Mapping Transformation In international development we see it more and more the need for leaders to play a new game. It is ironic that our best whole systems thinkers are becoming ever more frustrated at the lack of visible ...
Leaders in the public and private sectors are facing unprecedented challenges as they operate and make decisions in a context of increasing complexity. Hyper-connectivity calls into question many traditional problem-solving approaches – regarding diverse matters, from urban population growth to global capital flows – and it limits our capacity to manage these problems. At the same time, opportunities for solutions – via which to deliver greater benefits for stakeholders, cutting across traditional silos and offering more sustainability – are growing.
The Global Agenda Council on Complex Systems examines how insights gleaned from complexity science and systems analysis can best be applied to improve the thoroughness and quality of decision-making and to deliver better results for larger numbers of beneficiaries worldwide.
Fritjof Capra, in his book ‘The Hidden Connections’ applies aspects of complexity theory, particularly the analysis of networks, to global capitalism and the state of the world; and eloquently argues the case that social systems such as organisations and networks are not just like living systems – they are living systems. The concept and theory of living systems (technically known as autopoiesis) was introduced in 1972 by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela.
This is a complete version of a ‘long-blog’ written by Al Kennedy on behalf of ‘The Nature of Business’ blog and BCI: Biomimicry for Creative Innovation www.businessinspired...
In last week’s New Yorker, Adam Gopnik laments the epidemic of imprisonment in America, especially of the young and visible minorities, and explores what leads a society to give up on, incarcerate and hence enslave so many in brutal, soul-destroying institutions.
Gopnik is saying, in effect, that complex ‘problems’ like crime, poverty, climate change, peak oil, corruption, pandemics, and unsustainable growth economies, are not ‘problems’ that can be ‘solved’ at all, but rather, as philosopher Abraham Kaplan explained, predicaments that must be “chipped away at” and adapted to.
“The intercession of a thousand small sanities”, as Gopnik so elegantly puts it, will never be a popular approach to coping with complex predicaments, especially as they grow, through the indifference and incompetence of leaders and vested interests and the sheer size and scale of the systems creating them, into crises and then into chaos and collapse.
Many of us exist in a state of barely contained disgust and disappointment with many of the dominant systems and practices of financial and governmental institutions. We differentiate ourselves wholeheartedly from these systems as a matter of fact -- we coexist, often uncomfortably. We recognize that within these systems, standard currency is disproportionately lionized -- and that this is understood by most as "true," regardless of the illusory nature of any a priori "value" associated with the paper, coin, or plastic by which each currency is circulated.
As a result of this division, and in keeping with our desire to exist/persist within a different system/to reject the status quo/normative models and operations, we reject this notion of value (and by extension, its hard medium) instinctively, as an energetic refusal of the falsehood it so often promotes and represents.
However. In rejecting money and "the system," we legitimize/make real the dominance/existence of a "system" external to our selves and our native abilities/values -- as though were were not, by our very presence here, an essential, dynamic, and (a)evolutionary part of any system on this planet.
"We need not just sit around, do nothing, and wait for evolution, destiny, god, nature or the invisible hand to take its inevitable course. The fatalist outlook makes the mountain seem so huge that everybody despairs and gives up any attempt to climb it. Yet there are pockets of awareness out there, determination and possibilities to tap into, cracks to slip into and widen to help the world find meaning and purpose and move in the right direction. Great people are around, great things are being done everywhere and every day. They are waiting to be shared and snowballed – and taken together they create tangible transformation."
- Helene Finidori Connecting people & ideas across cultures, disciplines & sectors to shape a better future...
Overview of the 400-page report World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability from the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WGBU), the heavyweight scientific body that advises the German Federal Government on ‘Earth System Megatrends'.
"A key conclusion here is that ‘individual actors and change agents play a far larger role as drivers of transformation’ than they’ve been given credit for in the past.
The most effective change agents, states the report, ‘stimulate the latent willingness to act by questioning business as usual policies’. They also put open questions and challenges on the agenda, and embody alternative practices in the ways they work.
Change agents, the think tank finds, ‘tend to frequent the margins of society where unorthodox thinkers and outsiders are to be found’."
"In the spirit of a creative, open innovation system, the Lab is a structure that not only thinks, but also does. Traditionally a place for scientists to test hypotheses that lead to potential breakthroughs, the Lab has been re-purposed to address elusive “wicked problems” in society. In this version (sometimes called the innovation, design or change Lab), substitute the scientific method with design thinking as the rigorous and repeatable protocol; swap beakers and Bunsen burners for sticky notes and white boards; and shift from single expertise to multifaceted expertise (usually representing a combination of business, design and humanities – in MaRS’ case, add science & tech as well as entrepreneurs of all sorts).
In these Labs, teams are experimenting with alternative solutions to real-world challenges such as water sanitization, carbon neutrality and age-friendly societies. And just like scientific breakthroughs, when these solutions succeed, they are game changing."
There is a considerable list of Labs to check out, alongside further reading: here.
Leadership should be some kind of a neutral agreement between leaders and followers. Leaders point out directions and followers confirms and communicates the “rightness” – it’s a symbiosis. No specific requirements, just that silent agreement and the communicative feedback-loop. It works for a family as well as in global online processes building social networks. Complex networks in order to remedy social complexity.
A positive spiral
Taking the role as a leader today is really not anything that is clear for anyone. Nobody specific is a leader – everyone is both leaders and followers. In one situation you get inspired by person A, person B in turn gets inspired by person C that gets his/hers inspiration by person A. If the communication infrastructure is in place self-synchronisation will rule.
Here’s a line of thinking I found that was useful. You might find it useful too.
1. Food security starts with successfully growing something you can actually eat. It progresses as you get more skilled at growing a variety of foods throughout the season.
2. If you can get to the point of either personally growing or locally sourcing nearly everything your family eats, you are well on your way to food security.
3. However, real food security that can handle a wider variety of threats and opportunities goes beyond simply growing lots of food locally. It requires growing or raising heirloom and heritage foods locally that few others in the world do.
Could a new economic model be built around the commons? Think a minute. What are the commons? All the things that we inherit from past generations that we 'find' around us, which enable our livelihood. The natural, genetic, material, physical, social, cultural, intellectual, creative resources; the capital and assets that belong to no one or to humanity collectively, that enable us to become what we can become, live what we can live, access what we can access, accomplish what we can accomplish and evolve as part of an ecosystem. They are the pillars around which the social and economic couplings can be catalyzed, where the corporation can meet society’s needs and where economy can meet ecology.
"The new reality is first sensed by those few people in the system who interface with the outside world, but is essentially invisible to the people on the inside. The difficulty here is that the new reality threatens the order of the whole edifice - there is no sustainable adaptation that doesn't involve giving up key fundamental assumptions of the culture. Because reality does not negotiate, the system faces a transformative challenge.
What happens then? In a perfect world, everyone would immediately change their minds and reorganize to face the challenge. In actuality, most of the members enter a stage of reality denial where their mind filters out inconvenient truths. To a lucid observer, it's only a matter of time before the system collapses - it’s a walking dead. But to insiders, everything's peachy, thank you. Thus no significant rearrangement can be made."
My friend and fellow observer of global patterns, Timothy Rayner, describes the Occupy protests as a “swarm movement”, suggesting that we may be in the midsts of an unprecedented pattern of self-organization that wasn’t possible before the internet. I am inclined to agree with his core thesis and want to suggest that we are observing what complexity researchers call self-organized criticality, defined in the following way:
"A point at which a system changes radically its behavior or structure, for instance, from solid to liquid. In standard critical phenomena, there is a control parameter which an experimenter can vary to obtain this radical change in behavior. In the case of melting, the control parameter is temperature.
Self-organized critical phenomena, by contrast, is exhibited by driven systems which reach a critical state by their intrinsic dynamics, independently of the value of any control parameter. The archetype of a self-organized critical system is a sand pile. Sand is slowly dropped onto a surface, forming a pile. As the pile grows, avalanches occur which carry sand from the top to the bottom of the pile. At least in model systems, the slope of the pile becomes independent of the rate at which the system is driven by dropping sand. This is the (self-organized) critical slope. "
"The IFF World Model is a framework for learning that allows us to engage with the true complexity of our global predicament. It focuses on the key factors in planetary stability and their inevitable interconnections in a living system (often referred to as the Gaian system).
The World Model is particularly powerful when combined with IFF’s Three Horizons framework, and is currently being developed into an interactive World Game."