The IFSR Conversations on Systems Science that took place in April 2018, in the Austrian city of Linz, were the first I participated in. They have proven to be an almost priceless opportunity to converse and work for a week with fellow-systems practitioners and to discuss, define and elaborate solutions for challenges in our societies. We worked on Systems Practice: how can we equip system practitioners with the collective system science skills to observe, understand, and steer complex systems?
How can we use narratives to make our business and our societies’ systems function better and be more viable-sustainable? There is a story, or narrative, for every woman and man, for every politician and for everything. Narratives provide arguments to accept or reject human activity as the major source of climate change, they create heroes or fire up political scandals, they visualise the positive or negative social or environmental impacts of businesses. This article discusses how narratives are important to accomplish collective tasks and challenges, regardless of whether they share fictitious stories or stories about real events.
Systems thinking is a versatile tool for the analysis and design of businesses operating in environments where the outcomes of actions and the results of strategic choice are highly unpredictable. This article shows how system thinking as a tool was used to address a practical question: “What do we have to do, with our stakeholders or all together, to achieve 100% responsible soy products for food, feed and other applications into and inside Europe by 2020?”. This was the leading question of a 4-day expert event realised in 2016, which convened over 30 experts from business, the public sector and civil society to find answers to the leading question.
Dialogue for better societies
How can knowledge and and dialogue contribute to better functioning systems in our societies? This was the leading question I recently delivered the presentation “The Model in the Middle” at Metaphorum 2016. Better functioning systems refer to, for example, industries that develop their business models that produce responsibly, treat workers fairly, and that take a conscious and non-mutilating approach to their environmental and social environments. But they also refer to governments that create better conditions for health, education, poverty reduction, etc. And also to better functioning sales departments or marriages, for that matter.
These are challenging times. Many companies, professionals and workers experience that the world around them is changing faster that it used to be. That clients, markets, technologies change their behaviour in unexpected directions, turning into new phenomena and pushing others — brands that we grew up with, employment conditions we were used to — to oblivion. To cope with the change, to not become obsolete as a business or as a professional, we have to be smarter and more effective in looking ahead. In knowing what new curve to jump on, to see change coming before it hits us.