At shiftN we see systems thinking as a smart, humane and respectful way to tackle wicked problems. We see the long term perspective as a basis for a culture of stewardship and responsibility. And we leverage healthy organisations as a vehicle for channeling societal energy to just causes: better quality of life, empowered human beings, more decisive steps toward sustainability.
When our environment changes, we need to change with it. Today environments tend to change quickly. So we need to beef up our capacity to adapt. As organisations we need to strengthen our ability to learn. How does shiftN help organisations to learn and thrive in complex and uncertain environments?
Through a systems lens we see the world as composed of many interconnected drivers and subsystems. As systems thinkers we seek to understand these interconnections. We try to decode how these might evolve over time. We build models and maps to visualise this complexity. We also help them to use these models as a platform for organisational learning. The point is not only to build sophisticated pictures of reality but to work with them to identify common ground and take action 'for good'.
Scenarios are basically stories about how the future might unfold. They help in understanding the uncertainty that goes with an open future. But the future is not empty: understanding it is also an invitation to intervene. Scenarios are wonderful containers for breakthrough ideas. They can also act as launching pads for action and experimentation. And in environments riddled by conflict they provide a safe space for dialogue. The approach is a veritable intellectual Swiss Army knife for dealing with ‘wicked problems’.
As design thinkers we approach the world as a giant laboratory. We are not intimidated by complexity but start with patient observation of the ‘system-as-is’. Every challenge contains ‘positive deviants’: practices that contain the germs of novel solutions. Immersion leads to ideas, drawings, sketches, models, and back to observation and ideas. Visualisation and prototyping are powerful means of catalysing new ideas and testing emergent solutions. Skillful design thinkers are reflective practitioners, engaged in a process of action learning.
Organisations ought not to be rigid structures that constrain the energy, creativity and empathy of their members. How we work together needs to reflect our systemic vision of the world. We see organisations as intelligent entities in their own right, able to pursue a rich and evolving purpose. We help organisations to embrace transparency and responsible autonomy. We help them to create alignment between staff, management and board.
Learn more about our offering here: from short, introductory to longer term, customised interventions.
We develop distinctive systems maps, tools, toolkits and serious games to support our assignments.
There's more background on our approach in this in-depth booklet: Working with Wicked Problems (pdf)
Photo: Peter Vermaercke (Namahn)