Living Systems Change Theory

In the last few months, I have been asked by several people (often graduate students) to describe a change theory from a living systems perspective. Some of these have been people trying to reach Margaret Wheatley, who has been on retreat. So, I’ve offered a bit of voice from years of working with her, our friendship, and my applied use with several colleagues. And it has been helpful for me to further clarify some of the core working beliefs. Some of that is below.

1. Asking to summarize the change theory is actually a big question. But there are a few simple cookies that create starting places for me.

2. The basic premise is that organizations are living systems. And further, that living systems have a capacity to organize themselves, experience order for free. Thus, an important query becomes, “If we learned more about how life organizes itself, how would that change the way we organize human endeavor?”

3. Three domains become important to give attention too: 1) the self (core identity or values) around which organization takes place, 2) the importance of relationships (co-creative and learning, through which practices are expressed) in a system that makes sense of what is happening, known and unknown, and 3) free flowing information (through the relationships in regards to the ‘self’). Much to explore in all of this.

4. As resource, I’m pointing people to one that I use a lot, The Engaging Community Kit at Berkana. It includes 12 principles for creating healthy community and organizations, as well as important questions from each of those principles around which people interact.

5. As further resource, another that I use is a dvd on fractals. Fractals, patterns in nature, are complex and intricate, yet they are created through the reiteration of a simple pattern. In organizations, the patterns I see are often values or practices. The design of the organization or team is then the complexity that emerges from those simple values.

5. As invitation to further learning and a deep dive, I’m inviting people to The Art of Hosting, a 3-4 day conference learning environment.

7. As further invitation, the stuff of phone calls — to begin to offer a scaled and comprehensive process of working with individuals, teams, creating a core team for a movement, applied working groups and capacity building, and then a learning retreat.

Glad to be part of more and more people working in this way. Together, I believe, we are changing the leadership culture. Or, as Meg says, telling and remembering the new story of leadership.

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