Let’s take some time to overview the development and evolution of modern music as an example of a long and very fruitful system development:
- The invention of radio and recording allowed many separate culturally embedded musical threads to be experienced by musicians and children/teenagers.
- Musicians became comfortable meshing snippets of different traditions and children/teenagers became comfortable listening to same.
- Incredibly cheap and universally wide-spread music distribution through radio allowed the emergence of rock and roll and Elvis Presley as a national cultural institution
- The Beatles took this institution globally
- The dramatic drop in the cost of creating and producing high-quality music lead to an explosion of, and reintegration of, a boatload of musical styles (second level integration).
Try to think of what could replace this existing worldwide system of musical experience. It would be like trying to replace a community’s primary language.
So… A cultural dynamic of immense scope and power is playing out in your target’s environment. How can you possibly make use of this to impact your target?
Align your change efforts with the natural dynamic of this larger cultural force.
The Forever Fountain: Generative Ecologies
A generative ecology is a network that continues to create novelty over a long period of time in a self-sustaining manner. That’s why I refer to them as “Forever Fountains”. Such an ecology continues to create newness without a director or a controlling force. The entire evolution of life on earth is the most long-standing and productive generative ecology and the one within which all our other Forever Fountains arise.
The popular music ecology is one with which we are all familiar, and it demonstrates the independence of the ecological creation process from changes in technology, musicians, audiences, geography, culture, distribution methods, or anything else that is ordinarily considered important in the production of products, services, supports, events, or whatever.
A generative ecology represents a more or less constantly evolving force in our environment. We can either align our change efforts with that force, or against that force, but we can’t avoid it.
One of the most basic strategic decisions we can make is this one.
At any given time, there are a variety of generative ecologies operating in the change target’s environment. Whether we intend to or not, when we act to change a target, we are aligning and opposing all the relevant generative ecologies that affect the target system (and us as well). Better to decide how we want to integrate those ecologies than to stumble across them as we try to implement our change plan.
One ecology of critical and expanding importance in our change plans is social networking (SN). Because SN is becoming a part of more and more people’s lives across the globe, a SN strategy must be part of most of our change plans. Since the people we affect with our change plan will, in all likelihood, be using SN, we don’t have the option of “excluding” SN from our strategy. It will become part of our strategy whether we like it or not. Again, better to get good at it.
Since SN technology, reach, software, and basic importance in most lives is constantly expanding and changing, we must invest time and energy in understanding and using SN if we expect to competently include it in our change plans.
Next Post: An Advocate’s Guide to System Thinking, Part 1
Change Strategy: Making Our Lives Larger by Norm DeLisle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License