Quotes and Excerpts

Illustrations of the usage of this phrase:

Systems Thinking

See also General Systems Theory | Reinventing the World

Creating Community (Part 2) through a New Way of Thinking (Warren and Senge)

Creating Community (Part 1) through Transformational Leadership

Skip down to Relational Vitality

Emphasis added in bold letters

Systems (General Systems Theory - GST): "GST was originally proposed by Hungarian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928. He proposed that 'a system is characterized by the interactions of its components....' Kuhn (the originator of the “paradigm shift”) applied the GSP to culture and society, and he saw cultures as interlinking subsystems of a broader planetary society. In 1980, cosmologist Stephen Hawking then expanded systems thinking to the global platform by introducing the 'Chaos Theory' that claims the 'interconnectedness of all things'--- (i.e. the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Asia creates a breeze in America). As a result, GST becomes very esoteric when taken to its logical conclusions:
 “GST is symptomatic of a change in our worldview. No longer do we see the world in a blind play of atoms, but rather a great organization.” From "Outcome-Based Religions: Purpose-Driven Apostasy" by Mac Dominick.

From Spiritual Politics, co-authored by Corinne McLaughlin, the first task-force coordinator for President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), page 150.

"Seeing Whole Patterns. . . . It’s time for us to make the next leap in consciousness to wholistic thinking — to seeing whole patterns. In contrast with the prevailing linear paradigm, the New Paradigm sees everything as interconnected and interdependent . . . .Thus it is critical to keep the large picture—the whole system—in mind in order to create any kind of lasting solution and to avoid undue focus on effects, rather than dealing with causes that may be part of another system altogether.

"This is not really 'new' thinking. Many traditions of the Ageless Wisdom have taught wholistic thinking for centuries. For example, in the Native American teaching of the medicine wheel, each person begins life starting at a certain direction on the wheel.... To achieve wholeness, we have to move around the wheel, to see life from other perspectives, in order to understand the interconnection of all the parts. Native Americans resolved conflicts by sitting in council, in a circle of wholeness, where each voice could be heard in turn. Similarly, the Hindus and Buddhists have long used circular mandalas to teach about wholeness....

"Wholistic thinking or ecological thinking — seeing how everything affects everything else — is finally beginning to influence other national policies, such as economics, where piecemeal solutions never work, since all sectors of a nation’s economy are interrelated and interdependent with the world economy. The systems view sees the world in terms of relationships and integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller units."

Corinne McLaughlin's Spiritual Politics is largely based on messages from spirit guide Djwhal Khul, the "Tibetan Master" channeled by theosophist Alice Bailey. She taught her mediation strategies at the Department of Education and the EPA. See "Celebration of the Spirit"

"Closing the Feedback Loop between Matter and Mind"
A Conversation with Dr. Peter M. Senge, MIT Center For Organizational Learning, 5-15-1996

Peter Senge: "It seems to me that deep down the deepest questions for me have to do with the conscious evolution of human systems....

"Did you ever see David Bohm's little book Changing Consciousness? ... It has David's text about the way collective thought evolves, the role of culture in creating deep imprints in thought, and the effect this all has on our experience of life....

"To me, the essence of what systems thinking is all about is people beginning to consciously discover and conceptually explain and account for how their own patterns of thought and interaction....  Not "you," not "them," but we.

"The challenge, when you are dealing with larger-scale human systems, is that collectively people have to take some responsibility. ... De Maree used this term sociotherapy. ...

"The systems perspective is really fundamentally all about discovering the way we create our own reality. ... It connects very directly to the particular philosophy of organizational learning... which is, at its root, a systemic philosophy. Now it had different tools. ...

"We have been taught that one thing is more important than another. See? That's fragmentation. ... If you can convince someone that one thing is more important than another and if, secondly, the thing that's more important is harder to achieve and you can convince them of those two premises, then you can make fear the dominant emotion, because then you will always be fearful of not having it, of losing it. ...

Senge’s research interest concerns the conscious evolution of human and systems and how to help people collectively tap into the reserves that exist for profound learning and change. The mind and matter story of Master Nan opened the space for rearticulating the essence of systems thinking as relinking matter and mind in the social world: to help people and organizations close feedback loops between collectively enacted behavior and the consciousness of those who act. Science, when performed from this deeper perspective, focuses on bringing forth new realities, for "you can’t understand a system unless you create it." Likewise, leadership, when performed from the same perspective, is about accessing and operating from a "deeper force" related to the "capacity to live in the world you want to create" .... It's about showing up and being present."

Peter M. Senge is a Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Founding Chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL). He authored The Fifth Discipline and co-authored The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, The Dance of Change, and Schools That Learn. Senge's work articulates a cornerstone position of human values in the workplace; namely, that vision, purpose, reflectiveness, and systems thinking are essential if organizations are to realize their potentials.

"Communities of Commitment: The Heart of Learning Organizations" by Fred Kofman and Peter M. Senge

"Fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness are not problems to be solved--they are frozen patterns of thought to be dissolved.  The solvent we propose is a new way of thinking, feeling, and being: a culture of systems. Fragmentary thinking becomes systemic when we recover 'the memory of the whole,' the awareness that wholes actually precede parts. Competition becomes cooperation when we discover the "community nature of the self' ...  

"Together these changes represent a new "Galilean Shift." Galileo's heliocentric revolution moved us from looking at the earth as the center around which all else revolved to seeing our place in a broader pattern. In the new systems worldview, we move from the primacy of pieces to the primacy of the whole, from absolute truths to coherent interpretations, from self to community, from problem solving to creating.  

Thus the nature of the commitment required to build learning organizations goes beyond people's typical 'commitment to their organizations.' It encompasses commitment to changes needed in the larger world and to seeing our organizations as vehicles for bringing about such changes.  

"But a systems view of life suggests that the self is never 'given' and is always in the process of transformation. ...  

"How those predisposed begin to know each other and to work together involves an ongoing cycle of community-building activities and practical experimentation. The former must be intense enough and open-ended enough to foster trusting personal relationships and to lay a foundation of knowledge and skills....

"Moreover, it is a journey that we are all taking together. There are no 'teachers' with correct answers.... Each of us gives up our own certainty and recognizes our interdependency within the larger community of practitioners. The honest, humble, and purposeful 'I don't know' grounds our vision for learning organizations....

"Those not predisposed to systems thinking should not be excluded, but they may play less important roles at the outset. Over time, many people who are initially confused, threatened, or nonresponsive to systems thinking and learning often become the most enthusiastic supporters. If they are not included, because they raise difficult questions or disagree with certain ideas, what starts as a learning community can degenerate into a cult."  


The Spirituality of Systems Thinking by Lynn Stuter


 "Whether we call it change or transformation, the two are the same. Our society is being transformed; we are in the midst of a 'paradigm shift.'...

     In state and federal documents, the process to be used by business to achieve the sustainable global environment is made very clear. It's called by several names: Total Quality Management (TQM), Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), the High Performance Work Organization (HPWO).


 [See Reinventing the World and Re-Inventing the Church, Part 2 and "find" Senge]

Systems Thinking in the Twenty-First Century: "...further development of systems thinking necessitates overcoming the contradictions between different schools and unifying them into a single systems conception. With this in mind, systems problems are examined in light of the theory of knowledge. It is suggested that the gnosiological definition of the notion 'system' should be used as a basis for a single approach."

Note: Ervin Laszlo is the founder of the Club of Budapest and attended Gorbachev's State of the World Forum in San Francisco in 1997.


Ervin Laszlo: "We are transiting into a new kind of society.... What we are now living through is the transition from nationally based industrial societies to an interconnected and information-based global economic and social system. ...

    "In the past, our lives have been shaped mainly by information processed in human brains. ... But in the course of the twentieth century, the information processed in human brains has been increasingly supplemented by information processed in technical systems.

   "In the last decade of this century, we find ourselves not only in a social but also in an informational environment. Our societies have become more than social systems: They have turned into information-based sociotechnological ones. ...time has telescoped.... Suddenly, standard values and beliefs became irrelevant -- classical assumptions about the nature of the contemporary world have collapsed. This world is no longer an arena of the struggle between capitalism and communism led by two superpowers; it is a more complex world..."

New Thinking for a New Era: "Ervin Laszlo time has telescoped. We are precariously poised in a present full of challenge and change; the future is upon us before we can look around and realize that the past has disappeared.

"Who Is Ervin Laszlo?" by Lynn Stuter at http://www.learn-usa.com/relevant_to_et/ctd06.htm

"Ervin Laszlo's name comes up frequently in the context of systems thinking, systems theory, and general systems theory. Protégé of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, whose biology text books were used by Hitler, the following is appears on the back cover of Laszlo's book, The Systems View of the World:
    "A pioneer of systems thinking in philosophy, Ervin Laszlo is an interdisciplinarian and integrator.... Born in Budapest in 1932, he achieved international fame as a concert pianist in his early teens.... Currently he is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York's College of Arts and Science at Genesco....

     "Laszlo serves not only as President of the Club of Budapest and head of the General Evolution Research Group, which he founded, but is the former President of the International Society for Systems Sciences, an advisor of the UNESCO Director General, Ambassador of the International Delphic Council, member of the International Academy of Science, the World Academy of Arts and Science and the International Academy of Philosophy. He also held and holds positions as a board member or extraordinary member of numerous international associations, including, at one time, the Club of Rome.


Leading Congregational Change

by James H. Furr, Mike Bonem, Jim Herrington ( San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000)


This book, largely inspired by Saddleback's success, gives us a detailed look at the change process itself. "This is a book you ought to read before you change anything," said Rick Warren in his hearty endorsement. See Small Groups and the Dialectic Process


"Congregational leaders can become more effective by mastering the learning disciplines of transformational leadership--creative tension, mental models, team learning and systems thinking." Page 99

       "...our perspective is often incomplete. We take our experience with one part of the system and generalize it to the whole. In systems thinking (chpt 10), we learn that dealing with one part of the system gives an inadequate picture of the whole.

      "The dilemma in overcoming our limited view is that we are often unwilling to learn from others who interact with other parts of the system.... When change leaders learn to listen empathically, they learn to see the world differently." page 119

"Self-awareness lead to an increased capacity for self-disclosure. A third key personal skill, the skill of dialogue, build on thee first two. Dialogue is also essential for team learning and is discussed in depth in the next chapter."120


"Using critical thinking intentionally to challenge the mental models of an organization is a key skill. Critical thinking is the process of taking a fresh look at a problem by stripping away the assumptions and constraints that may have been imposed in the past."120-121

     "We thank Rick Warren... for the opportunity to reach and refine our understanding of congregational transformation as part of Saddleback Valley Church's Purpose-Driven Church Conference. We are also grateful to Bob Buford.... and others at Leadership Network for the many ways in which they have stimulated and facilitated our work." [Acknowledgements]

Chapter outline for the accompanying Workbook:

Spiritual and Relational Vitality: The Driving Force of Transformational Change (Four Disciplines)

  • Generating and Sustaining Creative Tension

  • Harnessing the Power of Mental Models

  • Enabling Team Learning

  • Practicing Systems Thinking

The Eight-Stage Change Process

  • Making Personal Preparation

  • Creating Urgency

  • Establishing the Vision Community

  • Discerning the Vision and Determining the Vision Path

  • Communicating the Vision

  • Empowering Change Leaders

  • Implementing the Vision

  • Reinforcing Momentum Through Alignment

From "World Heritage 'Protection: UNESCO's War Against National Sovereignty"

       In the eyes of UNESCO, private owners can't be trusted to guard "a World Heritage which belongs to all humanity" any more than parents can be trusted to raise their own children. The rights of the global collective must replace the old Western individual rights. To persuade the public, a new revolutionary way of thinking-often called holistic, integrated, or "systems thinking" -- must replace the contrary old Western thoughts and ways.

      "The real enemy is a dysfunctional way of thinking," said Al Gore in Earth in the Balance. His solution? "A worldwide education program... We should actively search for ways to promote a new way of thinking about the current relationship between human civilization and the earth...." UNESCO is leading the way....

      Joe Baylis' gold mine was outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. It fulfilled all state and federal environmental requirements. But those facts didn't stop UNESCO from exercising its authority over Baylis' land. According to new holistic interpretations of the World Heritage treaty, UN jurisdiction now also includes "critical buffer zones." So when World Heritage Committee members from Europe and Asia appeared in Wyoming in 1995 to help radical environmentalist fight the environmentally friendly mining company, they claimed -- and won -- the right to censure human activity within the entire ecosystem. In other words, "systems thinking" rather than scientific facts and logic prevailed....

      To gain control, it added new meaning to the agreement. In the seventies, the World Heritage Convention had defined "natural heritage" as "precisely delineated areas...." For Yellowstone, that "precise" delineation was a site measuring 2.2 million acres. Now the World Heritage leaders were claiming the right to "protect" what environmentalist considered an entire ecosystem of 14 to 18 million acres

      World Heritage Committee Chairman Adul Wichiencharoen of Thailand explained the new terms. He suggested that Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being prepared by the US Forest Service was taking a "fragmented" rather than a more "holistic approach" to the Yellowstone ecosystem.

      "It's a bit too much piecemeal, doesn't speak to the biological interactions outside park boundaries,"added Executive Director Bernd Von Droat, of Germany.


Forum for the Future: The Forum's mission and values:

  • Co-operation and learning. We believe that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. We strive to build a mutually supportive and creative environment in which we foster each other's development, and share our skills, knowledge and experiences. Partnership, participation, consultation and dialogue are core to the way in which we operate.