System of System Lenses – Five lenses to help bring clarity to systems conversations.

Any discussion of complex issues requires moving beyond the assumption that we are all talking about the same issue at hand and into pristine clarity about what the system up for conversation really is. In my years consulting with organizations and in teaching in the Master of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University, I have observed that system conversations can generally sort into five categories:

  • Ideology and Beliefs Lens – The sum total of the beliefs, assumptions, mental models, values and shared meaning underpinning a situation;
  • Rational and Irrational Decision Making Lens – The rational and irrational ways we obtain, information, apply reasoning and make decisions;
  • Interpersonal and Social Dynamics Lens – The patterns, habits, personal and interpersonal relationships among individuals and groups all make up this lens;
  • Process and Value Creation Lens– Any time we are seeing someone or something moving through a process in such a way as to be affected by the process, we are looking through this lens; and
  • ContexLens Elements of a scenario that are external to it, but that give rise to it or otherwise apply pressure on it such that is experienced in a certain way (yes this is paradoxical but it helps form a boundary).
So give it a try. When you are discussing a complex scenario, get clear about which lens you are looking through. See what new possibilities open up for you and for others. Post to let us know what you see and what your experiences are.
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