Posted in Learning Edge

June 14, 2010

Systems Thinking & Leverage Points

Systems Theory

|theory.isthereason.com|http://theory.isthereason.com/?p=1764|

One of our consultants just wrote the following e-mail to our team here at IISC. I thought it would be a good idea to put the question out to our readers – any thoughts?

Hello Colleagues,

I am wondering if you might have ideas about two things:

1. How to introduce systems thinking to a group – simply…

2. What questions you might ask when trying to identify leverage points in a planning process?

Context: The group has gathered a lot of anecdotal information, the intention is to gather additional information on best practices and research, however, we are not there yet. So how to begin to identify levers when we don’t have the benefit of having all data?

Thanks for any thoughts you might have on this!

3 Comments
June 14, 2010

Systems Thinking & Leverage Points

Systems Theory

|theory.isthereason.com|http://theory.isthereason.com/?p=1764|

One of our consultants just wrote the following e-mail to our team here at IISC. I thought it would be a good idea to put the question out to our readers – any thoughts?

Hello Colleagues,

I am wondering if you might have ideas about two things:

1. How to introduce systems thinking to a group – simply…

2. What questions you might ask when trying to identify leverage points in a planning process?

Context: The group has gathered a lot of anecdotal information, the intention is to gather additional information on best practices and research, however, we are not there yet. So how to begin to identify levers when we don’t have the benefit of having all data?

Thanks for any thoughts you might have on this!

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June 4, 2010

A Picture's Worth

“If you bring the appropriate people together in
constructive ways with good information, they will create
authentic visions and strategies to address the shared
concerns of their organization or community.”

—David Chrislip

Clearly I am no Chris Jordan.  Thankfully, along with the talented and committed Mr. Jordan, there is a group of conscientious elementary school students in Grafton, VT who have taken it upon themselves to create the kind of display captured in my home movie above that conveys in a visceral what our reliance upon plastic bags means in this country.  The students strung together 2,662 bags, enough to ring two large fields.  This is the number of bags that Americans are calculated to dispose of each second.

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June 4, 2010

A Picture’s Worth

“If you bring the appropriate people together in
constructive ways with good information, they will create
authentic visions and strategies to address the shared
concerns of their organization or community.”

—David Chrislip

Clearly I am no Chris Jordan.  Thankfully, along with the talented and committed Mr. Jordan, there is a group of conscientious elementary school students in Grafton, VT who have taken it upon themselves to create the kind of display captured in my home movie above that conveys in a visceral what our reliance upon plastic bags means in this country.  The students strung together 2,662 bags, enough to ring two large fields.  This is the number of bags that Americans are calculated to dispose of each second.

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May 27, 2010

Design Comes Back Around

design

|Photo by Kevin Krejci|http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinkrejci/4217559275|

“Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something the world didn’t know it was missing.”

-Paola Antonelli

The other day I was clearing out some file drawers at the office in advanced preparation for our impending move into Boston this summer, when I came across a 17 year old paper written by Interaction Associates founder David Straus.  This paper’s date times with the founding year of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and speaks to the longer historical roots of the Interaction methods that IISC and IA share.  As I read the paper, what struck me most was David’s very early recognition of the interconnections between design, thinking, and cognition.

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May 20, 2010

Welcome to the GeoDome

earth rise

|Photo by woodleywonderworks|http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/2223340202|

Last Thursday my IA colleagues Ashley Welch and Andy Atkins and I teamed up with David McConville of The Elumenati and Ned Gardiner of  NOAA to take a group of cross-sectoral leaders and thinkers on a unique journey.  This trip included a visit to the outer edges of our universe, passing through our solar system, galaxy, and neighboring galactic bodies.   Then, out of breath, we zoomed back in to take a new look at our planet Earth through the lens and visualized overlay of data about our terrestrial home – warming trends, population density, biodiversity and traffic patterns.  Welcome to the GeoDome!

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March 23, 2010

World Café for the US Senate

capitol

|Photo by Kevin Dooley|http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/4046734044/|

If you have been paying any attention to the national political scene, you know that in these days of no compromise everything seems to balance on the mathematics of the US Senate.  Given the latest equation, it was no small deal to learn that Senator Evan Bayh will not be running for re-election.  About a month ago he wrote a New York Times opinion piece that has been on my mind since then – Why I’m Leaving the Senate.

The piece is worth reading in full, but here is the part that inspired this post:

Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators. More interaction in a non-adversarial atmosphere would help…  It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or an attack on the nation to create honest dialogue in the Senate. Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators?

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March 5, 2010

Design Thinking for Social Change

In a recent conversation with professors and students at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Design Management program, I was asked to share what we at IISC mean when we use the phrase  “design thinking” in social change initiatives. Talking with vocational designers  about designing for  social change was a very different conversation from conversations with change agents and activists on the same topic.  I subsequently came across this insightful blog entry by interaction designer Dan Saffer, “Thinking about Design Thinking”, and although he does not apply a social change agenda to his thinking here, he helps lay out distinctive features of  what designers mean by the term “design thinking” as follows (we can apply the social change lens on our own): Read More

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February 18, 2010

Accentuate the Positivity, Take 2

Positive

|Photo by Reenie-Just Reenie|www.flickr.com/photos/flickrchickr/2589059730|

In a previous post I referenced the work of Marcial Losada, which indicates that elevated group performance is associated in part with a high degree of “positivity.”   Specifically, groups that excel in terms of innovation and productivity tend to be those where there is at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.  The importance of this ratio has been further highlighted by some other findings and experiences I have had working with community-based activists.

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February 9, 2010

Happiness Matters

smiley

|Photo by Portable Church|http://www.flickr.com/photos/portablechurch/3789838110/|

It sounds simple, but I increasingly find the idea that “happiness matters” an important principle to remember.  Understanding that happiness matters gives us a great lens with which to evaluate our efforts.  As I go about the work of social transformation – am I happy?  Are the people I work with happy?  I hope it’s obvious that I’m not equating happiness with the cheap thrills that are abundantly available to us in this age of hyper-capitalism.  I’m talking about the happiness that is defined by a sustainable sense of contentment.

I am talking about being happy even as we engage the often challenging work of social transformation in a world that desperately needs it.  I often say to activists that miserable faces of martyred frustration often are, in and of themselves, the best argument against being in movement with those that want a better world.  I contrast this experience to the abundance of song and dance that defined the struggle to put an end to South African Apartheid.

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February 2, 2010

From Complication to Complexity

If you don’t have four minutes, make them!  Here is one of the simplest explanations of the Cynefin framework and it is one of the most useful ways to understand the shift that we must make in the social sector.  I start most of my client work by arguing that the problem we are facing in the sector is that our system has been developed to address complex problems as if they were complicated.  For example, our urban public schools are trying to teach many kids who might be facing hunger, trauma, violence, lack of documentation and a myriad other social ills, but we are spending our time arguing about curricula and standardized tests.

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