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What is Whole System Innovation?

Fundamentally, whole system innovation is about DESIGN - any kind of design - from widgits to group process. It refers to a design philosophy that is the foundation for our work. The 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 structure being designed, its related processes, and the patterns which emerge, are recognized and intentionally "hooked up." True innovation therefore, taps into the emergent properties that are latent within all systems and is literally one vast inexauhstable resource that is available to all humanity for creating a sustainable and livable future.

A common example of whole system innovation in practice is stakeholder involvement in the solving of complex organizational problems. 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 organizational design decisions.

bulbs_balloons.jpg Another example is Nature; which is truly a whole system that is tightly integrated into one global system that carries unique varieties of form, all within a meshed network of fractal wholes. An economy, a family, a company, a community, etc., can also be viewed 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. Note that intuition is an important "rationale" to be included in whole system design. A convergence of both scientific and artistic approaches are necessary to become aware of the "whole system," as well as material and spiritual needs, small as well as big, what we feel and think, what we perceive as well as what we imagine.

See more on the concept of 'whole systems'.

Principles of sustainability carry the seeds for new forms of innovation.

We seek to work with the whole organization - the "whole system," while considering the interdepencies of factors that influence an innovative outcome. Using principles of sustainability as a catalyst, inKNOWvate's primary objective is to help your company realize deeper forms of collaborative, sustained INNOVATION. To do this, we look beyond environmental conditions and to the interdependencies between economic viability, ecological stewardship, social equity, values to value process, how organizations learn, and what drives healthy decision-making. This defines a deeper nature of "sustainability" - with a triple bottom line (ecology, economy, equity) outcome that is ultimately about realizing new forms of innovation, which has now become the primary global driving force behind business growth and new technology inception.

Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure ... Albert Einstein

Sustainable Innovation Resources

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Copyright 2006 inKNOWvate Consulting, Institute for Whole System Innovation.