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Principles of Sustainability

Fundamentally, whole system innovation is about DESIGN - any kind of design - from widgits to group process.

For us at IWSI, Whole System Innovation refers to a design philosophy that is the foundation for our work.

This basic premise asserts that to design well is to start with the WHOLE SYSTEM, which in practical terms needs be several orders of magnitude larger in scope than the specific system being designed.

In other words, Innovation is the process whereby the connections between the parts, processes, patterns and structures are recognized and intentionally “hooked up”.

True innovation therefore, taps into the emergent properties latent within all systems and is literally the one vast inexhaustible resource available to all humanity for creating a sustainable and livable future.


A common example of this is the practice of stakeholder involvement in the solving of complex organizational problem.

In this case, even though the stakeholders may not have a completely vested interest in the immediate success of the organization or even, specific decision making authority, they are nonetheless significant due to their potential impacts – whether positive or negative.

It is this "impact potential" that signals the necessity of recognizing the links between the components of the system being developed and using that awareness to inform all design decisions.


Nature is a whole system. But also an economy, a family, a company, a community, or many other things, can be looked at as whole systems. A whole system view would include all the factors involved and examine how they relate to each other and how they work as a whole. To deal with a whole system we can't leave anything out as irrelevant. Intuition is as important as rationality, we must address both scientific and artistic approaches, both material and spritual needs, the small as well as the big, what we feel as well as what we think, what we perceive as well as what we imagine.

Whole systems are dynamic, they change they move, they develop. Frozen pictures of how things are supposed to be might do us no good, we need to deal with the live systems, whichever surprising directions that might take us in.

There is no one authority in the field of whole systems. Luckily nobody has monopolized it by putting it into a standard curriculum defining what it IS. So, we all have the opportunity to discover together what whole systems are about.

Principles of sustainability carry the seeds for next generation innovation.

We seek to work with the whole organization - the whole system, while considering the interdepencies of factors that influence an innovative outcome.

5-Point Architecture

Using principles of sustainability as a catalyst, inKNOWvate's primary objective is to help your company realize deeper forms of collaborative, sustained INNOVATION.

IWSI (institute for whole system innovation) is about looking beyond environmental conditions and looking at a unique form of interdependencies between: economic viability, ecological stewardship, social equity, values to value, organizational learning, and decision-making. This (we believe) defines the deeper nature of ‘sustainability’ - with a triple bottom line outcome that, for an organization, is less about being sustainable and moreabout realizing new forms of innovation.

Business growth and inception within the sustainabilty realm.

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