The RIGSS Blog

To stimulate analysis, innovation, and forward thinking, and generate new ideas and insight
on subjects that matter in 21st Century Bhutan.
A humble tribute to celebrate learning, leadership and service that His Majesty The King continues to champion.

Launched on 21st February 2021 to commemorate the 41st Birthday of His Majesty The King

DISCLAIMER:
The views and opinions expressed in the articles on the RIGSS Blog are that of the authors and do not represent the views of the institute.

FROM SYSTEM TO ECOSYSTEM THINKING

POSTED ON August 26, 2021
Douglas OLoughlin
Faculty, Organization Development and Change Management, RIGSS

To make our work with organisations and communities more impactful, we each want to think more systemically, to help shift systems to a healthier place. 

While there is no one tool that can resolve this, a principle of Systems Thinking provides a hint on expanding our perspectives.  The principle is that whenever we are working with a system, it is helpful to look at a level or two higher to see the wider context. For example, if you are working with a team, you also look up and across the larger system to look at their context, goals, stakeholders, etc., to see how they fit into the bigger picture, and the same would apply at every level of the system.

A word we can use to remind ourselves to think more expansively is “ecosystem”, so we are more likely to do landscaping instead of planting trees. We can think of ourselves as Permaculturists, as we apply the principles of living environments that are harmonious, sustainable, and productive.  We ask ourselves, “how does this element fit into the larger interrelated system?”

While the term ecosystem is typically used in the biological world, we can see that most of the contexts we live in fit the definition of an ecosystem, which is “a complex network or interconnected system,” and our organisations and communities are living systems, not machines. When we see something as an ecosystem, we look for all the connections, partners, stakeholders, and all who influence and are influenced by the ecosystem. 

For example, think of the system for early childhood education. One might think of the students, teachers, parents, modes of teaching, and perhaps the government agency that supports early childhood education. When we think ecosystem, we tend to be more expansive.  In this case, we can include community partners, the family system, the neighbourhood, access to health care, home conditions, access to technology, funding opportunities, good practices from around the world, and teacher pay and training. You may think of more when you think ecosystem. 

We wouldn’t intervene in all the elements of an ecosystem. Still, a broader perspective helps us to more wisely decide how to intervene, for the enhanced effectiveness and health of any initiative.  Eric Berlow did a ted talk titled “Simplifying Complexity” to illustrate this point (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThV4pnPbI8E).

Besides seeing the ecosystem and making choices on how to create optimal shifts, sometimes, it makes sense to bring the ecosystem together to think together and explore what is for the greater good.

I read recently that the word ecosystem is being overused. Well, if the word can remind us to widen our perspectives as we explore a living system, that sounds good. May we each help develop Healthy Ecosystems for our organisations, societies, and planet and create a world that works for each and all.

Douglas OLoughlin, PhD – Associate Consultant with Civil Service College

Leadership/Management

SEVEN STEPS AHEAD

POSTED ON February 21, 2021
Tshering Wangchuk
Former Managing Director, BBS

14 YEARS OF GLORIOUS REIGN

POSTED ON February 21, 2021
Pempa Tshering
Senior Analyst, DHI

HERCULES OF TONGCHUDRAK

POSTED ON February 21, 2021
Dorji Dhradhul
Director General, Tourism Council of Bhutan

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FOOD, NOT THE MENU

POSTED ON September 01, 2021
Douglas OLoughlin
Faculty, Organization Development and Change Management, RIGSS