkinson One of the things you notice when you work with human systems is that things keep recurring ...
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Feeling Fractals

the nature of scale
By John Atkinson I’m writing on the plane back home to the UK from China. Flying west across seven time ...
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The Nature of Scale

guerre
(By John Atkinson) Myron Rogers asks us as leaders in complex systems to focus on identity, information and relationships above ...
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The Way We Organise

culture change
By John Atkinson Whether it is the Labour leadership contest, the future of the NHS or what Seb Coe will ...
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Never Mind Where You’re Going, How Will You Leave Here?

focus or multitasking
By John Atkinson Men can’t multi-task. So runs the current story. Which turns out to be true. Because apparently, nobody ...
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Focus vs Multi-tasking

the bleakest thing i've seen
By John Atkinson ‘The bleakest thing I’ve seen’. These were the words of a researcher, an ethnographer who spends their ...
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The Bleakest Thing I’ve Seen

Taylorism
By John Atkinson Frederick Winslow Taylor was a much misunderstood man. He is now famous for 'Scientific Management' and is ...
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Taylorism and Meaning

total place
Let us consider a ‘whole system’ intervention from the UK Government. Total Place was an attempt to improve the quality ...
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Inside Total Place

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By John Atkinson To a definition and beyond Systems leadership has come to mean working beyond organisational boundaries to address ...
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John Atkinson introducing systems leadership

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(By John Atkinson) Fritjof has been one of the key influencers in encouraging a shift from a Cartesian view of ...
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Exploring Capra

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In 2014 John participated in The Unusual Suspects Festival, a unique event bringing people together in new connections and new ...
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John and The Unusual Suspects

7 wastes
(By John Atkinson) There is often confusion as to the term system thinking. For some it means improvement processes, maybe ...
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Taiichi Ohno’s 7 Wastes