In this paper we put forward a theory of large systems change (LSC), where large systems are defined as having breadth (i.e. engaging large numbers of people, institutions, and geographies) and depth (i.e. changing the complex relationships among elements of power and structural relationships simultaneously). We focus primarily on transformational LSC, recognizing that such systems are complex adaptive systems in which change is continuous and emergent, but directions can be supported. A typology of change actions with two core dimensions of confrontation and collaboration on the horizontal axis and generative and ungenerative change on the vertical suggests that change strategies can be classified into four broad archetypes: forcing change, supporting change, paternalistic change, or co-creating change. LSC theory development focuses on three core questions: what is the foundation of LSC concepts and methods, what needs to change, and how does LSC occur? We conclude by reviewing how papers in the Special Issue fit into these questions.
Large Systems Change: An Emerging Field of Transformation and Transitions
Waddell, Steve; Waddock, Sandra; Cornell, Sarah; Dentoni, Domenico; McLachlan, Milla; Meszoely, Greta Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Volume 2015, Number 58, June 2015, pp. 5-30(26)
The slower is faster (SIF) effect occurs when a system performs worse when its components try to be better. Thus, a moderate individual efficiency actually leads to a better systemic performance. The SIF effect takes place in a variety of phenomena. We review studies and examples of the SIF effect in pedestrian dynamics, vehicle traffic, traffic light control, logistics, public transport, social dynamics, ecological systems, and adaptation. Drawing on these examples we generalize common features of the SIF effect and suggest possible future lines of research.
When slower is faster Carlos Gershenson, Dirk Helbing
In working on culture change we often experience the feeling of the need to "go slow to go fast" . In fact we often tell the people we are working with to expect this. Here is an interesting article that helps explain this phenomena in coupled systems.
Curated insights and priorities from the December 2014 Ford Foundation Culture/Change convening.
Liz Rykert's insight:
Nice Summary Report from the work of the Ford Foundation on Culture Change and what it might take to start to really support people who are working in culture change and recommendations on how to move culture change work ahead. Loved the acknowledgement about the need for new/better ways to measure impact.
The premier culture educational site where some of the top workplace culture experts in history share their insights along with the latest trends and best practices. Our purpose is to positively impact society on a global scale through culture awareness, education, and action.
Liz Rykert's insight:
I just posted an article from this great site CultureUniversity.com thinking it was the full resource and it was not. So I am reposting it.
The most effective approach to change does not start or end in the C-suite. It happens at the heart of the organization, where mid-level managers and their teams build the momentum to implement and lead change. Executives initiate and support change, the rest of the organization lead change.
Learn why it's important to embrace complexity when working in the social sector. Professor Brenda Zimmerman of York University, shared her perspective in th...
Liz Rykert's insight:
This video of Brenda Zimmerman was taken at the Next Generation Evaluation Conference at Stanford in November 2013. She is doing a summary of the day and as she does she hits important highlights of embracing complexity - the title of her talk. It is about 45 mins.
To solve society's most pressing problems requires a system leader who can catalyze collective leadership. Includes magazine extras.
Liz Rykert's insight:
System leaders are leaders who can see and understand the larger underlying dynamics feeding the culture one finds oneself in. This is a good read but misses all the great material from people like June Holley https://twitter.com/juneholley and the Leadership Learning Community http://leadershiplearning.org/ who have been thinking and working in this space for some time.
Love the nine propositions outlined in this paper. Well worth the download and read through. They really are words to live by. I know they relate to evaluation of complex systems. But isn't evaluation really a chance to reflect and learn? And don't we all spend every day deeply engaged and interconnected in these complex networks all around us?
Love that someone has really thought this through:
Characteristics of Complex Systems
Propositions for Evaluation
A complex system is always changing, often in unpredictable ways; it is never static
1 Design and implement evaluations to be adaptive, flexible, and iterative
Everything is connected; events in one part of the system affect all other parts
2 Seek to understand and describe the whole system, including components and connections
Information is the fuel that drives learning and helps the system thrive
3 Support the learning capacity of the system by strengthening feedback loops and improving access to information
Context matters; it can often make or break an initiative
4 Pay particular attention to context and be responsive to changes as they occur
Each situation is unique; best principles are more likely to be seen than best practices
5 Look for effective principles of practice in action, rather than assessing adherence to a predetermined set of activities
Different sources of energy and convergence can be observed at different times
6 Identify points of energy and influence, as well as ways in which momentum and power flow within the system
Relationships between entities are equally if not more important than the entities themselves
7 Focus on the nature of relationships and interdependencies within the system
Cause and effect is not a linear, predicable, or one-directional process; it is much more iterative
8 Explain the non-linear and multi-directional relationships between the initiative and its intended and unintended outcomes
Patterns emerge from several semi-independent and diverse agents who are free to act in autonomous ways
9 Watch for patterns, both one-off and repeating, at different levels of the system
Ashby's law of requisite variety states that a controller must have at least as much variety (complexity) as the controlled. Maturana and Varela proposed autopoiesis (self-production) to define living systems. Living systems also require to fulfill the law of requisite variety. A measure of autopoiesis has been proposed as the ratio between the complexity of a system and the complexity of its environment. Self-organization can be used as a concept to guide the design of systems towards higher values of autopoiesis, with the potential of making technology more "living", i.e. adaptive and robust.
Requisite Variety, Autopoiesis, and Self-organization Carlos Gershenson
In this IM Channel One webinar authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant share research from their latest book, When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, which identifies the four key capacities that must...
At the Collective Impact Summit held Oct 6-10 in Toronto, keynote speaker Brenda Zimmerman discussed 'Preventing Snap Back.' Brenda Zimmerman is the unpreced...
Liz Rykert's insight:
What is Snap Back? you might ask...
Snap back is the thing that happens when you have made a change effort and you find yourself returning to where you started rather than sustaining the change. This talk - given at the Collective Impact Summit in November 2014 is a helpful resource to gain insight on adaptive resilience and to understand how relational patterns of interaction are fractal in nature, meaning they can repeat at different levels. If you are working on large systems change this resource will be particularly useful. 15 mins.
Check out this great Case Study on how one of Great Britain's Intelligence Agencies worked to introduce a culture of innovation. For me this is not just the notion of spurring a culture of failing fast and being creative but one that also encourages people to explore and then encourage each other rather than leaping to the conclusion "that won't work around here".
1. Tame the Gator
"Part of this involved thinking about how people communicated and collaborated together. Worried by how often ideas got shot down at an early stage, one of the developers, Lambert, handed everyone on the team a little toy alligator. ‘We all have a “gater brain”’ he explained, ‘the flight or fight response that is triggered whenever we come across something new and which makes us dismiss or attack ideas. We needed to “tame the gater”. Now, if someone starts knocking an idea down rather than building on it – we chuck a toy ‘gater across the room. It’s fun, but it’s a serious reminder about how we communicate.’
2. Paradox of Intelligence and Secrecy - Go to External Sources!
One of the most unexpected was to launch a public call for bids. Initially run jointly with MI5, it invited companies and start-ups to bid on several broad problems – including how to verify people’s online identity; how to use open-source data to predict events and how to work securely in an insecure environment. As an experiment it has proved remarkably successful, bringing in a raft of new ideas and new relationships."
The challenges of transforming distressed communities are heightened by the complexity of the problems community change actors address and the complexity of the environments in which they work. Confr
Liz Rykert's insight:
This new publication looks very helpful for bringing the insights of complexity to community groups and organizations. Written by Pat Auspos and Mark Cabaj for the Aspen Institute Roundtable for Community Change. Free download.
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