Leveraging Critical Values Tensions in Systems Design

Russell Gaskin, CoCreative USA

+Small group breakout session with the author follows Talk

In systems change and design work, certain values-based tensions invariably emerge in the work, commonly Early wins & Systemic change, Differentiation & Integration, Data-driven analysis & Intuitive thinking, Interests of the parts & Needs of the whole, and Understanding the larger system & Empathizing with the human experience.

Based on practice across 24 multistakeholder networks, we have found that when these tensions are not shared and managed by all stakeholders, they are “mismanaged,” which often leads to polarization and disenfranchisement of members. On the contrary, when these tensions are managed well and treated as integrated “whole values,” they support deeper trust, a greater sense of interdependency, and more profound innovation.

By working at the values level rather than with just the positions or interests of stakeholders, we are also able to create a much more creative and dynamic design space.

In this talk, we will explore these tensions through cases and examples, and experiment with several frameworks for working effectively with them, including Competing Values, Dilemma Theory, the Theory of Constraints Conflict Cloud, Causal Loop Diagramming, and Polarity Thinking.

We’ll also examine common patterns in how these tensions play out in groups and at different levels of systems, from intrapersonal to large systems.

Posted: Oct-2020

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