The shiftN approach
Moving beyond systems, to manifesting potential.
We recently rewrote the Our Approach section of the shiftN website.
“We used to introduce ourselves as ‘strategic management’ or ‘systemic change’ consultants. We thought our job was ‘to increase the quality of organisational sense-making and strategic conversation’, and ‘to enhance people’s agency in complexity and uncertainty’. We didn’t make up a story. There is still truth in that. But we have moved on. Today we see ourselves as fellow travelers that help individuals and organisations to grow as they work through ‘the fog that covers life here and now’. In this frenzied world that fog seems thicker than ever.
Make no mistake: life and fog are inextricably bound. There is no free lunch, no magic formula to create clarity in complexity. Yet there can be system in the madness. Tools and templates help. But more important is attitude. We center our practice around (Otto Scharmer’s) 3Cs. Curiosity means asking loads of good, generative questions. Compassion is the lifeblood of cultivating respectful, empathetic relationships. And courage shows itself in myriads of ways: who dares to really pause and take stock? Who is not averse of going against the grain of received ways of thinking and behaving? Who takes the risk to lean in an unknown future and engage in micro-experiments with an uncertain pay-off?
Human ingenuity is able to find a way through the most complicated of mazes. But it starts with leaning back, and listening to what one experiences as ‘the problem’. Problem may morph into potential. And messiness may turn out to be beautiful and revitalising after all. It may turn out to be life as we know it.
In a nutshell:
What do we do?
- We help individuals and organisations to discover what is deep, authentic, and joyful in the process of midwifing equitable, viable futures for themselves and their partners.
How do we work?
- We cultivate respectful, empathetic relationships with our clients as partners;
- We identify generative (and occasionally uncomfortable) questions together with our partners;
- We craft new language to talk about emerging realities;
- We develop culture-sensitive supports for conversations that matter;
- We co-design micro-experiments;
- We gather, analyse and visualise evidence;
- We build coalitions for change;
- We narrate alternative futures and imaginative visions;
What practice fields do we rely on?
- Systems and futures thinking-in-practice
- Participatory action research
- Organisational and systems design
- Data analysis and visualisation
What societal leverage points does our work focus on?
- Resilient and salutogenic healthcare
- Regenerative food, soil and bioregions
- Equitable value creation systems
What is our theory of change?
- Decisiveness is good, listening is better.
- Micro-experiments manifest latent potential.
- Systemic change emerges from weaving pockets of energy and potential.
This is an interim consolidation point in a long learning journey, out of the Newtonian worldview we were brought up in, into something much closer to how life unfolds.
A few sources of inspiration along the way. We are grateful to all our thinking-and-doing partners.
Hilary Bradbury: How to Do Action Research for Transformations At a Time of Eco-Social Crisis…
A Systems Library, Vol. 27
Ian Cheng: An Emissaries Guide to Worlding (2018)
A Systems Library, Vol. 24