Barbara Heinzen, PhD
Politics of systemic invention
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IconPolitics of systemic invention
IconHow societies learn
IconManagement in a time of systemic change
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One of the most important foundation blocks in systemic change is the capacity to agree. This might be won by violence, by votes, by negotiation or by the force of  powerful, respected people.   Agreement is especially difficult in a period of systemic invention because no one has a monopoly on right answers. Instead, competing interests, values, world views and experience seek to define what is happening, how it might be managed, and who gets the benefits of any change. 

In early England, systemic invention emerged from the efforts of many people and localities. New ideas were tested wherever people found a safe place to experiment. These ideas often spread more quickly when they were also connected to powerful interests with wider influence. The process was not always easy or fair, so a third important ingredient was the ability of the English courts to resolve disputes simply and fast. With a safe place to experiment, a connection to power and a way to resolve disputes, multiple experiments were tested and gradually diffused through society as a whole. It was a chaotic process, rather than a deliberately planned one, but it was effective. It also meant that when large mistakes were made on a small scale the consequences were relatively limited.

One of the unwritten chapters of Barbara Heinzen's book, Feeling for Stones, was supposed to examine the politics of system change.  That chapter was never written, but the following diagram summarised what she had learned from her reading on the subject.  When this diagram was shown to a South African who had played a modest but significant part in that country's transition, its elements were immediately recognisable.

? Barbara Heinzen, 2012. All rights reserved.