Five Books in Five Days (5) Seeing Systems

This week, five books that have the potential to profoundly change the way you understand yourself, others, and life.

I have mentioned Barry Oshry’s book Seeing Systems before, and I’m certain his work deserves a central place in the current Five Books in Five Days.

It’s rare to come across an account of the complexities, tangles, suffering and possibilities of organisational life that is written with such directness, wisdom and lightness of touch, and which offers such possibilities for finding a path through.

Seeing Systems asks us to look anew at our participation in organisational life. Most importantly, it asks us to see our difficulties – and in particular our difficultie with others – as a systemic rather than personal issue, and to respond in kind.

And, unlike many other approaches, Oshry does offer us skilful ways to respond. None of them are easy, and none of them are simple. He describes new ways of both interpreting and acting that can cut through our stuckness, resignation and cynicism.

And he outlines the possibility of working with others in ways that are more dignified and truthful than the blaming and self-aggrandising (or self-deprecating) positions we so easily take up.

“We humans are systems creatures.” he says. “Our consciousness – how we experience ourselves, others, our systems, and other systems – is shaped by the structure and processes of the systems we are in.”

“There is a tendency to resist this notion;” he continues. “We prefer seeing ourselves as captains of our own ships; we prefer the notion that we believe what we believe and think what we think because of who we are, not where we are. I will demonstrate how such thinking is the costly illusion of system blindness – an illusion that results in needless stress, destructive conflicts, broken relationships, missed opportunities, and diminished system effectiveness. And this blindness has its costs in all the systems of our lives – in our families, organisations, nations and ethnic groups.”

 I’d recommend it highly for anyone who leads (which, in one way or another, is all of us).

Photo Credit: Jösé via Compfight cc

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