Heart of the Art

To the Heart of Living Systems



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?

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.

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.

Martial Arts Strategy & The Five Elements

The five element theory is a way of taking a lot of information and organizing it in a way that makes it easy to understand. Used properly it becomes a way to understand complicated relationships and see solutions to problems. Martial arts strategy is a very complex dynamic and readily lends itself to being analyzed in a five element system.

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.

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

Systems Thinking: A journey along the way

A systems view is somewhat in contradiction to the concept of analysis, which is breaking things down into smaller pieces to simplify the study. Analysis brings with it the risk of potentially loosing the most relevant characteristics of the system, and possibly developing a less than complete understanding. Yes, analysis is an important technique, and at the same time another method of study is also warranted, something I have seen called anasynthis. Anasynthis being the study of the whole, and the parts, in the hopes of developing an appropriate level of understanding.

A biological perspective of emergence (Video)

A short video exploring the properties of emergence in biology. Discussing how and why ‘irreducible’ or ‘unexpected’ properties arise out of a collection of more fundamental properties.

Patterns in Nature

The living world is filled with striped and mottled patterns of contrasting colours; with sculptural equivalents of those patterns realised as surface crests and troughs, with patterns of organisation and behaviour even among individual organisms. People have long been temped to find some ‘intelligence’ behind all these biological patterns. In the early twentieth century the Belgian Symbolist playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, pondering the efficient organisation of bee and termite colonies asked; What is it that governs here? What is it that issues orders? Foresees the future? Elaborates, plans and preserves equilibrium? Administers and condemns to death?

John Atkinson’s #NHSTform Transcript

When I started to work with places, asking how their systems work, explicitly, you get something that looks like this, we have all seen them. This is your standard organisational chart. There are all sorts of assumptions about how things work, that are not necessarily helpful, they are limited things.Trying to run them as big organisational charts doesn’t work, it is a very mechanistic way of thinking. It has its roots in the industrial revolution where people sat on the end of a machine and serviced them to get a job done.

Your mileage may vary

But there can’t be multiple best practices? Can there? Yes there can, all depending on the setting and context in which you are trying to apply it. What is best in one place isn’t necessarily best in all. Yes, we must be consistent, but only within the setting, not necessarily between settings, and not locked in stone over time. In practice, this is affected by the degree of complexity for the process we are trying to re-engineer.

A video on Emergence

A video introducing emergence

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