Author: Gary Metcalf


Designing better worlds

There is a long lineage of systems thinkers, and systems scientists, who have proposed ways to purposefully design the social systems in which we live. Bela H. Banathy, who created the systems program at Saybrook, used an idealized approach to social systems design. John Warfield offered his Interactive Management process. His long-time colleague, Aleco Christakis,… Read more »

The Future of Learning

Today’s organizations tend to focus on getting better and better at what made them successful. This can be problematic, according to Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. “The problem is that this leaves companies vulnerable to the disruptive innovations that emerge in the murky, low-margin bottom of the market,” Christensen explained in a recent… Read more »

Complexity, Sustainability, and Narrative

Sorting out complexity is, by nature, difficult. When we talk about complexity we tend to mean something beyond normal, regular, or average.  Even agreeing on definitions is problematic. A search of the “systemspedia” in the online library of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence found 362 entries related to complexity. (Note that… Read more »

A Painful Goodbye: End-of-Life Care in the U.S. Healthcare System

The difficulties around healthcare in the U.S. remain as complex as ever. I have spent the last two months experiencing those in a very personal way. Twenty-two years ago, a close family member—let’s call her Millie—was diagnosed with cancer and given a poor prognosis.  She beat the odds and survived. This summer, she was again… Read more »

Education as… Discretionary Spending?

A mid-August posting by Jeff Selingo, editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education, described three key issues facing administrators in higher education in the U.S. What he referred to as the “trifecta” that had to be kept in balance involved “rising tuition discount rates, flat or falling net tuition revenue, and declining yield numbers.”… Read more »

Simplifying Complexity in Politics: Healthcare

With the coming of another U.S. presidential election, we are faced once again with a barrage of over-simplified explanations about increasingly complex problems. And with the choice of Paul Ryan as the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party, it seems that healthcare will be front-and-center in the ads and speeches. He obviously didn’t create… Read more »