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Systems thinking, liberal arts education, and learning language

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Systems thinking seems to be crossing my path these days. Or, is it perhaps my current mindset that causes me to process everything I see or read with an eye toward this concept? In any case, in the past week, I have come across three unconnected items that got me thinking again about the value of a varied, liberal arts education, one that encourages broad systems approaches:  On my last transatlantic flight, I watched a TED talk by Bran Ferren called “To create for the ages, lets combine art and engineering”. In Fast Company, I read the following article about tech company CEOs who look for employees with liberal arts degrees … Continue reading

Recent speaking engagements, and a reflexion about my methods

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The last week of August in Buenos Aires, I was invited to speak at three diverse and remarkably interesting venues: the Polish Embassy, the innovation incubator Fly Garage, and IAE Business School. Though I prepared individual talks tailored to each of the audiences, there was a storytelling theme common to all of the presentations.  I enjoyed the differences between the three venues, each audience with its own unique collection of personalities, professional preoccupations, and personal profiles. And, each group was a true pleasure to spend time with. All of them were highly engaged, curious, interactive, and insightful with their remarks and questions.  The continuing emergence of storytelling: Even in Latin America, I … Continue reading

Systems thinking, employee satisfaction, and worker engagement

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When I began writing about systems thinking in mid July, I thought I would write a few blog posts or perhaps a short article. So, I am somewhat surprised to be still writing about it.   It turns out, though, that I am discovering connections between this concept and so much of what is necessary in organizations today. For example, I am convinced that more widespread systems thinking would help with employee satisfaction, personal development, team building, and alignment.  Whenever I read surveys about employee engagement, I am somewhat shocked by the numbers. For example, in a recent Gallup poll, only 30 per cent of North American workers describe themselves as engaged. This 30% … Continue reading

Silos and systems thinking

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Last week, writing about General Motors caused me to reflect a bit more on why silos exist in organizations, and why they are so difficult to break down. Certainly, one of the reasons the silos are so deeply entrenched is that the structures and processes of the “Industrial Corporation” that evolved over a period of about 100 years are still prevalent in many companies. Today, as our economies move steadily forward into Information Age and beyond, most corporations understand the need to change. At the same time, their long-standing mindsets and traditions continue to resist.  As we will see later in this post, GM is far from an isolated case … Continue reading

The failure of systems thinking at General Motors

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In the past few weeks, since preparing my remarks for the Harvard class on systems thinking, I have been reflecting on why many large organizations don’t seem able to do it. Often, when I read in the news or listen to tales of corporate dysfunction, I am left thinking that a good dose of big picture thinking might have prevented or solved the problem.  In a surprising number of cases, the central issue seems to be tunnel vision, what we often refer to as silo mentalities, in large organizations. As such, these days I have been busy thinking about questions of the following nature: Just where do the silo mindsets that limit … Continue reading

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