A Map To Think “Systemically” About What Is Not Yet There

Jan De Visch
17 July 2017

The fourth industrial revolution is powered by cognitive computing, which automates many aspects of the human intellect. Algorithms are increasingly capable of identifying connections, patterns and co-evolution in big data, enabling us to make sense from a systemic perspective. At the same time complexity is paralyzing innovation in ecosystems. It is more and more difficult to describe interconnections between parts of an eco-system and while individual behavior can be predicted it becomes difficult to predict aggregate behavior. This calls for fundamental new ways of dialog, thinking and modelling for a complex world.

Our natural emphasis in dialog is predominantly on content, on what is said, with scant attention paid to how it is said, and the movements-in-thought that have led to what is said. Even in thinking systemically we tend to focus on the information, categories and queries used to describe relationships. It is very rare to pay attention to the thought structure of what is said by a dialog partner or oneself. Speaking is not primarily a way of ‘describing’ but actually of ‘creating’ (constructing) reality. Recent cognitive adult developmental research provides us a map to assess how we construct our reality and to identify many different types of systemic thinking. The map helps us to understand how we co-construct a wide variety of systemic realities through dialog.

The focus of this introduction will be on how to discover the predominant structures in one’s own systemic thinking, and how to transcend the limitations of formal logical thinking in making sense of non-linearity, path dependence, feedback-loops, instability and many other characteristics of complex dynamic systems. Jan De Visch will highlight how the top structure of sustainable growth companies think differently, engage in different dialog and how they make sense about what is not yet there. He will close his introduction by highlighting the relevance of the ‘dialectical’ approach for policy design, making sense of the fourth industrial revolution, sustainable organizational growth and facilitating future leadership development.

Jan De Visch is managing director of Connect & Transform (www.connecttransform.be) and Executive professor Human Capital Management at Flanders Business School (Catholic University of Leuven). He has more than 25 years of experience in business model shift facilitation, innovation in human capital processes, and supporting sustainable business development. He works on the alignment of accountability design, performance management, an talent development. His most recent publication is Leadership: Mind(s) Creating Value(s) (2014).