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Holism and Leadership: Transforming Organisational Practice in an Age of Uncertainty

By Claudius van Wyk

During the recent course at Schumacher College I introduced the concept of holism to 15 delegates from the Netherlands, England, Switzerland, France, Germany, Scotland, Nicaragua, Brazil and South Africa. Other experts offered tools of application from complexity theory, organisational transformation, and new economics, including the radical new notion of ‘the economic commons’.

Students were invited to present apparently intractable problems for reconsideration through the lens of holistic science and complexity theory. Some of these ranged from the possibility of transforming a Swiss bank’s organisational practice, enabling Israeli/Palestinian dialogue in Jerusalem, and addressing the huge challenges of civil society integration in Afghanistan.

Further issues presented concerned the relationship between indigenous communities and a major corporation in Brazil, as well as issues between the Nicaraguan government and local communities around biodiversity. A further innovative challenge offered was that of convening an international intergenerational dialogue on authenticity and sustainability. South Africa was included in respect of endeavours to make local government consultative processes more real in South Africa. Now two of the delegates have begun considering reconstructing their Master’s degree dissertations, and three their doctoral theses, broadly within the philosophy of holism and employing the principles of complexity theory introduced in the course as process facilitation tools.

All of these efforts will be mutually supported in a six-month virtual learning community where participants will share ideas on identifying the multidimensionality of the challenges they wish to address. They will assist each other in identifying and employing holistic approaches to creating an enabling environment for collective and creative problems solving.

I feel deeply grateful to Schumacher College for allowing me this opportunity, and to my co-facilitator, Dr Fiona Tilley. I am also thankful for the generous participation of Schumacher College lecturers Dr Stephan Harding, Dr Jonathan Dawson, and Phillip Franses. Then too my gratitude goes to Professor Eve Mitleton-Kelly from the London School of Economics, Mark Drewell, CEO of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), and James Quilligan, Chairman of the Global Commons Trust. Further input into the virtual learning community will be offered by Lawrence Bloom, UK chairman of the Global Action Plan.

I look forward to the continued dialogue and participation resulting from this course.


Reproduced by kind permission of the author. Original article published here

Related course: Complexity and Collaboration: Applying Complexity Theory to Organisational Transformation July 15-19 2013

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