Symbiotic Transformation

My current inquiry concerns systemic leadership and its associated organisational transformation. I’m fascinated by the ways by which ‘whole systems’ thinking, strategic design /planning and systemic relationships can co-create lasting participative transformational change.

To this end I’ve been engaged in some first-person work asking my critical friends: How well am I doing in terms of behaving, talking and relating in a more systemic way? Linked to this was an insightful question from one friend who asked me:

“What is it you are trying to do? What is the outcome you have in mind?”.

I sat for a few minutes in silence letting the question settle. Some initial ideas surfaced and I made a link between a recent Constellation I’d been on where a leader of a charity shared her vision of raising human consciousness to a new point that we live in a more balanced, sustainable and respectful way for all sentient beings. I recall being moved by such a bold but equally essential vision. I shared this with my friend and then I added:

“So I think I am looking to raise our systemic consciousness within our department and perhaps even within the organisation”. The next set of carefully challenging questions from my friend helped me to work through some of the options around the ‘how’.

It then struck me, quite powerfully, that what we/I need is access, or availability, of more systemic language: metaphors, myths, and stories to draw from. We need new stories and to be able to share them. These new stories will help shape our organisational ecology in systemic ways.

This is my current learning-edge. This is where I am ‘at’ right now.

One interesting idea that has caught my imagination is symbiosis. You’ll recall this is two separate living organisms living in harmony together. There is a beautiful example of this in this short video here:-


What I love about this is the way by which the algae has adapted itself to its host. In turn, the host has ‘accepted’ the algae through a symbiotic interaction or relationship. Rather than being seen as an invading parasite, that the host would reject in one way or another, the algae has been accepted. As you can see, the host and the newcomer benefit from the new relationship as two parts of a new, emergent ‘whole’. In fact, it gets even better for the host as they benefit from the converted sunlight from the algea as a new powerful source of energy. It is to coin a phrase from management-speak a ‘win:win’ relationship.

I’ve been wondering to what extent we can draw an analogy from this for new ways of working? For example, when we are looking to follow UK Government policy by becoming more agile? This does speak to me. Ensuring that the ‘host’ organisation seems the new relationship as symbiotic and that it can have demonstrable benefits from a ‘new and powerful source of energy’ seems like a fascinating, life-affirming new story in this space!

Take care, Jason.







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