We have shared over 100 episodes on the Human Current podcast and have explored the very essence of complex systems throughout many different conversations. We continue to learn from others about interdependencies, patterns, relationships, emergence, self-organization, feedback loops, and many more trademarks of complex adaptive systems. All of these concepts have helped us better understand the inner workings of our reality. They are packed with meaning and tangible understanding. Yet, there is another concept that continues to reveal itself to us time and time again, which is harder to grasp with the mind: wholeness. Wholeness is the very essence of what it means to be a living system.
At first thought, it seems like a straightforward term that you can wrap your head around without having to sit with it for very long. When you do sit with it for a while however, you realize it’s loaded with mystical complexity.
Peter Senge said, “systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.”
Wholeness is all around us. We can use systems thinking and complexity thinking to see it and to tap into it, but we are learning that something more is needed, something beyond knowledge or reason, in order to fully appreciate what wholeness really means.
Here are a few quotes to help you grasp wholeness with your mind (and maybe a few insights for how else we might seek wholeness):
It’s no secret that I love my work as a podcast co-host and an organizational change consultant. As a co-host of The HumanCurrent, there are two questions that I am frequently asked: how do we (my co-host and I) practice what we talk about in our podcast and how do we live out our Twitter handle @Letsworkhappy. I love these questions so much that I’ve written this blog to share some of our practices.
My hope is that everyone can experience happiness at work and perhaps by me sharing these favorite practices, you can apply at least one of them at your work. Cheers to working happy!
As a systems thinker, I don’t ever recall a time that I couldn’t see systems. However, as I was learning about the various complexity terms and aspects, light bulb after light bulb went off, and having the words that explained what I understood gave me more confidence. What I learned from my MA was rich and invaluable, and while it did not result in me being fluent in "complexity speak", the following are some of the terms that have especially resonated with me and continually show up in my work, life, and all the things I do.
When the hero's journey begins, there is Metanoia. The spark that begins the quest, the change in mind or heart that drives the search of the mystic. In Gnosticism, it's an aeon, which is a name for one of the various emanations of God.
Angie brought up metanoia in our latest episode and lately, I've been wondering about its congruence to emergence in complex systems. Emergence is the "eureka" that happens when a system interacts with its own parts and produces something new and unexpected....
Anytime you have a group of people interacting over time, you have a complex adaptive system. You can have clear hierarchies and role requirements, but what you can't easily quantify is how powerful a role emergence will play in how projects and people take shape when they are all co-evolving. (Especially here at the HumanCurrent podcast, where we run a flat organization.) It's beautiful, really. Together people shape the work, and the work changes them.
There are a lot of factors that have agency to cause the changing shape of any system (let's take a project team as our example), but the most obvious medium for making change or progress is ideas. Here's the thing about ideas and how much power they have....