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Solving problems versus changing systems


I went for a run last week and listened the interview with Nora Bateson on the New Books in System and Cybernetics podcast.

Nora Bateson is the President of the International Bateson Institute and her web bio mentions “she is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator based in Sweden. Her work asks the question: How we can improve our perception of the complexity we live within, so we may improve our interaction with the world? “

The interview was about the book she published in 2006, Small Arcs of Larger Circles, a collection of essays, reflections and poems where she writes about systems and ecosystems and where she applies her own insights and those of her team at International Bateson Institute to education, organisations, complexity, academia, and the way that society organizes itself.

There are several points that struck me from the interview. One is that, solving probelms requires seeing the system in which the those problems emerge. This goes beyond understanding context and circumstances that produce a certain problems. The solution to a problem requires looking at the contexts / systems that contribute to the problem.

Here is an example. Say, I want to get or stay fit and decide to go for runs every second day. That is good for my body (system A). However, if the neighbourhood where I live (system B) has no green areas, just asphalt and cement and the air is polluted by the factory at the outskirt of the city. That will affect how fit I can become. If I struggle with finding a job to due to a recession or maybe robots taking up my job (system C), I might put running and getting fit on the back burner. So, in this example there are three systems that interact and in which my running will be part of. In reality the systems would be many more.

I need to change my behaviour to get fit and stay fit through running. But the systems around me, or better, the systems in which I exist determine how fit I can be. They can help me become more fit.

Photo credit: Photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash

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