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What Are Living Systems?

Jan 26, 2022 | Conscious Communication, Daily Trek

Living System - Radical Trekking - Ayelet Baron

Living Systems Are Regenerative

There is an entire body of scientific work on living systems with papers, books and in-depth exploration. For our purpose, organizational living systems are ushering in healthy ongoing development, learning, flow and expansion. They are centered on people who integrate the technologies that benefit life and work.

Machines are merely the mechanics and what gets valued are the human dynamics that allow an idea from our imagination to turn into a significant contribution to humanity. A true game-changer that engages timeless technologies and wisdom.

They are called living systems because we are never done when we allow ourselves to transform and regenerate. Flexibility allows us to be resilient and adaptive to accelerate innovation, sustainability and value. With living systems, we identify ways to bring out the best in each other and support continuous learning.

Living systems take us away from unnatural ways of working that make us believe that change needs to be managed when in reality, change is a natural evolution. And open communication allows everyone in an organization to know their role in the transformation without creating too much confusion and stress.

Why Do Living Systems Matter?

A company can have a mission, vision and values statements and feel they are done once they are published. But with living systems, the organization is always evolving and changing.  Living systems ensure that the values are actually being practiced and a way of life.

Communication is critical to creating organizations that are able to adapt and navigate uncertainty with curiosity and open dialogue. Imagine a team having a shared purpose, pooling their resources, challenging and learning from each other, and focused on the overall success of making a contribution to the mission of the organization.

But we also need to understand that behavior change among people is an evolution itself and that we each go through our own process when anything shifts in our life and work:

  1. Awareness of a situation or shift
  2. Understanding how it impacts you
  3. Translation to how you want to shift
  4. Adoption of healthy ways through practice
  5. Internalization into daily life, which means it becomes a way of life

Take fear for example. Getting out of your comfort zone can radically change your life’s course. If you live in constant fear, you need to understand where the fear stems from (awareness). Then, examine the root cause of beliefs that cause you, and no one else fear (understanding). Once you understand the fear of change, what do you choose to shift in yourself to address your fear (translation)? When you experience that fear, what practices can you adopt that will ease the fear (adoption)? And how can you thrive and embrace the unknown as a way of life (internationalization)?

Living Systems - Radical Trekking - Ayelet Baron

Questioning is at the heart of it all and we are each different in our process. You may need to become aware of your own living system and tweak it for yourself as one size does not fit all and frameworks should never be followed blindly.

This all takes deep conversation within ourselves where we plant seeds in our garden and allow them to grow. Some will and some won’t and that’s okay and natural. Releasing ourselves from the prison of the mind about how life is supposed to allow us to break free individually and collectively. How much energy gets wasted in misunderstandings? Imagine if instead of so much conflict resolution and negotiation training, we offered communication, trust-building and shared purpose alternatives? What we seed becomes reality.

Alignment with Nature is at the Heart of Resilient Organizations

As regenerative architect Michael Pawlyn shares, “You could look at nature as being like a catalog of products [which have all] benefited from a 3.8 billion year research and development period. Given that level of investment, it makes sense to use it!”

Everything that follows a natural cycle includes life and death. When we grow, we naturally change. And so our systems flow with natural cycles as we evolve. And when we don’t we put unnatural constraints that inhibit our ability to question, we make course corrections, as needed. That’s why when we are truly innovating, some of our greatest breakthroughs happen when we learn from failures. They are often a gift that point us in a healthier direction. 

Innovation, and our imagination, are not meant to be boxed in. Conflict arises when we are constantly fighting, which is why it’s important to have a shared purpose when collaborating and open dialogue that allows us to create together. Otherwise, we are stuck in a box always needing to be right and unable to listen fully to our hearts and each other. 

Living systems are about aligning with nature and giving ourselves permission to truly learn and grow by co-creating with purpose and flow. It’s where we are headed when we put our swords down and truly collaborate and partner.

Change doesn’t need to be scary. It can, and often does, bring rich experiences into our lives. Remember that what got you to where you currently are may no longer be useful to you on your journey forward—and don’t forget to look out the window during the journey, as you may see something spectacular or scary that you want to experience, or something you are passionate about creating. Trusting the currents is at the heart of all living systems that need to be nurtured and questioned.

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