Lessons from Living Systems

We are beginning to see the narrative shift from “everyone stay home” to “let’s figure out how we get back to normal.” Like most sane people, I am not eager to rush back out to public spaces too soon. I don’t want to risk us going through such a traumatic cycle again. I also realize as we talk about “getting back to normal,” that I don’t want that either. I don’t want to go back. 

Now that we have had some time to distance ourselves and find a different pace, I find myself feeling resistant to resuming the life I once lived. I don’t miss the insane travel schedule, the time away from my family, the endless meetings, and the relentless pace. I am beginning to feel just a bit more human, a bit more creative, a bit more at peace. I can only say that, of course, because I am one of the lucky ones who still has a job and a roof over my head. 

As we think about our lives on the other side of this, I have new questions that are occurring to me about the kind of work I want to do and the kind of organizations with whom I want to connect. I have recently been inspired by this TED Talk by Dr. Kathleen Allen where she talks about living systems. She asks:

  • What would our organizations look like if we created conditions conducive to the people who worked in them? 
  • What would our communities look like if we created conditions conducive to the people who lived in them? 
  • What changes would we make if the answers to these two questions focused our collective goal for the world we create? 

She goes on to say that sometimes we have to let go of what we have always known to make space for something new to emerge. The questions change:

What do I need to control? ➔ What can I unleash?
Who can make this work? ➔ What interactions will make this work?
How do I avoid resistance? ➔ How do I welcome resistance?
How do I influence individual actions? ➔ How do I influence the field (or culture)?
How can I create change? ➔ How can I transform the energy that already exists in the system?

I hope we don’t rush back into the world too soon. I pray that we take the time, together, to think about and engage these vital questions. I would hate for us to waste a good global pandemic by failing to learn what it can teach us about being more fully human and interdependent. We can create a better world on the other side of this adventure if we have the wisdom to know how to do so. I pray we trust this journey enough to let it take us to where we need to go.

We are all in this together. 

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