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One Way Forward to Beat the Newtonian Habit with a Complexity Perspective on Organisational Change

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Author(s): Sam Wells | Josie McLean

Journal: Systems
ISSN 2079-8954

Volume: 1;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 66;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: sustainability | systemic change | paradigm shift | complex systems | envisioning | values | indicators | strategic experiments

ABSTRACT
We face a global crisis of un-sustainability—we need to change trajectory, but have so far displayed a collective inability to do so. This article suggests that one reason for this is our entrenched approach to change, which has inappropriately applied mechanistic Newtonian assumptions to “living” systems. Applying what has been learned about the behaviour of complex adaptive systems, we develop a pragmatic model for students of sustainability, who want to facilitate profound organizational and community change towards sustainability on the ground. Our model, “one way forward”, does not purport to be the only way but one possibility, grounded in a different understanding of the nature and dynamic of change as seen through the lens of complexity. In this way, it challenges more conventional change management practices. One way forward is a model facilitating evolutionary change in a social ecology—one possible expression of a “culture of community self-design” as expressed by Banathy. Its theoretical foundations and its practical application (it is designed for practice) both have their source in a systemic view and in the principles that reflect the paradigm of complexity. Four central components of this new model—envisioning, core messages (values), indicators of progress, and experimentation—are explored in more detail.
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