Systems thinking offers a key to lasting business transformation

When you hear the phrase “systems thinking”, do your thoughts quickly jump to technology? Maybe it moves you to think about some deeply intractable social problem? Cue the inevitable tweets about how “the system is completely broken”, or “there’s little point in changing our behaviour, it’s the system that needs to change”.

ESG, sustainability, purpose, CSR, net zero goals – these are all early pages in a new chapter about how business reconnects with the world around it

Overwhelming complexity is the new normal in business

A central theme of Wading Herons mission is helping business leaders think differently about their organisation. For example, shifting from viewing it as a complex mechanical system that must be controlled, to viewing it as a collection of interconnected human systems that serve a larger purpose.

Big businesses face a future of constantly expanding complexity. Demands on leaders to understand and limit negative social and environmental impacts are unprecedented. ESG, sustainability, purpose, CSR, net zero goals – these are all early pages in a new chapter about how business reconnects with the world around it.

Nature offers many lessons about living with complexity if we look for them

Leaders need new approaches and better tools. They need help to embrace complexity and build resilient, thriving businesses that benefit the planet rather than damaging it. To explore this idea, we recently hosted a conversation with some big thinking friends of ours. It began with a question: “What does it mean to think at a systems level, and can you really change a system?”.

You can enjoy the short or full length videos of this insightful conversation here.

Systems thinking offers a fundamentally different way of viewing organisations

Systems thinking is not an especially emotive term, but it offers very warm, human and enduring insights into a possible future for a truly sustainable business. In addition, it offers language, perspectives and a set of approaches that can fundamentally change the way you think about your business.

Leaders need help to embrace complexity and build resilient, thriving businesses that benefit the planet rather than damaging it.

Here are some systems thinking insights you might find helpful for your organisation:

  • Look beyond symptoms to address real root causes. Enduring, meaningful solutions can emerge when you look beneath the surface to address underlying patterns, systemic structures or better still, beliefs and mindsets
  • Place real value on the informal networks, social interactions and unplanned learning events that occur in your organisation all the time. These typically go unrecognised because they are hard to measure, but they are where most creativity and real innovation begins.
  • Complex systems are unpredictable, so planning and executing for large systemic change is ineffective. Embrace complexity via a clear purpose and by encouraging decentralised experimentation. Then amplify what works.
  • Let yourself get uncomfortable, be open to letting go of old redundant ways, and practice genuine empathy to listen for different perspectives. Most importantly, create real space to allow new possibilities to emerge!

Contact us to learn more about how systems thinking can help your organisation.