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Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Press.
Organizations have been engaging in networks for a long time.  Most common are networks of suppliers associated with providing various parts to produce an end product known collectively as a supply chain. Clear examples of supply chain networks include the making of a PC where parts come from across the globe or Amazon.com where a host of service providers are linked to create a seamless delivery of goods to my doorstep. While this type of arrangement benefits all parties and fulfills a common goal—it builds a product or provides a...
Photo of Jessica Goodell courtesy of NPR.
A segment on NPR's Fresh Air caught my attention recently, bringing to mind organizational life and the complexities of the helping human systems process. On the show, host Terry Gross interviewed Jessica Goodell, a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq with the Marine Mortuary Affairs Platoon in 2004. As Goodell talked about her memoir, Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq, giving several accounts of her experiences serving in the Marine Mortuary Affairs Platoon, I was deeply moved by what it took for her to be able to do the work she had...
Systems thinking as a method of inquiry deals with complexity from the perspective of the whole, not the parts.  Most methods of inquiry follow the traditional path of reductionism as established by our sciences.  We have learned to answer life’s difficult questions by dissecting our subjects into parts with the idea that they are easier to study and understand.  Reductionism has worked well for closed or mechanical systems.  However, in the earlier part of the 20th century scientists started to question whether...
Whether or not Hamlet was being ironic in his admiration for humankind, it seems that the nobility of our reason is up for debate…literally. New research from French cognitive social scientists indicates that reason exists to help us argue and guard against the arguments of others, according to a recent New York Times article. Reason, so the theory goes, is not about truth, it’s about influence. The theory, developed by Hugo Mericier and Dan Sperber of the Jean-Nicod research institute in Paris, has been labeled the argumentative...
Why don’t we work together for the common good? It’s a question that plagues every good intention, and every activist group. We know that corporate America is paying its executives outlandishly and its workers poorly – and that if we just banded together, we could do something about that.  But we don’t. We know that the global environment needs our stewardship:  that it’s crucial we find renewable power and resources, and organize our cities around sustainable growth policies.  And if we just banded...

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