Monday, May 14, 2012

Systemic and holistic thinking – a guide to a thriving planet

We are constantly in a search for an emotionally and spiritually richer world that could bring science and extraordinary dimensions into balance. A conscious will to move our civilisation a step forward in the perception of an individualism and collectivism and finding a balance between both of them is more and more vital, on a scientific, personal, structural and philosophical level. It is impacting upon our perception of society, business, relationships and the meaning of life.  It is changing the methodologies, solutions, visions and values of more and more people on this Planet, in local communities in social circles. Where all this might lead? What could be the future school of thought? To get more insights to the possibilites that might await us in the near future, we talked to Alexander Laszlo, system scientist, humanist and a man that inspires. This is his story.

Photo: Alexandre Laszlo 
Source: personal archive

V: Who is Alexandre Laszlo (AL)?
I am an alchemist and a vortecist. As a vortecist I upset systems.  When I consider possibilites of how things could be, I am always asking »why not?« — why can't we live a thiving life? Contributing to the future, creating and opportunity,  and  improving relationships. As an alchemist I seek to find dynamic harmonies, that is: the conditions that allow us to thrive together.

Short CV:
Alexander Laszlo, Ph.D., is co-founder and President of Syntony Quest and former Director of the Doctoral Program in Management at the Graduate School of Business Administration & Leadership (ITESM), Mexico.  As Professor of Systems Science and Evolutionary Development he currently teaches at a variety of MBA and Doctoral programs internationally, and is President Elect for 2013 of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS).  He has worked for UNESCO, the Italian Electric Power Agency, and the U.S. Department of Education, has held visiting appointments with the London School of Economics and the European University Institute, and has been named a Level I Member of the National Research Academy of Mexico (SNI).  He is on the Editorial Boards of three internationally arbitered research journals, recipient of the Gertrude Albert Heller Award, the Sir Geoffrey Vickers Memorial Award, and the Förderpreis Akademischer Klub award, author of over sixty journal, book, and encyclopedia publications, and a 5th Degree Black Belt of traditional Korean Karate. Source: Wikipedia

V: And by persuing this, what is your experience?
My experience is wondrous. What emerges is actually less imporant than the conversations and the dance of emergence itself. It allows us to nourish ourselves, and that is what matters. Fundamentally, I am learning how to »dance« the dance that nature is doing all the time.

V: What are you passionate about?
My passion consists of the connection point of 3 main things: one is holistic being (a process), another is transcendent conciousness (which is empathetic, inclusive), and the third is currating emergence (seeing ourselves as employees of the Planet, in charge of fostering conditions for thrivability).

V: Where and how do you manifest your passion, visions, and dreams?
I am interested in all activities and interactions that are about bringing forward a protopia (this is not a utopia, an ideal, but it is also not just an extrapolation of the current reality, either; it is the possibility space in which a feasable and functional society could emerge; it is about the dynamics of collaboration). For example, creating a platform for people to learn how to become the citizens of a new global eco-civilisation that they themselves construct. Doing that involves a different learning process.

V: Any good practical examples?
Yes. The first one is »The Gordano Bruno GlobalShift University«. Basically, there we are learning how to become civilization shifters and not parasites on the Planet. Another good example is the ISSS (International Society for the Systems Sciences) that can serve as a vehicle for bringing theory and practice together in innovative solutions for a thriving planet. The ISSS is organsing events that  create the conditions for people to work together on what it means to be a citizen of a »Thrivable Planet«. This is another project that I am working on.

V: Are the events the only focus of the ISSS?
ISSS was originally created as a vehicle to futher the research and development of the transdisciplinary field of the systems theory.  It brings together practitioners, scholars, innovators, scientists, engineers and designers to explore what we call the »isomorphisms« in patterns and processes across different diciplinary domains. We look for the way in which systems behave (biological, chemical, social) and how can we learn from the inside how they relate to each other. And also as a vehicle for evolving what was originally thought of as systems movement (about the language of processes that allow us to make sense of complexity across different disciplinary frameworks). The focus of the movement was a unity of science (meta language). But today we prefer to think about it as a holding space for collaborative inquiry on the dynamics of complex adaptive systems.

I am involved in launching the Gordano Bruno Global Shift University which is dedicated to providing a vehicle to people that are frustrated with a lack of responsivnes of the local governments and the lack of opportunity for a meaningful existance in the global geo-political system. At Gordano Bruno I am the director of the Evolutionary Learning Institute in the Centre for Advanced Studies.  Here we explore new educatonal content and new learning processes that are needed for the citizenry of a global eco-civilization that is in harmony with the Planet (does not exceed the capacity of this planet).
V: At the last ISSS meeting in Linz we focused our strategies and actions  around the statement »Creating the conditions for a thrivable Planet«. What does that mean? Why is it important?
We were focusing on the ways in which the systems community can contribute to improving the human condition in interdependence with our living Planet. The problems of today are not going to disappear, or be solved by technical fixes. No matter how much we improve the existing system we will not be able to transcend the problems we have created. (A horse and  carriage will not get us to the Moon; we need to create a new system for that). But we shall not forget that the system that we create is a living system, an organism, so we need to create conditions that it can naturally emerge from. So, how do we create these conditions? This was the focus of this conversation. We wanted to get a hot example that will serve us as a platform and inspiration for other initiatives.

V: What role will the ISSS be playing in reaching these conditions?
The ISSS will offer the 57th annual meeting and a world conference that we (in this Linz conversation) have had the priviledge and responsibility to begin designing. We were working together as a team to invite a meeting of a planetary tribe: those people who want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, who want to explore those new behaviours that are needed for a global eco-civilization, to offer new value propositions and ultimately, to create new relationships between ourselves, nature and past and future generations of all beings.

V: What about the corporate world? How can they join this path? What could be their role in creating a »Thrivable Planet«?
Today the idea of being an organization that is involved in sustainability initiatives is very commonplace. The notions of attending to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate citizenship are also commonplace. Corporations are looking for opportunities to do well by doing good, in terms of their impact on society and the environment. So, the platfortm we are creating for a Thrivable Planet is one that will allow corporations to be major players. The specific focus of the 2013 ISSS conference will be on systemic leverage points for emerging a global eco-civilisation. So, for companies that want to consider how they can create and provide leverage points that make a difference in the global shift towards a more Thrivable Planet, the ISSS event is a great opportunity. This new vision creates new markets, because it is about creating a new world ('blue ocean' strategy approach).

Explanation of terms:
Thrivability: it is the next framing of sustainability (beyond sustainability)
Curating: nurturing, fostering the potential inherent in the living system
Thrivable Planet: a planet that functions on the bases of abundance and joy
V: Is the »Thrivable Planet« a fiction, a dream or a reality that we can still achieve in our life time?
AL: The vision and design of the ISSS 2013 event is exactly what is meant by protopia (which is attainable and realistic, unlike a utopia). It is a neccessary future for all of us to design, to emerge and evolve, to create the conditions for growth and change, because we stand at a pivotal point of a civilisational collapse. Either we go on blindly with breakdown scenarios as a civilisation option, or we find the systemic leverage points that allow the emergence of a potential protopia.

  Photo: »The Linz Thrivable Planet Tribe«,  
(from L to R: Alexander, Ockie, Stefan, George (on the screen), Violeta, Nam, Mary, Jenifer)
 Source: IFSR archive, April 2013

V: And your last message?
AL: All that we talked about is not a dream. It is an opportunity for radical innovation for that which some may think about as a mass innovation; that which draws on our collective intelligence in multiple dimensions of systemic innovation involving people, structures, processes, and technologies. This will involve theoreticians, practitioners and creating systems like the ISSS 2013 conference, as interaction points for all of this to happen. And finally, it is not meant to stop there. It is just meant to be one node, one interaction point that invites the collective intelligence of mass innovation on a global scale.

This is something that could bring us together as a Planetary Civilization. Thank you Alexander.



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