Archived Episodes


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System Science

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Episode 044 Making Sense Of Human Systems, An Interview With Professor Dave Snowden

In this episode, Angie interviews Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive EdgeDave Snowden. Professor Snowden describes his work with complexity and how it applies to decision-making. He also introduces us to “anthro-complexity”, which is a term he has coined to represent a whole new approach to human systems based on natural science. Professor Snowden says “human systems are fundamentally organic entities”, so they should be studied as entirely different forms of complex systems.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“Human systems are complex ecologies rather than complicated machines, for the last 3 or 4 decades we have been using a mechanical metaphor for what is fundamentally an organic entity.” - Dave Snowden

“Complex Adaptive Systems don’t have causality; they have dispositionality. You can say that the system is disposed to behave in this way but you can’t predict that it will. Most human systems work in that fashion.” - Dave Snowden

“There are huge additional levels of complexity when you deal with human systems, so what we are doing is to combine complex adaptive systems theory with cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy to create a new theory of what systems are about.”  - Dave Snowden

“Art comes before human language in evolution, so humans constantly work at a high level of abstraction and in evolutionary terms this has massive advantage.” - Dave Snowden

“Ritual aligns identity with roles so that forms of behavior are possible.” - Dave Snowden

“If you create boundaries human beings when they cross a boundary know they can behave differently.” - Dave Snowden

“We need real-time feedback systems, which are descriptive not evaluative.” - Dave Snowden

“SenseMaker allows human metadata to be created using high abstraction principles.” - Dave Snowden

“Measure in the present by safe to fail parallel experimentation you don’t manage to future states. Manage in the present.” - Dave Snowden  

 

Resources from this episode:

A Leader's Framework for Decision-Making

Multi-Ontology Sense Making

 

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Episode 040 The Myth Of The Dysfunctional System

In this episode, Angie and Haley ask past guests—Benjamin Taylor, Angela Montgomery, Oleg Konovalov, and Sonja Blignaut—to share their thoughts on a quote by Jeff Lawrence. His quote states, “There is no such thing as a dysfunctional organization, because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it gets.”


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“You have to appreciate why something [a system] is the way it is and how it’s’ learning to do that. And, you have to value what it’s creating and achieving.” - Benjamin Taylor

“If you’re looking at a system and you know what’s wrong, take a deep breath, wait, and see what happens next; see what you learn before you act and I think you might go a lot further.” - Benjamin Taylor

“We can say that an organization is dysfunctional when it works in a way that is not consistent with the goal it is supposed to pursue, so lack of clarity and understanding of the goal could easily produce dysfunctional organizational behavior which means behavior that is not consistent with that goal.” - Angela Montgomery

“What could be perceived as dysfunctional toward a stated goal can actual be extremely functional for a non verbalized one.” - Angela Montgomery

“Many organizations tend to lose their sharply defined goals or directions by rushing into something irrelevant, so wrongly set goals are making them dysfunctional. As a result, they are losing their core functions and abilities. I call this ‘goal perplexity’.” - Oleg Konovalov
 

“[This quote] perfectly describes how stuck we are in a mechanistic metaphor. We describe a system or a culture as being broken or needing fixing, as if it’s a machine.” - Sonja Blignaut

“We tend to think about self organization as just a positive thing, so we talk about self organizing teams in the agile space, for example. Complex systems or human systems are always self organizing, they may just not be organized in a way that we think is the way that it should be. This is something that we see as dysfunction, but it is something that is serving part of that system.” - Sonja Blignaut

 

Resources from this episode:

"Dysfunctional Organization: Definition and Cure" by Angela Montgomery

“Techniques to Match Our Values” by Marvin Weisbord

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Episode 038 A Philosophical Look At Company Culture

In this episode, Haley interviews Benjamin Taylor, a business evolutionary, systems thinker, and avid learner. Benjamin discusses the intended and unintended consequences of systemic leadership, and he describes the philosophical side of company culture, as well as, how leaders can influence company culture.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“Most of my work is really helping people to do transformation or ‘serious change’ in public services.” - Benjamin Taylor

“Most people in this world should be trying to work themselves out of a job.” - Benjamin Taylor

“Once you’ve really explained system thinking, it starts to sound like common sense.” - Benjamin Taylor

“Meaning only ever emerges in context.” - Benjamin Taylor

“You cannot understand a system until you try to change it.” - Kurt Lewin

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.” - Millard Fuller

 

Resources from this episode:

Benjamin Taylor is a Managing Partner at RedQuadrant, Chief Executive at The Public Service Transformation Academy, and a non-executive Director at SCiO. Benjamin is a frequent contributor on model.report, an online forum for system thinkers. He is also a moderator on the Linkedin group System Thinking Network and co-host for the Outliers Inn Podcast.

 

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Episode 035 Using System Science to Improve Community Health

In this episode, Haley interviews Dr. Daniel Taber, a scientist who specializes in food policy and systems research. In his interview, Dr. Taber uses real-world language and examples to explain the complex relationship between system science, science communication, policy change, and public health.   


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“A key part of policy research is understanding how people and organizations adapt. And, of course, that’s a key part of complex systems research – understanding how people adapt to a “shock” in their environment.” - Dr. Daniel Taber

“A lot of science – particularly health science, where I work – is built to reflect an artificial world that’s very simple and unrealistic.” - Dr. Daniel Taber

“Complex systems research is more focused on what we observe in the real world and trying to understand the dynamics that take place, rather than creating this artificial world.” - Dr. Daniel Taber

“I think the key is understanding the systems that we live in, understanding those systems’ goals, and strategically thinking about how we can utilize them better.” - Dr. Daniel Taber

 

Resources from this episode:

System Science & Obesity - Coursera taught by Dr. Dan Taber in collaboration with John Hopkins University

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Episode 025 System Theories, Racism & Human Relationships

In this episode, Haley interviews TK Coleman to discuss how humans allow their conflicting mental models to influence the way they handle controversial topics like racism. TK also shares how understanding context and patterns within human systems ultimately empowers us to actively contribute to human progress.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“The perception of a problem is a problem.” - TK Coleman

"Your identity is larger than your behavior." - TK Coleman

“If human beings were only capable of treating problems that everyone was effected by, nothing productive would ever get done.” - TK Coleman

“[Politics and the left/right dichotomy] cause us to miss out on the essence of what people are saying.” - TK Coleman

“Politics has dominated the discussion on race.” - TK Coleman

“We are not human doings, we are human beings.” -  Neil Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness

“Reality is objective, but meaning is contextual.” - Barbara Hanson, General Systems Theory: Beginning with Wholes

“We have made enormous progress in teaching everyone that racism is bad. Where we seem to have dropped the ball… is in teaching people what racism actually IS.” - Jon Stewart

 

Resources from this episode: 

You can find TK Coleman on TwitterFacebook, and Medium

General Systems Theory by Ludwig Von Bertalanffy

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Episode 024 Discover Your Intercultural Intelligence

In this episode, Angie interviews motivational speaker, author, and leadership coach, Gloria Burgess, to discuss patterns and systems within human history. Gloria explains that because we are truly interconnected systems, how we relate to ourselves and each other matters. We all have the ability to gain “intercultural intelligence” in order to move through the world and systems differently.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"When you allow racial disparity and institutional inequity to affect one part of the country, eventually it's coming back to get everyone." - Tim Wise

"Light comes in at the edges and end of a pattern, so a new pattern can begin" - Gloria Burgess

"The institution of racism, is something we built with power and privilege..if we built it we can unbuild it." - Gloria Burgess

"When we are overwhelmed and confused... we reach for the old maps, the routine responses, what worked in the past...But to navigate life today, we definitely need new maps... The maps we need are in us, but not in only one of us. If we read the currents and signs together, we'll find our way through.” - Margaret Wheatley

 

Resources from this episode:

The Human Library Project

9 Surprising Reasons Why You Should Smile More

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Episode 018 Preparing for Complexity in Emergency Management

In this episode, Stacy speaks with Thomas Appleyard who is the Manager of Planning and Programs with Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. He discusses how complexity theory can be used to plan for crisis and emergency situations by giving real world examples. 


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"A self-organizing system is coordinated, but doesn't have a coordinator." - Thomas Appleyard

"Planning in emergency management is all about connections and relationship building" - Thomas Appleyard

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Episode 016 The New Reputation Economy

We live in a reputation economy, where intangible assets like trust make up 85% of a brand's market value. In this episode, we ask "reputation whisperer" Bonnie Caver of Reputation Lighthouse about how to design a solid ecosystem for your brand's reputation.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"60% of purchasing decisions are based on the company, 40% are based on the actual product or service" - Bonnie Caver

"A company’s brand is an ecosystem co-evolving with it's employees, stakeholders, and customers." - Stacy Hale

7 Dimensions of Reputation:

products & services
citizenship (are you engaged in the community?)
innovation
workplace
governance
leadership (ie thought leadership)
performance

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Episode 014 Wellness is Contagious

Angie & Stacy ask: Where does wellness live? Is it in our minds, our health systems, or is it a complex system of shared responsibilities? In this episode we explore how the spread of information affects our health. How do you know when you've created a culture--and whose responsibility is it to create change? 


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

“There are no side effects, just effects.” - John Sterman

“Like an epidemic, our wellness could also be contagious.” - Angela Cross

“We as individuals do have agency when we begin to see the systems we are a part of and broaden our mental models” - Stacy Hale

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Episode 013 Michele Battle-Fisher: Public Health as a Complex System

Public health policy scholar Michele Battle-Fisher reveals how systems thinking can bring new light to how disease, wellness and the effects of policy change spread through populations. From food deserts to "policy puffins", we learn some new things about the very real impact of chaos in healthcare, why time scales matter in measuring system impact, and why we need systems thinking education for tomorrow's policy-makers. 


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"To be that lone voice is difficult for systems thinkers" - Michele Battle-Fisher

"I strongly believe that the innovation we need will come from bringing complexity and systems thinking into the discussion" - Michele Battle-Fisher

Michele Battle-Fisher is on Twitter & Linkedin

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Episode 012 System Thinkers Share Their Stories

Ever had trouble coming up with a single "right" answer? You're not alone. "Though we may be across the world, we breathe the same air," says public health policy scholar Michele Battle-Fisher. In this episode, interview guests and systems thinkers from our audience tell their stories of thinking outside the textbook, eureka moments, and the radical learning experiences that brought them into the systems thinking community.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been." - Wayne Gretzky

"Our knowledge is a network of experiences, people and ideas." - Stacy Hale

"I think that leaders and innovators that are standing out these days are finding ways to parle their passions their life experiences into professional skills and vice versa and isn’t that how it should be?" - Stacy Hale

"I think the problem that I have with best practices is the word “best”, because it implies that there is no better way to do things, but as we learn and as we apply our outside of work experiences to work in vice versa, we find better ways to do things through the way that we evolve with the systems that we are apart of." - Stacy Hale


"Health is messy, health is complicated, and the elements that pertain to health are interdependent." - Michele Battle Fisher

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Episode 011 Isaac Morehouse on How to Be Your Own Resume

In this episode we interview Isaac Morehouse, founder of Praxis, writer, and podcaster who's obsessed with human freedom, education, and entrepreneurship. Praxis is a one year program where you learn by doing. Participants work alongside founders and CEOs at an amazing company while also completing a rigorous education experience which includes one-on-one coaching, self-guided projects, hard and soft skills training, and more. Isaac talks to us about the explorer mentality, the eureka moment, and shifts in the complex system of higher education.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"The idea that you can achieve expert status in a classroom and then step into the market is silly. I think the dichotomy of working and learning will continue to blur." - Isaac Morehouse


"We believe (at Praxis) that all ideas are networked, so personal transformation leads to organizational transformation." - Isaac Morehouse


"Personal mastery is a little different than being a subject matter expert in one thing. It’s a network of skills, passions and ideas." - Isaac Morehouse

Isaac Morehouse is on Twitter & Linkedin

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Episode 009 "Systems Citizens"

Peter Senge referred to "systems citizenship" as the leadership mandate for this millennium. So how can we all be better systems citizens?   In this episode we ask real systems citizens (practitioners and educators) at Royal Roads University in Canada how studying complexity helps them understand the world and solve real world problems.   What is complexity's "definable, deliverable gift to the world? How can we use it to influence and make impact, and even grow ourselves as people? 


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"The way I look at systems, it is a continuum and remember when we talk about boundaries in systems thinking, I'd like to think that boundaries are set by the discussions that are taking place." - Kassam Habibullah

"For me, it [systems thinking] requires me to be aware about my own assumptions, preconceptions, the way I see the world, the way I perceive the world, my expectations and being really self-aware about those and be intentional about challenging how I look at situations, how I look at systems, how I perceive it, forces me to be open and flexible and looking at different ways to get to a destination." - Kathy Sturgeon

 

 

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Episode 008 Trust the Process

Complexity shouldn't make people anxious--in fact it should make life simpler. With all this talk of emergence and working with uncertainty, it seems like there's an element of "trust the process" at work in putting complex systems theory to work in the workplace. What does that look like? In this casual conversation, Stacy & Angie ask, what does it mean to trust the process? How do you structure your attitude, mental models and workplace for emergence? How can an understanding of life as networks, and an awareness of our own value systems & mental models bring us a sense of personal mastery?


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

Yet every person in the world is dealing with a multiplicity of units and combinations of forces which make up his entire daily life and which create his environment and life circumstances.” - Alice Bailey

"Maybe it's not so much trying to achieve the ultimate certainty that we need to be concerned with, but being responsible with certainty." - Stacy Hale

How do you use big data and yet still take into account the heuristics and passing on knowledge? Angie Cross

"The wisdom that your grandmother shared with you, on the porch with a glass of iced tea is still important." - Stacy Hale

"Even though we're becoming complexity aware and we're understanding the importance of networks in the evolution of our societies, our economies, ourselves, still we’re clinging to our big data to draw reductionist conclusions." - Stacy Hale

"By being aware of our mental models, we can see how everything that happens is filtered through us and we can guide that." - Stacy Hale

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Episode 007 Certainty Merchants

"Our personal relationship with uncertainty is fundamental to being human, yet over the last 30 years we’ve begun outsourcing it to other people. You have a relationship to those big questions." Climate change, inequality, the rising cost of college tuition... all complex problems, but not complicated. Out of touch with the rhythms and interdependencies of our natural environment, we look to statistics and experts to help us make major decisions. Are we missing something? In Part 2 of our interview with Diego Espinosa, we learn from a former money manager about how our addiction to certainty over the last three decades has created a whole industry of specialists who make money using statistics to sell the promise of certainty and security--and it's making us more vulnerable. What happens when we stop listening to the the certainty merchants? Can we leverage our strongest social bonds to regain resilience in an uncertain universe? What can the complex patterns of the natural world teach us about ourselves?


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"This is a very personal request that I'm making of people, to reestablish and re engage with uncertainty in their lives. Think about the fact that the future is uncertain. How do you feel about that? How does it make you feel?" - Diego Espinosa

"I think if we see ourselves as a little bit less special, a little bit more part of nature that we’ll naturally start to think about things in a complex systems way." - Diego Espinosa

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Episode 006 Information, Ants & Inequality

Most of us are unaware of how our actions lead to self-organizing behavior." In this episode we talk with Diego Espinosa, founder of the complexity based Sistema Research, about the way information travels in ant colonies, financial meltdowns, and human social networks--and the things these complex systems all have in common: feedback loops. In a complex world where we are bombarded with false signals about certainty, how can we regain resilience? 


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"Preferential attachment is the tendency for certain nodes within a system that have a lot of connections already to make more connections." - Stacy Hale

"A self organizing system is basically a system in which order emerges from the different pieces following simple rules and interacting with each other and that order is kind not mystical, but kind of magical in a sense." - Diego Espinosa

"The way we wanted to hold on to the certainty was by essentially borrowing money." - Diego Espinosa

"Take back control of your personal relationship with uncertainty." - Diego Espinosa

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Episode 005 Culture & Human Systems at Work

Stacy & Angie imagine the workplace as a complex living system, muse on how information travels through networks, and get meta about culture and change. Cover artwork for this week's episode: "Faberge Fractal" by Tom Beddard, sub.blue, @subblue


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"Complexity is inevitable and I think it's what gives beauty to our greatest natural systems" - Stacy Hale

"By understanding complexity theory we give credence to the idea that small actions can create big change." - Stacy Hale

“Nature is not stagnant, but alive and dynamic” - Rousseau

“All human interaction is one social network.” - Geoffrey West

"Having a system thinking lens allows us to think outside of ourselves and see how someone else's interactions affect us." - Angie Cross

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Episode 004 Complexity & "Flow"

In states of "flow," inspiration and ease come effortlessly and a person does things for the sheer joy of doing them. Flow states allow us to more easily perceive networks of relationships between the elements of our selves and our environment, to handle complexity with grace and ease. What happens in these states? In this episode we explore the idea of the autotelic personality - someone who is more often than not curious, internally motivated, productive and operating with a sense of flow. What would the autotelic workplace look like? What would life be like if we spent more time in flow?


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi one of the authors we follow, talks about autotelic personality, which is a person who has the ability to remain in the flow state for extended periods of time and operate mostly from that." - Stacy Hale

"I think that flow states are the key to living within complexity and maintaining an awareness of it, because it exists naturally in so many situations." - Stacy Hale

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Episode 003 Using Systems Thinking to Resolve Conflict, an interview with Jason Dykstra

In this episode we talk with conflict resolution expert Jason Dykstra about the complexity of conflict: why we're afraid of change, how to shift from a mindset of scarcity to abundance, and how understanding complexity in relationships can help us evolve ourselves and our world. Jason Dykstra is a conflict resolution specialist, international speaker, husband, and father of two. He works with organizations and churches in Canada and the USA assisting them through sticky situations and improving company culture. Jason uses his knowledge of complex systems to help people and organizations find creative solutions to conflict and become “comfortably uncomfortable with approaching the unknown.” Jason believes that personal growth affects the growth and evolution of an organization, and that no matter where you are in a system, if you make even small changes it will automatically cause others to change as well. You can find out more about Jason at jasondyk.com, or on twitter @jasondyk. Subscribe in iTunes


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"I think understanding complexity, or at least understanding how we can approach complexity, is so useful in our everyday lives, because every time we have a conversation, every time we witness an action for example, we have different perspectives that come out of that. And, that’s part of complexity, right? That we witness the same action, that we have the same experience and we walk away with two very different experiences." - Jason Dykstra

"I think people aren’t afraid of change, they’re afraid of the loss that exists within it, and the grieving of those aspects that we lose." - Jason Dykstra

"A lot of the work that I do is helping people shift from that reaction of judgement, into a spirit of curiosity." - Jason Dykstra

 

Resources from this episode:

TedTalk with Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

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Episode 002 The F-Word Failure (And Feedback Loops)

When is screwing up beneficial? What can we learn from failure and its relationship with uncertainty and innovation? In this episode we toss around a few f-words to explore what happens when "noise" is part of the co-evolution of a system.


Show Notes


Quotes from this episode:

"When you want to design a system for adaptability you need to get good at something called Weak Signal Detection and that is at the first sign of something coalescing that's not going to be good, that's going to break the system. Catch it then integrate the feedback sooner rather than later rather than waiting for it to fall apart. You say oh okay, integrate the feedback sooner, so you look for those weak signals." - Stacy Hale 

"So you can start to see where there's coherence and adjust accordingly quicker feedback cycles. I'm just fascinated with kids and how they treat failure and how it relates to their sense of focus, cause they seem to understand and, it's not maybe conscious but, they understand that what they do is completely interrelated with the world around them in some ways. I don't know, or maybe they're just not concerned about it and that's why it works." - Stacy Hale

 

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