Systems Thinking: Reflections on the Pegasus 2010 conference

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(If you are wondering what systems thinking is, click here for an explanation.)

Well, the conference is over, and I am trying to identify what I have learned and make some sense of it for myself.

The conference format included some innovative ‘deep dives’ and ‘integration’ sessions – so this task of identifying learning should be easier than it seems to be proving to be.

Anyway, here goes…

1) Peter Senge spoke about what seems possible today that was not possible 20 years ago when the first Pegasus conference was held. The answer would seem to be that the fruition of systems thinking over a substantial period of time is yielding fabulous fruit in some places – schools, women’s education in Uganda and specific social and business contexts all over the world. What seems possible as a result? The possibility of choosing our new future – so the answer would be transformation on a massive scale.

2) There is a trend for systems thinking practitioners to be moving from working within business organisations to working within education. There were approx 40 educators from the Netherlands (I think) present at the conference and several key note speakers (Daniel H. Kim, Andy Hargreaves and Peter Senge) are spending large amounts of time in this sphere. It makes sense of course, as systems thinkers they have moved upstream to work at the place of greatest influence – where their work will be amplified the most.

3) Despite a focus at the conference to discern what we, as systems thinking practitioners, are learning that is new – I didn’t see a lot of evidence of really new things emerging. So my interpretation of this observation, is that the field is maturing and consolidating – people are doing great work with some established ideas – and we are becoming clearer about how to lead change applying this tool/way of thinking.

4) That does not mean I didn’t pick up some new and useful ideas. I did … and I refer you to the work of:
Daniel Kim: The pattern of leaders and managers being required within an organisation is a recurring and ongoing pattern. An organisation is started by pioneering leaders; consolidated by managers; reinvigorated by another generation of leaders, etc. Daniel refers to this next generation of leaders as 3G Leadership which needs to overcome the fragmentation that has resulted from the success of the previous era. The link will take you through to a YouTube video, which you could pick up at the 1 minute and 27 seconds mark.

Dayna Baumeister: Detailing and exploring key principles of living systems for the purpose of biomimicry

Andy Hargreaves: Sharing recent research into organisations of all sorts, all over the world, that achieve beyond expectations. (You will be pleased to know that Australia is represented by Cricket Australia.) His research pointed to more thoughts about the kind of leadership that produces organisations that do perform beyond expectations.

Robert Fritz: Thoughts about how leadership, from a systemic perspective, has to be be capable of shifting the structural dynamics of an organisation (no, he doesn’t mean another organisational restructure) if any change is to be anything more than superficial.

I am sure there is more I have learned, but I will let this marinate for a little while longer.