Systemic Intelligence – Business Evolution

In our rush to find techno-fixes to our present day problems, we often end up reinforcing the level of consciousness that created those problems in the first place. We apply an ego-dominated, mechanistic worldview to drive change. In this way, we leave the fundamentals unchanged so the problems persist, spreading deeper and wider in their ramifications. As we surf an evolutionary tidal wave into the future, unprecedented shifts are happening on all levels – personally and collectively. Most of our lives have been rocked in ways we just never saw coming.

Our worldview directly shapes our beliefs and, in turn, our beliefs form the foundation of the values upon which we make choices and take action. It defines our society as a whole, the kinds of technologies and systems we create, and how we relate to each other, nature, our organisations, and teams. When we discover that our current worldview is inaccurate or incomplete, relative to our evolving understanding about the nature of reality, we have an opportunity to adjust it and come into alignment with a new, more accurate understanding. 

Some classic examples of this are the collective shift from thinking the Earth was flat to the realisation that it is spherical, and from thinking the Earth is at the centre of the solar system, to the realisation that it is orbiting the Sun along with the other planets. Both of these shifts brought about large-scale changes in the way we view ourselves, the Earth and Sun, and our entire cosmology. When our worldview is inaccurate and/or incomplete, in relation to observable reality, it produces beliefs that are erroneous. This results in the creation of a value system that is out of alignment with the actual principles and dynamics of the natural world.

“A highly developed values system is like a compass.

It serves as a guide to point you in the right direction when you are lost.”

Idowu Koyenikan

Detrimental Value-System Disorder

Today, the predominant worldview driving our society on a global scale is the left-brained perspective. It is clear that this current worldview is not guiding us where we want to go. Due to rapidly emerging global corporate, financial, governmental, media and technology systems, the dangers that this current worldview poses are now imminent and critical. As a global civilisation, we are presently suffering from a detrimental value-system disorder that allows us to condone acts, such as:

  • overt, covert, and structural violence.
  • discrimination.
  • social stratification.
  • inequity in resource distribution.
  • environmental destruction leading to ever-increasing ecocide.

Evidence of the degradation of our environment and social structure is now being quantified by various scientific studies (such as the one referenced in this article that was partially funded by NASA). Our beliefs are informing our values which dictate our actions, and all of this is creating a crisis of epic magnitude. Yet, this progression may be a natural one in the evolution of a society. It has compelled us to broaden our worldview so we can approach problems with systemic intelligence. By observing the dynamics of our systems – globally, locally and individually – we can study how each of the parts interrelates when they come together. When we better understand these relationships, we are presented with insights into why a system functions as it does now, and what we can do to improve it. By raising awareness, unravelling entanglements and working with patterns, energy can be invigorated so systems can move more freely towards their destination.

“The future is a direction, not a destination.”
― Edwin Catmull

Leaders Shaping Our Future

Leadership is central to the reshaping of our current systems. It is leadership that enables us to traverse our own thresholds while helping others traverse theirs. The origin of the word ‘leadership’ is the old European word leith, which means ‘to go forth and cross the threshold’, to let go of old ways and embrace the new. In other words, leadership is about shaping our future while letting go of yesterday’s logic.

The logic of yesterday haunts many of today’s organisations. Its trademark is the old control-and-predict, hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it short-termism.  It’s a mechanistic reductive logic, infecting how we perceive the world and our sense of self within it. Blinded by this logic, we see ourselves as separate, self-absorbed units, struggling for survival in a dog-eat-dog world. This logic projects a worldview now ingrained in our educational systems, managerial mindsets, and methods of leading. So much so that, up until recently, many of us believed it to be ‘just the way things are’.  Why question this logic when, after all, it’s the ‘logic of life’? Or is it? As we awaken to new ways of living and being, more organisations, leaders and coaches are choosing to take a systemic approach to shaping our future.

“Leaders scan the future so it can be free of doubts and fear.

They do so by not living a double standard life in the present.”

― Israelmore Ayivor

Out With the Old and In With the New

Organisations of the past were top-down hierarchic, command-and-controlled, siloed, KPI-obsessed machines. This kind of environment stifles our personal and organisational creativity, adaptiveness, resilience and well-being.  It undermines our ability to effectively operate within a business context that is only set to become more volatile, uncertain and challenging.

Organisations of the future are living, emergent, distributed and decentralised, with locally-attuned teams of people empowered to deal with never-ending transformation – without having to rely on hierarchies of bureaucracy and control. These organisations embrace a living systems logic enabling them to be inherently flexible, adaptable and resilient. Team members seek out opportunities for value-creation within the ‘new normal’ context of unceasing transformation. The mechanistic philosophy of archaic organisations can no longer deliver the social, economic and political outcomes we urgently require and desire to survive on this planet we call home. The system is broken. The old logic no longer works. It is time to redesign.

“In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil itself but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.”

— Peter Drucker

Transformative Systemic Co-creation

As our collective human society becomes more complex, one of the most difficult challenges organisations face today is designing operating models that can be flexible and adaptive in such a volatile business environment. Now is the time to apply lessons from Nature. We must get out of our own way and ‘quieten our human cleverness’. In this way, we can learn from the most adaptive and sustainable system we know – with an operating system with over 3.8 billion years of R&D. Leaders must start thinking from a systemic perspective, one that sees the organisation as an organic being with multiple organs, operating as one. Using systems intelligence, leaders can broaden their worldview and see beyond their own departments. In this way, they can gauge how their work impacts other functions in the organisation – both internally and externally.

Today’s teams want more flexibility and space to create and test new ideas, without fear of being subjugated. Even when ideas are found to be useful for organisational growth, it is imperative that the bureaucratic lethargy doesn’t impede the deployment of new innovations. When we elevate our mindset from a content approach of fixing things to a process approach of unraveling the deeper issues, we can make real strides in progress. To evoke awareness, we must collectively shift our mindset from “I am doing all the thinking” to “let’s co-create the outcomes together.” This process is a transformative, systemic co-creative process. It’s a coaching approach to inspire change and maximise personal and professional potential.

“The main lesson here is that not every problem can be solved

at the level of abstraction where it manifests.”

― Michael T. Nygard

5 Key Principles for the Systemic Co-creative Process

The systemic co-creative change process focuses on partnership with the team in a coaching conversational flow to gain clarity and alignment on organisational outcomes. It encourages participants to think from a systems perspective and look at transformation not as a one-off event but as a continuing process of growth and progression. The never-ceasing pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement is at the heart of the co-creative process. When leaders are able to create a space where teams feel safe to be open, to speak and to create, new innovations and progress are demonstrated.

1. The level of trust determines the level of depth in conversations.

People will raise barriers if they do not trust you. Lack of trust also means it is likely they will provide only superficial answers. Trust in the conversational process is the key to diving deep. Use words that demonstrate a level of empathy and cultural sensitivity. Words must support and uplift your team in a way that demonstrates genuine trust and care.

2. The words of others represent their world.

The words we choose, though often unconscious, show how we give meaning to the things around us. Notice the word choices others use in their conversations with you. Do they often speak in a negative inflection or in a manner that’s self-defeating? The polar opposite could be words that are distant from present reality, so much so that they appear ungrounded. Whatever the words used to express someone’s thoughts, it is important for leaders and coaches to enter the conversation in a know-nothing state. Simply reserve judgment and hold the conversational space for others.

3. Patterns appear in conversations.

As we tune into the conversations around us, we can recognise patterns in behaviour, speech, movements, action and thought processes. Once we recognise a pattern, we can reflect it back to the individual and inquire about it in relation to the outcomes. This evokes curiosity and allows others to gain a deeper awareness.

4. Face the sun and the shadows fall behind.

Most of us like to look to the past for our accomplishments or setbacks. This keeps us stuck facing the shadow, never quite moving forward towards the light. In the co-creative process, we point ourselves toward the sun, in the direction that helps the conversation and team to move forward to their destination. If there was nothing holding you back where would you go? If resources were limitless what possibilities could you think of? 

5. Insights must turn into action.

Often, when we gain an insight, we celebrate and then leave it there. Insights must be translated to action in order to be useful. All else is just more information. How do we apply this insight in a way that is aligned to the overall organisational outcomes? The alignment of actions allows for more focused energy and effort toward the ideal outcome. Set an accountability process to allow for greater commitment to the actions that are going to achieve the desired results.

To promote team effectiveness and performance in the workplace, it is essential that each person’s point of view be taken into consideration, without the expectation of every idea being accepted and run with. The transformative systemic co-creative process inspires commitment and greater accountability. This creates momentum for transformative change.

“Work takes a long time to complete because it sits in queues waiting for stuff to happen. It’s not unusual for wait times to be more than 80% of the total time. Many organisations are blind to the queue problem. They tend to focus on resource efficiency instead of applying systems thinking to improve the efficiency of the whole system, end to end.”
― Dominica Degrandis

Systemic Coaching Develops Systemic Intelligence

We all have systemic intelligence; it is innate and it has always been very useful for our survival. It helps us to understand the groups we belong to, what is required not to be excluded and how to find our place. Systemic Intelligence is probably as old as humanity itself. However, because of all the noise of our modern-age, it seems that our systemic antennas are drowned out. In this way, our capacity to detect the feedback from the systems around us is greatly reduced. Recent studies of social intelligence (Goleman) show clearly that our brains create wireless connections with each other. This is considered to be the neural basis for human empathy.

Systemic constellations are a way of working with issues within human systems. Experience with systemic constellations (Hellinger) shows that, by simply belonging to the system, we have access to information about the elements in the system as well as how they relate to each other.  In an organisational context, systemic intelligence can help leaders better understand the deeper needs of the system. By allowing them to hear the messages present in current challenges, leaders can find ways to move the whole system forward. Systemic coaching with leaders and managers helps them to zoom out to a whole-system view. 

This paradigm of living systems logic (synchronicity rather than separateness, collaboration rather than competition, inter-generational value rather than short-term profiteering) is being embraced across social enterprise, organisational development, team dynamics, leadership methods and corporate cultures. Conscious leadership starts with each of us crossing our own thresholds. We must let go of yesterday’s logic while creating our brightest future. These transformational times demand leaders that deeply embrace the logic of life, and in the process allow us to be more alive, authentic and human.

“We often describe unconscious leaders as reactive. They react from a “story” about the past or an imagined future, and their personality, ego, or mind takes over.”
― Jim Dethmer

3 Levels of Commitment for Conscious Leaders

As conscious leaders, we are rising out of the ashes of what was and lighting the way with our authentic selves. As more of us rise, we collectively demonstrate a timeless logic that harmonises our enterprises with the wisdom of life.

1. The commitment to do our best.

To be dedicated and diligent. To have enthusiasm and empathy. To have integrity and holistic-intelligence (IQ/EQ/SQ – head/heart/gut – somatic/social/soulful), and to have courage and compassion to stand in our truth throughout our relationships and activities.

2. The commitment to show up.

To have the courage to be present, authentic, and open-hearted, fully listening and fully seeing – even in times of conflict and challenge. 

3. The commitment to be in service to others.

In serving life, we transcend our ego-urges (while letting-go of yesterday’s logic) trusting that we supported and nourished by life and the emerging future. Our responsibility as leaders is in helping co-create, nurture and catalyse mental-maps, organisational logic, strategic visions and enterprising initiatives, interventions and conversations, that seed and nurture the regenerative ‘logic of life’ for ourselves, our children and all of humanity.

“We aren’t victims of circumstance, we are co- creators of our own reality. Self-absorbed people may silence you by projecting their undesirable traits onto you. You have power. You don’t have to be a silent sheep. You can roar like a lion. Expression is what the narcissist, sociopath, and the psychopath fear the most when you start to speak for your self. When you start to stand up for your self – you become your greatest version. YOU are worthy. YOU have a choice to be around people, who are nurturing to your being and help you grow.”
― Angie Karan

Co-creating Life's Adventure

Conscious Leadership is nothing more, nor nothing less, that the continual remembering of our essential nature – our humanity. Conscious leaders embody a sense of service, gratitude, humility, and awe for consciously living in this co-creative adventure. As leaders we create domains for those around us to embrace a deeper understanding of life. In this way, our teams become conscious of our participatory role in shaping our collective emerging future.

This is all easier-said-than-done amid a business culture steeped in yesterday’s logic. Our ego-soul dynamic can easily get off kilter in today’s egoic culture. When we are off balance, no matter how dedicated we are to doing a good job, the natural flow of wisdom and grace escapes us. The synchronistic inter-being of our conscious leadership evaporates, leaving nothing but separateness and struggle for our ego-minds to feast upon. Then, our leadership potential dissipates. 

“If you have control over yourself, you have no desire to control others.”
― Miya Yamanouchi

9 Tips to Stop a Downward Spiral

Emotional regulation is the ability to respond in the range of emotions that is socially acceptable. Doing this takes practice and time. How frequently do you find yourself in a downward spiral? How often do you get the feeling that you just can’t pull yourself out of it no matter how hard you try? You have the power to recognise, modify and strengthen your own talents, skills and mindfulness to be able to solve your own challenges and issues. Here are 9 ways to reverse, or even prevent, a downward spiral:

1. Self-awareness. 

Just knowing the different aspects of a downward spiral, and acknowledging you are in one, can help you reframe or label what is happening as something else.

2. Start an open conversation. 

Identify your feelings and find someone with whom you can talk about your emotions during this time. Listen to the words you are using.

3. Gain a wider perspective. 

Take a look at the situation in the third person rather than in the first person. There is a technique from Organisational, Relationship and Systems Coaching (ORSC) called “Coaching the Third Entity.” This technique helps people to view the situation as an entity outside of them. This brings objectivity to a situation that was previously absent. It also helps in regulating the person’s emotions around the situation.

4. Do not hide.

As much as you might want to hide your head in the sand, get out and be around others. This action will remind you that you are not alone.

5. Look to the future. 

Find something positive to look forward to. At times, the expectation of a reward can be even more fulfilling than the actual reward itself.

6. Explore the root of the problem.

Practice Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions broadens awareness to encourage exploring your thoughts and actions. It can help you see that most of your downward spiral originates in how you think about a thing. Over time, using this technique can build the skills and resources necessary to help us catch our downward spiral early on, or prevent it altogether.

7. Manage expectations. 

Manage your own expectations by underpromising and over-delivering. Set clear and realistic goals. Bill Watterson, the author of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, states: “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone’s expectations.”

8. Be present. 

Try a mindfulness and gratitude meditation. This can keep you in the present, prevent you from worrying about what may or may not happen in the future. “Be here now” has become something of a cliché. Still, when it comes to fear and anxiety, the recommendation holds true. If you are worrying, then you are, by definition, living outside of the present moment and, in a sense, even ignoring reality itself.

9. Breathe. 

When all else fails, breathe deeply and often.

“Success comes from the inside out. In order to change what is on the outside, you must first change what is on the inside.”
― Idowu Koyenikan

Whole Systems Transformation

There is a running theme of deep disconnect in modern society. Interventions working to promote sustainability are too often implemented with a mechanistic mindset, focussing on measurement and control while neglecting the internal development necessary for true progress. As a result, the change facilitated by these kinds of initiatives remains incremental rather than transformative. Most of us fail to recognise the broader systems in which we exist, moving through life without any thought as to the materials, systems and people involved in the manufacture/growth/development of the products that we use every day. This disconnect of internal and external worlds is key. Reuniting the head with the heart and the gut will enable us to nurture more sustainable, regenerative cultures – of all sizes.

What is needed is a shift in leadership consciousness from a mechanistic logic to one of living systems, founded in open minds, open hearts and open will. This requires personal growth and reflection, as well as systemic change – change within stimulates change without. As humans, employees and leaders we must begin to look at the world as a series of interrelating parts, systems within other systems, whose dynamics and energy are constantly fluctuating. These relationships are not limited to human constructs, they also exist between humans and nature. With this perspective, it is possible to support organisations to adapt and succeed under ever-changing conditions. 

“Challenge and adversity are meant to help you know who you are.

Storms hit your weakness, but unlock your true strength.”

― Roy T. Bennett

Pure Potential

Value is found in every aspect of a business, in every member of the community and in every existing tension. This forces us to move from a mindset of individual gain towards one of collaboration, collective-intelligence and co-creativity. With a collective purpose, individuals are empowered and motivated to drive innovation and change, regardless of their position in a system or their knowledge of a subject.

What prevents us from fully realising our potential as leaders, change agents and team members, is the same thing preventing us from fully living and fully loving in this world: a flawed logic of how the world works infecting our perspective. We all have the natural capacity to grow and ascend. We are our own jail-makers and our own jail-breakers. As we open up to the deeper logic of life we begin to walk our destined path. Each step is taken with courage, authenticity, and presence. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Our evolution is the revolution.

“Success comes from the inside out. In order to change what is on the outside, you must first change what is on the inside.”
― Idowu Koyenikan

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