Barbara Heinzen, PhD
Change v invention
IconChange v invention
IconPolitics of systemic invention
IconHow societies learn
IconManagement in a time of systemic change
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Systemic change differs from other transitions because society as a whole starts to organize around new goals and develop new rules and skills to meet them. This is what happens, for example, when an agricultural society industrialises, a process known as “development”.  As the newly industrializing countries of the 20th Century imitated models seen in Western Europe, Japan and the USA, they redefined each of development's building blocks to support an industrial system.  In the process, long-established rules and relationships were forced to change.

Systemic invention differs from systemic change because there is no model to follow. The decades preceding the Industrial Revolution were an era of systemic invention. A rising population had hit the limits of the existing system’s ability to provide adequate food and fuel. As pressures increased, society was buffeted by crises – the extremity of wars, famine and disease. In response, there was increasing willingness to experiment with new education and ideas, often through very local engagement with people of different skills, knowledge and wealth. The combination of extremity, experiment and engagement brought communities to create new rules, agreements, technologies and markets. These provided the foundations for industrial society.  See the 2000 presentation, "Is Technology the Only Driver of Change" in the graphical notes of Feeling for Stones.

Today, we are in a new period of systemic invention. Above all, we need to include the protection and restoration of environmental goods and services in our ordinary social and economic decisions. Meeting this challenge is comparable to inventing the Industrial Revolution 350 years ago.  In the process, the basic building blocks of development are likely to be redefined once more around a new set of goals.


? Barbara Heinzen, 2012. All rights reserved.