Global System Change – Applied Whole System Thinking
June 7, 2017
During the times of feudalism, slavery and other grossly unfair and unsustainable systems, many people probably believed that these approaches were sound and logical. The same delusion or myopia is occurring today. People often believe that the dominant forms of quasi-capitalism and democracy are rational and beneficial. But reality does not care what humans think.
Our reductionistic economic and political systems grossly violate the laws of nature and reality. Every life support system is in rapid decline, with some regional exceptions. There is widespread poverty, hunger, unemployment, suffering, inequality, political instability and other problems among humanity. Reality will not allow this environmental and social degradation to continue indefinitely. Nature and reality force all flawed systems to change, as occurred with the American and French revolutions, collapse of slavery in the US and fall of communism in the Soviet Union.
Human society is larger and more interconnected than ever before. Collapse of current systems would cause unprecedented disruption and suffering. Keeping systems the same is not an option. Our only options are voluntary or involuntary system change (i.e. collapse). Voluntary system change is the vastly superior option.
Achieving this requires a higher level of consciousness and thinking. Everything in human society is connected. None of us can live in outer space. We are all parts of the interconnected, whole Earth system. But the human mind often has difficulty understanding this whole system at once. As a result, we frequently break the system into parts (economic, political, social), and then study them without adequate reference to the whole system that contains them, a process known as reductionism. This produces unintended consequences, such as widespread environmental and social degradation. The solution, as Einstein implied, is to think at a higher, whole system level.
Whole system thinking has received growing attention in academia and other areas for many years. Excellent models and theories have been developed. These approaches frequently are applied to specific areas, such as climate change, food production and economic reform. But these areas are parts of the whole Earth system and its sub-element human society. They cannot be effectively addressed in isolation. Barriers and other factors outside the focus area often will limit progress. Solutions that do not take all relevant factors into account frequently will produce suboptimal results and unintended negative consequences.
To resolve the major challenges facing humanity, systems theory must be applied at the true whole system level. All relevant factors must be addressed. Using a reductionistic approach to whole system thinking (i.e. addressing one or a few issues at a time) can produce limited benefits. But it never will come close to achieving the ultimate goal – the long-term survival and true prosperity of humanity.
A whole system series of books called Global System Change illustrates one way to practically apply systems thinking to the whole system. Global System Change addresses and links all major aspects of human society, including economic, political, social, environmental, psychological, spiritual and religious. The whole system books illuminate root causes of major problems, barriers to system change, key leverage points, and important collaborative system change conveners and participants. Hundreds of sector-specific and overarching systemic solutions are provided. Using a true whole system approach that takes all relevant factors into account minimizes or eliminates unintended consequences.
Global System Change strives to promote humility among humanity. Like those long ago who thought feudalism and slavery were advanced and sophisticated, we often do not see the major, unintentionally suicidal flaws of our economic, political and other systems. The technology and implied intelligence of nature essentially are infinitely greater than human technology and conscious intelligence. We are parts of nature. We have the innate ability to manifest the vast symmetry, coordination, sophistication and beauty seen there. It might seem that we have come a long way. But we probably have not reached one billionth of our potential. We can be nearly infinitely more intelligent, sustainable and truly prosperous than we are now. Humility enables us to open our minds, see the flaws of current systems and realize that they can be substantially improved.
True whole system thinking (i.e. actually addressing the whole system, not just parts of it) frequently reveals innovative, more effective systemic solutions. Global System Change uses this approach to suggest systemic solutions to the major challenges facing humanity. For example, the book extensively describes the specific system changes and collaborative actions needed to evolve economic and political systems into sustainable forms.
Further examples of broad systemic solutions discussed in Global System Change include those related to socially responsible investing, uniting citizens, judicial reform, and elevating women and wisdom in society. The corporate sustainability and socially responsible investing movements are strongly focused on promoting and analyzing unilateral corporate efforts to reduce negative environmental and social impacts. However, flawed economic and political systems make it impossible for companies to mitigate about 80 percent of negative impacts. System change is by far the most important sustainability issue in the corporate and financial sectors. Global System Change provides a practical and profitable way for companies and investors to promote system change, called Total Corporate Responsibility (TCR®).
The main Founders of the US, except Alexander Hamilton, were greatly alarmed by the establishment of political parties. They did not want the new union divided into acrimonious factions. In his Farewell Address, George Washington called political parties the worst enemy of elected government. He correctly warned that vested interests would use political parties to divide citizens into debating factions, such as conservatives and liberals. When the people are divided, they are conquered. Global System Change discusses how to weaken the influence of political parties and unite citizens on their massive areas of common interest, such as protecting life support systems and future generations, establishing true democracy and using the public wealth to equally and fairly benefit all citizens.
James Madison, James Wilson, Thomas Jefferson and other Founders made clear that the Judicial Branch was intended to be the weakest branch of government because it is unelected and therefore farthest from the people, the ultimate source of all power. However, lifetime appointments and the ability to irrevocably void legislative and executive acts make the Judicial Branch the most powerful branch of government. The US Constitution does not establish lifetime judicial appointments or empower the Supreme Court to void laws. Global System Change describes how to align the Judicial Branch with the US Constitution and restore the people’s power to rule themselves.
Emulating nature is one of the most important system change principals discussed in Global System Change. Nature produces no waste, lives on renewable resources, decentralizes production, distributes resources equitably among individuals and generations, equally values current and future generations, enables nearly all plants and animals to reach their fullest potential, and achieves long-term sustainability and widespread prosperity. Limited competition occurs at the individual level. But vast coordination and symmetry show that the overwhelming force in nature is cooperation. When the overwhelming force in natural systems is competition, as in a body with terminal cancer, the system is dying.
The narrow human perspective misleads many individuals into believing that they are separate from each other and nature. This illusion of separation often produces fear and belief in the need for competition. Men innately manifest greater physical strength, aggressiveness and other aspects of power than women. In our fear-filled, competitive world, power and those manifesting more of it (men) frequently are honored. This contributes to men often having higher status than women. To attain positions of power, women frequently must display equal or greater aggressiveness and competitiveness than men.
Failure to think from a whole system perspective and excessive competitiveness literally are killing us. Wisdom must balance power. Power without wisdom is destructive, as we see in the world today. Many studies show that women innately manifest greater cooperation, empathy, whole system thinking ability and other aspects of wisdom than men. Greater wisdom and cooperation in human society are essential for resolving the major challenges facing humanity. As we better understand this, those who manifest more of these characteristics (women) naturally will be elevated to a position of true equality with men.
Global System Change illustrates one way to practically apply whole system thinking to human society. Many more approaches are needed. To achieve sustainability and real prosperity, this type of research and work must be greatly expanded in academia and broader society.
Frank Dixon oversaw the sustainability analysis and rating of the world’s 2,000 largest companies for many years as the Managing Director of Research at Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, formerly the largest corporate sustainability research firm in the world. Institutional investors used Innovest research to develop high-performing socially responsible investing products. Extensive corporate sustainability experience made it clear that flawed systems compel all companies to degrade the environment and society. Frank Dixon developed the TCR® approach to provide a practical and profitable way for companies and investors to engage in system change. Following Innovest, he provided sustainability and system change consulting to companies in the US and Europe. Most recently, he wrote the Global System Change series of books. Using a whole system approach, the books identify the major economic, political and social system changes needed to achieve sustainability and real prosperity.
Frank Dixon has an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
Copyright © 2017 Frank Dixon