Have You Killed any Swans Today?

We live and work within systems, systems that connect things.  One way or another everything is connected.

That sounds like psycho-babble, so let me give you an example:

Legislation leaves swans starving

The In the far north of England on the border with Scotland is the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.  In 1994 the flock of swans that live on the river Tweed started to starve, five swans died whilst others took to wandering the streets of the town begging for food.

The cause of their agony was a directive from the European Union that ordered the local barley malting plant to clean up its discharge of effluent into the river, so stopping it from polluting the nearby North Sea.

At face value this was very sensible idea.

Unfortunately that effluent was the swan’s main source of food.

Everything is connected

When you make change it will have consequences:

So stand back a little

Look a little wider and think about the system you work in, not just the bit you run.  How could you change the whole system for the better?

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Image by elvis_payne

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  1. Hi James,
    I wonder if ‘Systems Thinking’ is too opaque and threatening to many managers, leaders and businesses. Perhaps, because it has ‘thinking’ in the title and many people are frightened of looking dumb.

    I wonder, then, if using “The Butterfly Effect” would not be a better way of getting through to more people, given that it has seeped more into popular culture?


  2. Hello James

    Donella Meadows grappled with systems for a long time. And she came to the conclusion that the most effective levers for ‘whole system change’ is the ability to see, switch, and even transcend mindsets and worldviews.

    Once you get the interconnected nature of systems and replace cause and effect with circularity and get that the noon-linear nature of nature then the fun starts. If you really get this then you lose your arrogance. And you also get why so little of our simplistic linear interventions work as we intended them to.

    All the best

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