I started using the phrase “shared meaning” a couple of years ago to describe the outcome we were focusing on in the organisations we were working with, but I wasn’t prepared for just how quickly the phrase came to be taken up by clients, colleagues and the world at large. It became the subtitle of the book I co-wrote earlier this year, and the more I talk about it, the more I hear it in other people’s conversations. While I ponder how on earth to find time to write another full-length book on the subject, here’s a short summary of what I mean by shared meaning, and why I think the world needs it.
Shared meaning is two things: one is the outcome we are seeking to achieve, and the other is the discipline that seeks to achieve that outcome. The outcome is defined at greater length elsewhere on this blog, but as a quick reminder:
Speaking of the play rebound – scientists can label it, but can’t understand it. And I think you have maybe done a similar incompleteness. ‘Mortality’ isn’t quite right either. On occasions like this, I get etymological on yo ass. Later maybe.
Now what the boffins call a rebound was probably (90%) observed in INDIVIDUAL rats. Free Sturrockesque term for you – a lubound. It’s as good as any of his clever wordmanglings , like ludiddo, ffs.
But what you watched was a GROUP PHENOMENON.
And as I has said before, we don’t have any tools or concepts to talk about that, yet. All we have is parallel, solo and group play. That is stamp collecting, trainspotting, botany, not biology. I ‘m thinking that Maturana will have the answer to this. Its to do with ENACTING a STRUCTURAL COUPLING. Maturana…
Numerous criticisms of medical science have been articulated in recent years. Some critics argue that spurious disease categories are being invented, and existing disease categories expanded, for the aim of profit. Others say that the benefits of most new drugs are minimal and typically exaggerated by clinical research, and that the harms of these drugs are extensive and typically underestimated by clinical research. Still others point to problems with the research methods themselves, arguing that those once seen as gold standards in clinical research – randomised trials and meta-analyses – are in fact malleable and have been bent to serve the interests of industry rather than patients. Here is how the chief editor of The Lancet medical journal summarised these criticisms in 2015:
Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.
These problems arise because of a few structural features of medicine. A prominent one is the profit incentive. The pharmaceutical industry is extremely profitable, and the fantastic financial gains to be made from selling drugs create incentives to engage in some of the practices above. Another prominent feature of medicine is the hope and the expectation of patients that medicine can help them, coupled with the training of physicians to actively intervene, by screening, prescribing, referring or cutting. Another feature is the wildly complex causal basis of many diseases, which hampers the effectiveness of interventions on those diseases – taking antibiotics for a simple bacterial infection is one thing, but taking antidepressants for depression is entirely different. In my bookMedical Nihilism (2018), I brought all these arguments together to conclude that the present state of medicine is indeed in disrepair.
How should medicine face these problems? I coined the term ‘gentle medicine’ to describe a number of changes that medicine could enact, with the hope that they would go some way to mitigating those problems. Some aspects of gentle medicine could involve small modifications to routine practice and present policy, while others could be more revisionary.
Against the capitalist creeds of scarcity and self-interest, a plan for humanity’s shared flourishing is finally coming into view
Mousehold Heath (1810) by John Sell Cotman. Drawing on paper. According to the UK Government, between 1604 and 1914 enclosure Bills enacted by Parliament restricted access to formerly open communal land comprising just over a fifth of the total area of England. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum
I’ve witnessed massive swarms of fireflies grace my garden like never before, drawn to the air cleansed of our arrogant greed, their glow a flashback to the time before us, omen of Earth without us, a reminder we’re never immune to nature. I say this might be the end we’ve always needed to begin again … – From the poem ‘Say This Isn’t the End’ (2020) by Richard Blanco
Abasic truth is once again trying to break through the agony of worldwide pandemic and the enduring inhumanity of racist oppression. Healthcare workers risking their lives for others, mutual aid networks empowering neighbourhoods, farmers delivering food to quarantined customers, mothers forming lines to protect youth from police violence: we’re in this life together. We – young and old, citizen and immigrant – do best when we collaborate. Indeed, our only way to survive is to have each other’s back while safeguarding the resilience and diversity of this planet we call home.
As an insight, it’s not new, or surprising. Anthropologists have long told us that, as a species neither particularly strong nor fast, humans survived because of our unique ability to create and cooperate. ‘All our thriving is mutual’ is how the Indigenous scholar Edgar Villanueva captured the age-old wisdom in his bookDecolonizing Wealth (2018). What is new is the extent to which so many civic and corporate leaders – sometimes entire cultures – have lost sight of our most precious collective quality.
This loss is rooted, in large part, in the tragedy of the private – this notion that moved, in short order, from curious idea to ideology to global economic system. It claimed selfishness, greed and private property as the real seeds of progress. Indeed, the mistaken concept many readers have likely heard under the name ‘the tragedy of the commons’ has its origins in the sophomoric assumption that private interest is the naturally predominant guide for human action. The real tragedy, however, lies not in the commons, but in the private. It is the private that produces violence, destruction and exclusion. Standing on its head thousands of years of cultural wisdom, the idea of the private variously separates, exploits and exhausts those living under its cold operating logic.
Book Announcement: Cynefin® – weaving sense-making into the fabric of our world
Music: Battle Of The Creek by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com Video clips: Peter Fowler, Peggy Johnson, Kelly Lacy, Treedo Footage, Why Steve and Vimeo from Pexels
So yes, the rumor is true: UNDP recently set up a Strategic Innovation Unit. And yes, we know what you are thinking…
We explained part of the rationale behind this new chapter in our innovation journey in a previous post. The emergence of the need for a renewed focus on strategy at this particular juncture is perhaps better understood (with another nod to Yuen Yuen Ang!) as a result of co-evolution. In the last couple of years, UNDP launched a number of bold initiatives in the innovation space, such as the Accelerator Labs (which recently grew to 90 globally) and the Digital Strategy, aimed at “splicing digital into UNDP’s corporate DNA”. And this on top of a number of ongoing activities at the corporate and the regional level: from digital finance toNextGenGov Asia, from the “deep demonstrations” to Boost (just to name a few).
More importantly, the external context has also changed significantly. The COVID crisis has deepened pre-existing structural inequalities, bringing skeptics to question whether the SDGs framework is still relevant or indeed achievable. Against this backdrop, being able to demonstrate that a different mode of innovation is possible — a mode that is transformational, can dramatically change trajectories and embraces uncertainty — has acquired a new sense of urgency.
The shifting ground around us, a different type of demand from our counterparts and the availability of new organisational assets has gradually shifted the needle for UNDP, creating a new awareness of the potential of innovation for development but also generating important questions as to how those assets can be leveraged in a more systematic, transformational way. After all, as Rowan Conway reminded us, fast is not a direction.
Perhaps one way of visualizing the current organizational zeitgeist is through the Steinberg’s funnel
Let’s start with a story. In rural India, there are cobras…
For many years, India was under British colonial rule. One day, a British fellow thought of an idea for reducing the number of cobras. He created a bounty system whereby folks were paid for each dead cobra they brought in. This worked for a while, but eventually people figured out that it was much easier (and more profitable) to bring in dead cobras they had bred and raised rather than trying to find them in the wild (and who wants to do that—it’s dangerous!). The British authorities caught on and ended the bounty program; this was not what they intended. So what did the cobra breeders do with the leftover cobras? They let them loose in the wild of course, which led to there being more cobras than when the bounty system had begun.
Thus was born the phrase “The Cobra Effect,” or the law of unintended consequences: an attempt to solve a problem that in the process actually makes it worse.
There can be unintended consequences that result from our land use and infrastructure decisions. These decisions are generally intended to make our communities better, but they can actually make our communities worse off if we haven’t considered the longterm impacts.
Developers may pay to install public infrastructure, but local governments inherit the maintenance of it. Think about all of the pavement, sidewalks, water lines, sewer lines, parks…the list goes on.
The same goes for projects funded by the federal government: the federal government…
IFSR Conversations: European Bauhaus/Systems Design 30. Oct. 2020, 16:00 to 17:00 CET
Pamela Buckle (IFSR) and Louis Klein (IFSR) are going to host the kick-off of our regular IFSR Conversations on Zoom. They picked Von der Leyen’s call to the European Bauhaus as the main topic for this first gathering. Von der Leyen links systemic change, sciences and design as the promising lead to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene in the 21st century. At the IFSR we believe that the systems community has more to offer than the community itself knows. So, let’s find out about our collective potential and the aesthetics of systemic solutions.
IFSR Conversations at the WCSA conference 4. Nov. 2020, 18:30 to 19:30 CET
The World Complexity Science Academy (WCSA) is hosting an IFSR Conversation on The strategic Value of the Complex System Approach to Global Governance and Policy Modeling.
The WCSA had to go online with its annual conference which was initially scheduled to be on the island of Ischia in the south of Italy. More information about the entire conference, which is free of charge for the systems community, you find at the WCSA website and you may request the current programme at the WCSA conference office.
project maplesyncan open-source initiative that requires feedbackMenu
The “kernel” of the idea is project maplesync: an inclusive, open-source distributed economic decision making system for Canada. (plain language summary to follow below)
Maplesync is a proposal for open-source national level accounting and strategic indicative planning systems that anyone can contribute to. The idea is that by providing better baseline information to entrepreneurs (and more) we can build capacity for greater prosperity in terms of economic, social and environmental wealth.
Indicative planning simply means to draw attention to strategic options via collective intelligence design techniques.
Access the (under development) Github and Wiki by clicking on these links.
plain language summary: (shareable Google Doc link available on main page)
MAPLESYNC: a collaborative strategic planning process for Canada
How might we share strategic information to improve economic, social and environmental prosperity?
We have the opportunity to participate in economic decisions every day, including selling, renting and, mostly, buying products and services. From the micro level, these decisions contribute to the collective use of knowledge in society. Our decisions shape other decisions, from the bottom up, for the rest of the economy.
But what about the big, macro decisions? The strategies and plans? People aren’t normally involved, on a daily basis, in the strategic planning of companies or governments – let alone of an entire country.
But what if they were involved, in real time?
What if regular people on a mass scale had the chance to collectively indicate, or point attention to, opportunities and directions which a national economy could rally around and make happen?
This is exactly what maplesync intends to make possible as a grand project.
Overview: 5 W’s:
What is maplesync?
Project maplesync is a blueprint to lay the foundations for systems that answer the above “how might we” question: How might we share strategic information to improve economic, social and environmental prosperity?
Maplesync lays out the possibilities of crowdsourcing strategic plans, plans that provide a roadmap into the future, at the national level. These strategic plans will point attention to areas of economic concern and generate ideas for addressing these concerns.
In other words, a large group of Canadians could collaborate online to co-create a plan that helps meet the needs of Canadians by identifying opportunities, collecting and filtering ideas. This gives participants the ability to pool their collective intelligence to co-create plans from a great variety of different vantage points.
These plans would not be binding, but will act as more than a petition as they lay stepwise, integrative directions that concentrate attention and action. Individuals, entrepreneurs, innovators, companies, nonprofits and governments would be able to coordinate action around these plans as the benchmark.
Together with Thompson Organisations in Australia,we’re running some training on Patterns of Strategy online, starting in November 2020.
Normally we’d deliver this face to face, but for obvious reasons we’re doing it remotely using our Strategy War Room. You can sign up for a 4 session introduction to the approach (equivalent to one full day in total) or for a 12 session certification course (three full day equivalents in total) which will prepare you to develop strategy using the Patterns of Strategy approach for your organisation or clients.
The purpose of strategy is to build advantage for the organisation to ensure its success and survival, so that it can survive and thrive in a changing business environment. The challenge today is that the rate of change in the environment is so much faster than in previous decades – how do you develop and execute strategy at a higher tempo, to avoid your strategy being obsolete by the time you are implementing it? That means you need different ways to develop strategy. Those need to handle the turbulent trading conditions you encounter, and ideally make it possible for you to exploit them as well. Patterns of Strategyis effective in the challenging conditions which are so common today, as it helps you develop strategy which will enable your organisation to survive and be successful.
Patterns of Strategyis a revolutionary approach to strategy development that reveals and utilises the hidden drivers of emergent strategy. We develop strategy as a series of manoeuvres between all the actors, from competitors to partners, from the regulator to the marketplace. It gives you a framework and new vocabulary to understand the underlying strategic forces in your environment, so that you can tap into them and use them to your advantage. It’s effective and simple to use, yet extremely powerful and very fast.
Who is it for?
Anyone who needs to develop strategy, whether a fulltime strategist, a manager of a unit or a consultant. The approach works equally well for small or large organisations, or units within an organisation, and has been used successfully across all sectors and types of organisation, including public and third sector organisations. You can see more about the approach here.
What do you get?
The training mixes input with lots of practice. You’ll be working in a group to apply the approach to a live strategic issue you are facing. Allowing for confidentiality, group work will allow you to support others on their strategic issue, and of course there’s valuable learning for you in being exposed to a range of strategic situations besides your own. The training may also include case material. On the one-day course you’ll also get a copy of the Patterns of Strategy book which describes the theory and the practice and gives you 80 proven strategies covering a wide variety of strategic situations.
On the introduction course (four 2 hour sessions) you’ll:
master the six elements in Patterns of Strategy which drive the dynamics of your position in your ecosystem or market
be attuned to how your strategic situation is likely to evolve, if you don’t intervene strategically
use the Patterns of Strategy to develop strategy
accelerate the speed at which you can develop strategy
you’ll leave having learnt the approach and having made substantial progress on your own strategic situation.
If you sign up for the full (three-day equivalent) certification workshop, we’ll go into the theory and practice in more depth and you’ll:
explore a range of strategic options, not just one, and learn how to assess them using different criteria, to grasp which gives you the best advantage
understand how to anticipate and counter moves by competitors
understand how to ensure your organisation has the capabilities to formulate and execute strategy
learn how to move from formulation to execution
use the 80 Patternsto accelerate your strategy development and extend your strategic repertoire
understand how to use your position in your ecosystem to your advantage
develop strategies for a range of strategic contexts including strategies for growth, defence, competition & collaboration
So you’ll leave the sessions with a much deeper understanding of the Patterns of Strategy approach, and a really well worked through strategy for the strategic context and issue which you brought to the sessions.
At the end of the full certification workshop you will get:
Certification as a Patterns of Strategy practitioner, assuming that we can see you handing strategic situations adroitly
Presentations you can use with clients or your organisation
Beta version of Patterns of Strategy software
We’ll also make the full Patterns of Strategy toolkit available.
In this second of a two-part essay (see Starr (2020a1) for part 1) a systems-informed discussion of learning leadership is presented. I review the components of a system which consist of inputs, transformation, outputs, feedback and contextual environment, and argue that from a system perspective learning leadership emerges from interactions among elements particularly contextual variables. The concept of context is expanded to include the theory of learning applied, i.e., pedagogy, andragogy or heutagogy, and the communication channel used, i.e., face-to-face, virtual/online, or hybrid/blended. Learning leadership is also influenced by environmental context variables such as threats to health and safety, financial and economic losses, political polarization, and cultural characteristics. The paper concludes with examples of how a systems approach can be used to select leadership content followed with examples for prototypical undergraduate, master and doctoral leadership courses.
Starr, PhD, Larry M., “Leadership, Contexts, and Learning – Part 2. Theories of Learning, Channels, and Curricula” (2020). School of Continuing and Professional Studies Faculty Papers. Paper 7. https://jdc.jefferson.edu/jscpsfp/7