Author: Nancy Southern


Systems Thinking: An Essential Skill for Living in the 21st Century

I am attending the annual conference of the International Society of Systems Sciences (or ISSS) along with a number of Saybrook faculty members, students, alumni, and colleagues from around the world. What each person here has in common is an understanding of the complexity that makes up the world we live in today and the… Read more »

Leveraging Relationships to End Poverty: The Power of Circles

I was recently introduced to an innovative approach to address the personal and systemic challenges of poverty. Imagined and initiated by Scott Miller, CEO of Move the Mountain Leadership Center, Circles is a process taking place in communities throughout the U.S. Scott’s mission, as I interpret it, is to inspire, educate, and connect people and… Read more »

Creating Space: A Critical Aspect of Sustainability

I was recently asked what I was currently working on to support sustainable life on the planet. Over the years, I have been doing my part by recycling, reducing my consumption, reducing carbon usage, and bringing sustainability conversations into my university and other groups in which I participate; however, when I reflected on this question,… Read more »

The Need for Organizational Learning is Now

In Kathia Laszlo’s May 2nd post, she spoke to the critical need to rethink and expand boundaries within a system to support different ways of working and learning together. The need to create organizational cultures where learning together is the norm has never been so important as it is during this time of increasing complexity… Read more »

What Does It Take to be an Entrepreneurial Leader?

In preparing to facilitate a conversation with Chip Conley, founder of America’s second largest boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre Hospitality, I had the opportunity to consider whether there are differences in the way successful entrepreneurial  leaders engage as leaders compared to leaders in larger, more established organizations. Does starting and growing an organization require… Read more »

Emergent Change in K-12 Education

Jorge Taborga’s post on emergent change provided me a framework for considering how emergent change can happen in K-12 education. As most everyone realizes, our structures and processes of K-12 education are rooted in the Industrial Age and are stifling learning for children in this amazing age of information, where knowlegde is at their finger… Read more »

Knowledge is Power?

My latest inquiry surrounds the exploration of the widespread belief that “knowledge is power.” I am teaching a dialogue course this term and one of my students inspired this inquiry through a posting that enlightened my perspective on how limiting that assumption that “knowledge is power” can be. Dialogue asks us to explore collective thought… Read more »

Making Time for Dialogue

I am teaching a course on generative and strategic dialogue this term and, through the amazing dialogue with my students, I am reminded of the importance and challenge of this communicative practice. Dialogue asks us to become more aware and intentional about how we listen, think, and speak. In his 1999 book, Dialogue and the… Read more »

Systemic Implications of Social Swarming

I recently received an invitation to comment on a blog posting defining social swarming and how it worked in regards to the decision of the Susan B. Komen foundation to withdraw support of Planned Parenthood, which was fairly quickly reversed. According to Leland Russell, social swarming occurs “when a disparate group suddenly moves en masse… Read more »

Engaging the Dragon: Learning Across Cultural and Political Divides

Last year, opportunity came knocking at our door in the form of a dynamic young Chinese woman who expressed interest in taking our organizational systems Ph.D. program to China as an offering to Chinese business and government executives. Having done my dissertation research in China, taught in another American university program in Beijing, and interfaced… Read more »