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
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
system composed of many interdependent subsystems ...
Levels of Organization in
General Intelligence Eliezer Yudkowsky
leaders merely reinforce their own prejudices, then the intelligence of
individual members may not contribute to solutions - or to their overall
People who are punished for their intelligence may hide
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
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
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.
govern their beliefs and behavior ...
and strongly affect their
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
- Multiple Perspectives.
Can you see yourself, your roles and your behavior in the system from
- Multiple Futures:
Can you envision and identify different productive behaviors for yourself in
the system while perceiving the potential consequences of your choices?
- Multiple Choices: Can you consider productive
ways of behaving within the system?
- Management: Can you encourage systems-intelligent
behavior over long time frames?
- Leadership: Can you
initiate, found and lead systems-intelligent teams?
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
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
- avoid obsessing about mechanistic or
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".
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