Scott Spann and James Ritchie-Dunham, "The Promise of Systems Thinking for Shifting Fundamental Dynamics" (4 pp.)
This article from the Systems Thinker details how understanding the fundamental dynamics of complex problems requires seeing the problem from two perspectives: systems thinking/system dynamics and group dynamics/collaboration building; and from within those perspectives, building the six capacitiesleadership, trust, innovation, execution, scalability, and sustainabilitythat are needed to solve the problem.
R Scott Spann, RE-AMP - "Resolving Complex, Multi-Stakeholder Problems" (11 pp.)
In 2004, Jennie Curtis and Rick Reed of the Garfield Foundation set out with a group of 24 utilities, regulators, foundations and NGO's to explore "increasing the amount of wind energy in the Midwest". By the time they were done, they had agreed on the need to "reduce GHG emissions by 80% by 2030" - a revolutionary goal. Since then, RE-AMP has grown from 24 individual organizations to a collaboration of 120+, endorsed by 8 Midwestern governors, successfully passing a suite of climate related legislation in the Midwest - becoming one of the most successful examples of how to approach the kinds of complex, multi-stakeholder problems emerging today.
We've all been confronted by situations where it seemed impossible to get diverse stakeholders with conflicting perspectives, contradictory goals, and widely differing measures of success to come to not only a shared perspective of their reality, but also shared understanding and agreement about how to work together to achieve a common global goal that advances both the needs of each individual and the collective as a whole. This whitepaper shows us how multi-stakeholder collaboration is possible using a breakthrough methodology employing the rigor of system dynamics/thinking and a deep understanding of human and group dynamics.
Donella Meadows, "Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System" http://www.sustainabilityinstitute.org/pubs/Leverage_Points.pdf
This groundbreaking article outlines the 12 most effective places or leverage points within a system to intervene where, according to Donella Meadows, a "small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything."
Barry Richmond, "Systems Thinking: Critical Thinking Skills for the 1990s and Beyond" http://www.clexchange.org/ftp/documents/whyk12sd/Y_1993-05STCriticalThinking.pdf
This article focuses on the seven critical systems-thinking skills that result in what Barry Richmond calls, "good systems thinking."
So many pivotal books have informed our work and our lives, but knowing that your time is precious, we'll limit ourselves to only five of the best. And if you only have time for one, you must read Freedom and Accountability at Work. It will change your perspective on life and work. And, of course, we had to include one article, written by our founder and chief strategist.
Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block, Freedom and Accountability at Work
In this profound book, Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block offer a new perspective on how to reclaim our freedom by being accountable for the choices we make, which brings true meaning and power to our work and our lives.
Denying our freedom creates conformity, disregard and disrespect for our individual differences, and empowers controlling, top-down organizations and societies. When we abdicate our freedom, we become accountable for the impersonal and fragmented world around us. And by denying that accountability we disempower ourselves, and make ourselves victims of something we have helped to create.
Reclaiming our freedom means understanding two realities: that we always have alternatives and the unavoidability that we must choose. Within these limits, we have absolute freedom: we can expand what's possible by recognizing all alternatives, not just the ones we see through a lens of self pity or wishful thinking, and can create a life that supports the pursuit of meaning and purpose.
With freedom comes accountability-recognizing that we are indeed responsible, most of all to ourselves, for the choices we make.
Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes
The title of this book alone is almost worth the cover price. It's a compelling book confronting us with our increasing passivity, our tendency to look to others for the answer, and our propensity to blame them when it goes wrong. When we ask "how," we are really using it as a defense against or avoidance of a clear decision and commitment to action. What we really should be saying is "yes" to doing what needed. Peter Block presents us with the possibility of a life where we choose personal accountability, where we demand more meaningful purpose from our work, and where we're motivated by the things that truly matter in life: intimacy, depth, and doing the right (not the easy) thing.
This book speaks to those of us who are committed to meaningful transformation of our organizations and communities. He inspires us to say, "yes" to our humanity, our ability and what we know to be true.
Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
In this groundbreaking book, Peter Senge details his model of a learning organization, which he defines as "an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future. This learning requires the mastery of five disciplines: building a shared vision, understanding our mental models, team learning, personal mastery, and systems thinking.
We find two things most compelling and most relevant to our work. First is his concept that systems thinking needs all the disciplines to realize its potential. Building a shared vision fosters commitment to the long-term. Mental models focus on how we each perceive the world. Team learning develops the ability to look for the bigger picture that lies beyond individual perspectives. And personal mastery fosters the personal motivation to continually learn how our actions affect our world. Secondly, without personal mastery - i.e., without our individual and collective willingness to be changed by the very things we seek to change - no true learning happens - and no organization learns.
When integrated, systems thinking provides a new way of seeing ourselves and the world that, through the practice of personal mastery, causes a shift of mind --from seeing ourselves as separate from the world to connected to our world, from seeing problems as caused by someone or something "out there" to seeing how our own actions create the problems we experience. A learning organization is a place where people are continually discovering how they create their reality. And how they can change it.
NLP Comprehensive, editors Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner, NLP: The New Technology of Achievement
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a revolutionary approach to human communication and development based on the discovery that by changing how we think, we can transform what we think.
NLP has four main tenets: establishing relationship, setting goals based on knowing what you want, using your senses for feedback, and flexibility of behavior, where many choices of action are open to us. It shows us that if we do what we always did, we get what we always got. The key is to keep changing what we do until we get what we want.
This effective guidebook also teaches us to take a systems view of things - to look at the different elements in a situation as parts of a system which functions for good or ill. This system involves people and a sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, actions and interactions. Once we understand how the system is working - for or against us - we have a means of structuring things differently in the future.
Yvonne M. Agazarian, Systems Centered Therapy for Groups
This seminal book introduces the author's theory of living human systems and explicitly maps a structured model applicable to both treatment groups as well as groups within organizations and communities. Shifting the central focus of the group from self to system, the book offers new methods, such as functional subgrouping and boundarying, showing how active intervention in the group process can direct the energy of members toward their goals. The SCT approach both frees groups from unproductive patterns and helps members achieve a more authentic, integrated experience of the here-and-now - i.e., of reality.
WebsitesThere are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of websites that have provided vital information to us and from which we have learned many valuable lessons. We share just a few that will inform, enhance and possibly even change your perspective. And you may even learn a thing or two - we certainly did...
http://www.jimcollins.com/ --author of the insightful books, Built to Last and Good to Great, and the hands-down best articulation of organizational vision, mission, values, and goals ever
http://www.instituteforstrategicclarity.org/ --in particular, see Jim Ritchie- Dunham's informative book, Managing from Clarity: Identifying, Aligning, and Leveraging Strategic Resources
http://www.systems-thinking.org/ --in particular, see Gene Bellinger's page on "the Way of Systems," which masterfully explains how system archetypes interrelate
http://www.pegasuscom.com/ --an excellent resource for learning and mastering systems thinking and system dynamics