What is the nature of vibrant systems? Does every action in the system have an impact? What are biological or social systems?
The essence of vibrant systems is that they consist of several separate parts, all linked together and in a purposeful relationship. Moreover, within the system, there are constant actions, reactions, and interactions between parts that are mutually dependent. The contributions of each part are essential to keep the system alive and functional.
An approach in practice: you mix yeast, flour, water and salt. The result is a bread that is similar to none of the ingredients, although it consists of them. Even the smallest ingredients – yeast or salt – are essential to the bread.
There are also relationships between agile systems: a change in a small system requires a change in a larger superordinate system, and vice versa. You may recognise that systems have a vibrant and dynamic power.
Here is another practical example: The flapping of a butterfly’s wing at a critical point in the atmosphere – so the common metaphor – has an impact on the climate in another place on earth.
As human beings we consist of several biological systems, e.g. the organ systems or the digestive system. Maybe you notice now: a complex matter. At the same time we are involved in several systems of social life – such as Clubs, companies or the system coaching. By making particular choices, the individual chooses these with all their implications. Are you aware of the effects of your actions?
The difference between open and closed social systems
What distinguishes open from closed social systems? What role do power and dialogue play in vibrant systems?
Every open or closed social system responds to external changes. The closed system meets new impulses from outside with rejection. Because it is permeated by ordinances, laws and orders, it makes little or no change possible. In exaggeration, closed systems adopt “merciless troop” characteristics. This results in an intolerance of innovations, bureaucracy and cold in human relations. As a result, everything revolves around power, be it physical or psychological. Behind this is the belief that relationships must be regulated through the exercise of power.
In contrast, the open social system offers choices and trusts in the successful engagement with reality. Because innovations are considered normal and even desirable, the actions result from reality. At the same time people’s self-esteem is strengthened. Because the open system gives people space for personal development. The basis is the conviction that the value of man has top priority. Therefore, the open system, through the means of dialogue, is related to human rules, balanced power, and appropriate performance. In its exaggeration, an open system leads to lack of structure or self-sufficiency.
Now you will surely come across many examples of “bad” systems. What about the social system in which you work? Or, can closed systems be turned into open systems?
The discovery of the observer
Cooperation instead of powerful intervention – is the expertise in “non-knowledge” of one correct solution?
First of all, due to the system theory of Gregory Bateson it was common ground that any external intervention, e.g. by an observer, is in the long term harmful to the ecology of a social system. Despite the positive intention – to promote man’s nature and his maturity, an intervention remains a powerful interference. The discovery of the observer as part of vibrant systems then enabled a cooperative solution.
Please take into account, the position and the attitude of the observer are decisive. As soon as the observer takes a visible position in vibrant systems, he becomes part of what he observes. He is inseparable from the system that needs to be changed. At the same time it needs an attitude that allows self-observation and reflection of the observer – yes, even requires. As a result, he gains an awareness that a solution in one system may be dysfunctional in another. The expertise of the observer then lies precisely in the “non-knowledge” of one correct solution.
Instead, the system, in its vibrant and dynamic power, is the expert for the solution. The observer has the task of creating a constructive dialogue. He trusts in the ability of vibrant systems to create suitable solutions out of themselves. Attention is therefore directed e.g. to observe useful resources within the system. In addition, the observer makes linguistically offers which allow a variety of perspectives. Here, the systemic questioning techniques have proven to be particularly useful.
Open new perspectives with a systemic question
Why do you use systemic questions? What do systemic questions cause? For which purpose do systemic questions serve?
The observer uses systemic questioning techniques to introduce new information into a social system. Because every question hides a veiled statement that can potentially change the familiar view of the environment.
Let’s take a small practical example from everyday working life. In a team, some team members feel that a male colleague is putting pressure to perform on them.
“What is your colleague doing what you call ‘over-dedicated’?”
Here, the veiled offer is: it is not a characteristic, but a behavior of this colleague.
“Was that rather before or after the team lost an important customer, that the colleague decided to show himself ‘over-dedicated’?”
This question is an invitation, that the colleague’s behavior is a form of decision – for which there may be good reasons.
“Who in the team gets the most upset – who’s the least upset about it?
There is a veiled suggestion in the question: there are differentiations in the relations of the team colleagues.
“Assuming the colleague would decide to be less ‘over-dedicated’, would you and your colleagues perform better?”
This inhibits the possibility, that the behavior of the colleague is changeable and perhaps related to the relationships in the team.
“If I would ask you to make your colleague behave ‘over-dedicated’, would you know how to do that?”
This question creates space for the idea that there are certain contextual conditions for ‘over-committed’, that the team member at least partially holds in his own hands.
The construction of new realities
What characterises the organisation of vibrant systems?
The invitations hidden in the systemic questions stimulate the construction of new realities in the interviewee. With this change in the respondent’s system, a change in the superordinate system ‘Team’ is connected, and vice versa. Both systems influence each other mutually.
The claim to be able to control a social system from the outside is untrustworthy and foolish. Certainly, a social system is only limited controllable. For the vibrant and dynamic power of systems is breaking its natural course. Creation shows man the limits of his power. This applies to climate change, human biology and social systems of equal dimensions.
Nevertheless, systemic questioning techniques can be used to set impulses. In doing so, the facilitation of progress lives from playful ease and creativity. It is also important that any invitation to the system can easily be discarded without any loss of face. In this way, a suitable offer for a new perspective on the situation is found.
Learning from vibrant systems in nature, i.e. to offer new perspectives for organisations. We develop small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) out of themselves.