New political realities, economic downturns, loss of revenue, or failure of leadership can cause people or institutions to become paralyzed. Figuring out how to change with the times is necessary for the survival of individuals and society.

“It has been said that our critical survival ability can only be learned socially; this socially learned ability—culture—has two dimensions:

1. Cognitive: The process of knowing, language, meaning, and reasoning.
2. Normative: Values, beliefs, and social contracts.

Self-organizing, purposeful, sociocultural systems must be self-evolving to be viable. They cannot passively adapt to their environments but should co-evolve with them. They should be able to change the rules of interaction as they evolve over time.”

— Jamshid Gharajedaghi in Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity

However, change is easier said than done. It’s tough because people aren’t prepared to change or it may just be easier to stick with what you know. Creating change takes time and effort.

Imagine changing as a problem emerges. Working at this level requires a deep understanding of now and a general sense of where you are going. The knowledge of context gives you the ability to consider all of the options open to you at a point time.

As Gharajedaghi notes, as an environment changes, the rules for how you interact with it also changes. So, adapting to a stimulus is not about reaction, but understanding how the actual interface with the stimulus changes.

If an environment changes, then the rules to deal with it can also change. Resist applying old rules to new situations.

[Photo:  A curving skylight in an atrium.]

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