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Systemic Intelligence, Survival & Leadership
Do you hide your intelligence? Martyn Carruthers

Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy

Systemic intelligence refers to behavior in complex systems that involves interaction and feedback, both within the system and with the environment. Systemic intelligence reflects the knowledge and flexibility of members of relationship systems.

Available Intelligence

When a problem threatens a human system, the leaders' actions can increase or decrease the available intelligence of both the individual members and the overall intelligence of the system. If the leaders promote brainstorming, for example, more members can contribute to finding creative solutions.

Intelligence is not a simple expression of a simple principle; intelligence is
the complex expression of a complex set of principles. Intelligence is a
super system composed of many interdependent subsystems ...

Levels of Organization in General Intelligence Eliezer Yudkowsky

If the leaders merely reinforce their own prejudices, then the intelligence of individual members may not contribute to solutions - or to their overall survival.

People who are punished for their intelligence may hide their intelligence!

In some human systems, members hide their intelligence to avoid unpleasant consequences. In some teams, intelligent people may hide their intelligence from leaders with less intelligence. In some countries, intelligent women may hide their intelligence from their husbands. In some organizations, duration of membership, not intelligence, qualifies you as a decision maker.

In Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime, being perceived as intelligent could mark a person for execution. Many intelligent people pretended to be stupid - to survive.

Systemic intelligence refers to the survival potential of a system

We acknowledge Peter Senge, who showed that people's innate systems capabilities are wider than was previously recognized, and we recognize systems thinking as a necessity for learning organizations.

Systems intelligence refers to intelligent behavior in complex systems - usually involving interaction and feedback. People with active systems intelligence perceive themselves as interdependent parts of larger systems. As human systems emerge, develop and change (like other living organisms) systemically intelligent action can respect whole systems, even while those systems are unfolding.

In systems psychology, survival potential reflects your ability to cope with biological, physical or emotional stress. Individual intelligence plays a relatively minor role in the intelligence of a human system. Systemic intelligence more often focuses on the environment, energy and food management, relationships, habits and stored knowledge than on the individual intelligence of system members.

We find that, in human systems, this ability to cope with internal stressors (e.g. addicts, thieves, lawyers) and external stressors (e.g. climate, oil, food production) primarily reflect the quality of relationships, and secondarily reflect factors such as age, culture, education and genetic heritage.

People's values govern their beliefs and behavior ...
and strongly affect their survival potential.

Human systems can enhance or impede the intelligence of individual members - and individual members can enhance or impede the survival potential of the system.

Morals all correct moral laws derive from the instinct to survive.
Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.
Robert A Heinlein

Systems intelligence can create solutions for problems in such a way that not only are problems resolved but that members of the system become more skilled at solving similar types of problems.

How to solve problems AND make human systems smarter

Experts engaged in solving problems often lock themselves into what experts believe. A non-expert or a visitor from another discipline is more likely to see discrepancies and opportunities that the experts cannot even imagine.

Parts of our systemic psychology are based on noticing discrepancies
and opportunities that violate "what experts believe".

Appreciating the diversity of human experience can empower problem solving.

Scott Page (University of Michigan), ran a series of computer models pitting all-smart groups of agents against groups of more diverse agents ranging from not-so-smart to smart. The group with the lower average intelligence was almost always better at solving problems than the smarter groups.

At the same time, people with a wider variety of diverse opinions require a leader or moderator, otherwise problem solving can quickly become lost in a confused mess of unfocussed discussions.

Applying Systems Intelligence

In our systemic coaching, we perceive people as representatives of complex networks of interacting relationships. Everyone in each network can contribute to solving problems. Questions that encourage this systems-intelligent perspective include:

  1. Multiple Perspectives. Can you see yourself, your roles and your behavior in the system from multiple perspectives?
  2. Multiple Futures: Can you envision and identify different productive behaviors for yourself in the system while perceiving the potential consequences of your choices?
  3. Multiple Choices: Can you consider productive ways of behaving within the system?
  4. Management: Can you encourage systems-intelligent behavior over long time frames?
  5. Leadership: Can you initiate, found and lead systems-intelligent teams?

Systemic Thinking ... Clare Graves Level 7

Clare Graves was a post-doctoral student of the more well known Abraham Maslow. Clare Graves created a hierarchy of values which we find extremely useful to predict the behavior of human systems (as opposed to the individual behaviors of members).

After interviewing over a thousand students to find what they perceived as a healthy adult, Clare Graves postulated that human values develop in response to environmental conditions in a developmental hierarchy.

Graves Level 7 refers to people who are sensitive to subtleties and who explore alternative ways to understand and behave. They value appropriate solutions for the same problems in different contexts and can "see the big picture", long range strategies and consequences while providing original solutions to specific problems.

For them, stable team leadership is a relic of the past! For them, a team leader should be the most appropriate person for the current task according to their abilities, knowledge and networks, although an overall manager may be accepted as a servant to look after boring details.

Systemic intelligence may be an asset to the survival and success of organizations if the team members can:

  • learn from other perspectives
  • investigate possibilities of reciprocity
  • be recognized for their individual development
  • avoid obsessing about mechanistic or statistical cause-effects

Developing our systemic coaching often required that we ignore older ideas.
Many of our innovative methods grew in the fertilizer of "I don't know".

Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy

I thought you were just another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 2006-2018
All rights reserved

If you like our work, please link to us. If you know someone who might benefit,
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Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email