Town of Vail: Living Labs

Town of Vail with Hal Rabbino

The project with the Town of Vail covered the first two weeks of December 1998, exploring how this very successful global-destination ski resort could meet the needs of its visitors and its residents simultaneously.  Using the emerging Strategic Clarity process, we engaged the leadership of the Town of Vail in a strategic systems process.

Initial Project Description

In this 13-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and documented impacts.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 1998, we were refining our understanding of strategic systems mapping and developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork in the mountains of Colorado, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was confirming the efficiency of our strategic systems process for unifying a diverse group of stakeholders around a common goal, a complex set of strategic dynamics, and the identification of a set of agreed-upon leverage points.

Further References

Global Colors Company — Mexico and Central America Operations: Living Labs

Global Colors Company with Luz Maria Puente Kawashima

The Global Colors Company project started in 2002 and took place within the food colors division of the Mexico and Central America operations of a global colors company. The project used strategic systems mapping to engage functional areas across the company to see themselves as a whole.

Initial Project Description

In this 16-minute exploration, Luz Maria provides an overview of the project, key insights and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2002, we had just published the book Managing from Clarity. We had refined our understanding of strategic systems mapping, and we were testing it in different organizational settings.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was refining our development of processes for using the Strategic Clarity to bring diverse functions across a supply chain into a unified whole at the business level.

Kraft Mexico: Living Labs

Kraft Mexico with Conrado Garcia Madrid

The Kraft Mexico project in 2003 brought together the Kraft Mexico sales team with its top distributors to understand the underlying dynamics of what worked and did not work in the sales system for them.  Combining system dynamics simulation and strategic clarity analysis, this project culminated in a 1.5-day event with 60 participants from Kraft and their lead distributors.

Initial Project Description

In this 21-minute exploration, Conrado provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and innovations in working with other consulting processes and in bringing together a large group of stakeholders.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2003, we were integrating systemic strategy and impact measurement.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork with Kraft, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was refining our understanding of the process in integrating our strategic systems process with formal system dynamics simulation, and in the development of strategic measurement tools based on the strategic systems simulation.

Further References

Delta-R Oilfield Integration Services: Living Labs

Delta-R with Hal Rabbino

The Delta-R project, 2000-2001, integrated the strategic systems understanding into an online platform for an integrated understanding of the oilfield in hydrocarbon asset valuation.  The project started by developing the software, with the Delta-R software team, that integrated the system dynamics simulation capacity with the strategic systems framework to integrate different elements of the oilfield in one platform, which was then applied with Hal in two settings in Africa and one in Europe.

Initial Project Description

In this 8-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of this strategic process, its rollout in the field, initial insights, key experiences, and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2001, we had just published the book Managing from Clarity. We had refined our understanding of strategic systems mapping, and we were actively developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points.

Co-investment.  In this set of projects with Delta-R, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation, and our financial capital in building a strategic systems simulation platform with Delta-R.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was learning how to integrate strategic systems thinking into a simulator environment of a specific complex environment.

Comision Estatal de Aguas de Queretaro (water systems in Mexico): Living Labs

Comision Estatal de Aguas de Queretaro with Conrado Garcia Madrid

The Comision Estatal de Aguas de Queretaro project in 2006, with follow up in 2016, worked with the governmental agency leaders and some of their stakeholders to shift their strategy.  This project involved coordination with a simultaneous reengineering project, and culminated in a table of direct action plans for each area within the commission, using a results-based management approach to measurement and action planning.

Initial Project Description
In this 17-minute exploration, Conrado provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and innovations in working with other a reengineering processes and in grounding the strategic systems insights into action plans for a results-based management approach.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2006, we had founded the Institute for Strategic Clarity three years earlier, developing our understanding of the sustained use of strategic systems frameworks in long-term relationships.

Co-investment.  In this 10-year relationship with the water authority of Leon (Mexico), we  co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation, and our social capital of the many other leaders in Mexico working with our approach.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment came in the refinement of our understanding of the utility of strategic systems tools over multiple iterations of the strategic process and the engagement of increasing circles of community leadership as the long-term, strategic systems initiative evolved.

Further References

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell: Living Labs

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell with Luz Maria Puente KawashimaHal Rabbino, and Marshall Clemens

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell project in 2002 used strategic systems mapping and idiagrams to engage the leadership of a very impactful nonprofit, serving over 200 kids in Lowell, MA (USA), and on the brink of financial collapse, in a strategic renewal.  This required quick wins towards long-term health.  The process brought the board and faculty together to revision the board, its role, and the work of the faculty with the board to invigorate fundraising and community building.  From then with 1 month of funding until the doors were shut to now with new buildings and an endowment to increase its financial resilience, the Club came together to imagine and materialize a healthier future, doubling the population of boys and girls served.

Initial Project Description

In this 21-minute exploration, Luz Maria provides an overview of the project, the 1-year process with a follow up 2 years later, key insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and potential and documented impacts.

Video version

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2002, we had just published the book Managing from Clarity. We had refined our understanding of strategic systems mapping, and we were actively developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points, and how it could be used with community-based strategic processes.

Co-investment.  In this multi-year relationship with the Boys & Girls Club, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and community-engagement processes.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was refining our processes and tools for engaging multi-lingual communities in taking up a long-term systemic strategy for the development of their own community.

Further References

Grupo Bal — Corporate: Living Labs

Grupo Bal with Hal Rabbino

The Grupo Bal project, in 1999, explored the strategic systems understanding of a corporate governance setting, understanding the interplay of multiple businesses and the role of the corporate function.

Initial Project Description

In this 10-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences, and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 1999,  we were refining our strategic mapping of systems, and developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork, we co-invested our intellectual property of the strategic systems thinking of complex systems, within the strategic framing of the corporate environment.

Return on Co-investment.  The intellectual return on our co-investment came in the exploration of strategic systems thinking when applied to a corporate environment, exploring the value generated and strategic leverage points for the corporate group managing a portfolio of companies.  A key insight gained was in formulating the valuation of a corporate group of companies as a combination of the current value and the risk of the future value, a risk that is partly controlled by the way that the corporate group works with the portfolio of companies.  This valuation of an underlying system of enabling and value-driving resources works nicely with the systemic view of the strategic elements of the corporate group.

We were invited with leadership from Grupo Bal to present the findings of this work at a conference on strategic measurement at Harvard, bringing a return on our social capital co-invested, developing a relationship with the creators of the Balanced Scorecard, which would play out in future research.

Further References

Cancer Free Economy Network: Living Labs

Cancer Free Economy Network with Conrado Garcia Madrid

The Cancer Free Economy Network project in 2015-2016 worked with a large, multi-stakeholder process to rid the US economy of carcinogenic toxins.  The project joined an on-going strategic systems process that already had a systems map and leverage points identified.  The project started by taking a team of 3 people from the project through the Strategic Clarity 2.0 analysis, developing their capacity to understand and do the analysis, with the completed analysis as the deliverable.   The project then worked with the leverage point teams to identify specific leverage-point strategies and to integrate those strategies into one unified strategy.

Initial Project Description
In this 21-minute exploration, Conrado provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and innovations in engaging with a strategic systems project that already had a systems map and leverage points identified, as well as innovations in the use of graphic templates to facilitate the leverage-point teams’ work with the strategic systems process.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2015, we had just published the book Ecosynomics. We were refining our understanding of the strategic systems processes underlying collaboration and networks.

Co-investment.  In this project with the Garfield Foundation, we co-invested our intellectual property of the Strategic Clarity methodology, our understanding of how to develop leverage-point strategies, and how to unite them in one overall strategy, our social capital in how to develop the capacity of our co-investors in actually doing the strategic synthetic analysis for leverage points.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment came in the forms of the intellectual capital of (1) developing the capacity of co-investors to work with and support the technical assessment of the leverage points, (2) exploring new ways of graphically engaging teams in developing leverage-point strategies, and (3) deepening our experience in working with a network to design a unified leverage-point strategy.

Further References

BMC Diabetes: Living Labs

BMC Diabetes with Hal Rabbino

The BMC Diabetes project in 1997 used the reference behavior pattern, coupled with qualitative stock-flow diagramming to shift the global strategy of a diabetes diagnostic company, and to explain to its leadership why it had missed this critical turning point and how to make the transition.

Initial Project Description

In this 10-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of the strategic process,  initial insights, key experiences, and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 1997, we were in an early phase of ISC’s work, in a form called the Leverage Institute.  After three years in systemic strategy at the ITAM, Jim was now in the doctoral program in decision sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.  We were merging the fields of system dynamics and strategic decision making, testing the emerging “strategic decision simulation” framework in field settings like BMC.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork, we co-invested our intellectual property of the blending of system dynamics and strategy and our financial capital in the time to write up what we found in a case study.

Return on Co-investment.  The return we received started immediately, the first day, in two parts.  First, while we had intended to develop a detailed simulation of the problem BMC was facing, we experienced the power of a strategically clear question–when we used the system dynamics framing of stocks and flows to ask the strategic questions of (1) the organization-level behavior they were trying to shift, and (2) the core dynamics influencing that behavior, we found that they were missing a key dynamic in their narrative.  This was the first return: the power of a well framed and mapped strategic question.  It made the missing, strategic element simple and clear.

The second return came that first afternoon, when we saw that we could explain dynamically (1) why smart people had missed this key element, initially, and (2) why they now needed to pay attention to it.  This was the first time we saw that we could describe with simple clarity the dynamic evolution of the strategic understanding in a complex system–how they had arrived at this point, the required shift, and what they could do going forward–a key feature of our research going forward.

Further References

Regenerative Capacity: What It Is, Why It Is Critical, And Why You Care

Equity must be a central feature of regeneration.  And, equity work can be done in such a way that is degenerative. Diversity, inclusion, equitable involvement, and valuation are crucial to regenerative capacity, and regenerative approaches are key to equity, at the individual, inter-personal, organizational and larger systemic levels.

Regenerative capacity is the capacity to generate again.  To generate the resources needed for one’s system, from within one’s system.  High regenerative capacity means that the system generates all of the resources it needs for its own sustenance, from within the system.  Low regenerative capacity means that the system depends on external sources for its sustenance.

Regenerative capacity invokes capacity (the nouns we have), with which we can generate (the verbs we have), again and again, (from the potential we have) as we grow and learn.  While the capacity to work depends on our nouns, generative capacity depends on our verbs and nouns, and regenerative capacity depends on our potential, verbs, and nouns.  Regenerative capacity is qualitatively different than generative capacity or capacity alone, in that it requires continuous alignment of our potential, verbs, and nouns, as we evolve over time.  This continuous alignment of potential, verbs, and nouns requires full engagement of all of those people who are responsible for the potential, verbs, and nouns.  This full engagement requires equitable participation in the continuous alignment.

Why is equitable participation critical for the continuous alignment of potential, verbs, and nouns in regenerative capacity?  Let’s first clarify what equitable participation means, and then what happens when equitable participation is weak, medium, or strong.  Equitable participation requires inclusion, diversity, and equitable involvement.

Inclusion is having relational access structures to resources, being part of the set of relationships with structures of access to the definition of desired impacts in the community, to determining who is to be impacted by specific efforts, to the factors that are used to decide these impacts and what is learned along the way.  This is to be included, from the Latin for being made a part of.

Diversity considers the requisite voices, those who have the required unique contributions needed to serve the group’s deeper shared purpose.  Diversity considers the processes for how these unique voices make their contributions to the group, honoring what they each bring.  Diversity in the contributions needed, in determining what is of value to the community and how the value is to be generated and received.  This is diversity, from the Latin for turning different ways.

Equity is treating everyone equally, in how they are invited for and engaged with their unique contributions.  This is equity, from the Latin for being equal, treated fairly.

Through ISC’s global research in 125 countries and over two decades of experience in social change systems, we find that the degree of equitable participation determines the degree of regenerative capacity, and that these are both fundamentally determined by the strength of the system’s agreements field.

The system’s agreements field is a whole, a whole that one experiences as a unity, a whole that includes the system’s deeper shared purpose, how it engages people in that purpose, in their unique contributions, in the creative energy their connection and service releases into the system, in the agreements of structures and processes that work with the potential, development, and outcomes in that engaged creative energy, in the ways that the system’s structure transforms that creative energy into the energy of products and services that other stakeholders value and desire, in the resilience of the systems in its capacity to generate access to the resources it needs for this purpose.  These are the dimensions of an agreements field, in how it engages and transforms energy into an energy that it transfers to others.  These dimensions and their levels within a specific system reflect the choices the people in the system make, either unconsciously accepting someone else’s agreements or consciously choosing their own agreements.

The strength of the system’s agreements field directly determines the degree of equitable participation it is capable of, and the level of regenerative capacity it can manifest.  A weak agreements field is degenerative, destroying or extracting value.  A strong agreements field is regenerative, creating and regenerating value.  This is why the strength of the agreements field is so critical to equitable participation and regenerative capacity, it shows where the choice points are.

The following table highlights the difference in low, moderate, and high agreements field strength for the harmonic generated from the synergy of the unique contributions, the basis of the economic power, the leadership’s focus, what is valued in the culture, the forms of equity, and what people understand by regeneration.

  Low AF Strength Moderate AF Strength High AF Strength
Harmonic remains unexpressed in counterspace (E3=0.0) expresses E3<1.0 in experience expresses E3=1.0 in experience
Economic-power basis resource power network power tangibilization power
Leadership focus (political lens) “the book” – one voice, of the founder processes of voice inclusion, to the best we can, for now (2-3 primary relationships) what I/you/we want and commit to for us
Cultural lens Value extraction Value creation Value regeneration
Social lens Coordination in value-exchange gesture Cooperation Collaboration
Equity form “hard,” difficult, at best, lacking AF to engage and transform works sometimes, in pockets “normal” part of who we are
“Regeneration” = embedded resource-extraction structures EFA explicit processes of resource co-generation transparent resource-regeneration structures EFABCD

When a system is able to generate a sustainable net positive flow of resources in the system, meaning that more is flowing in than is flowing out, the system is more resilient in its regenerative impact.  This net positive flow requires equitable participation.  The key inflow, whether it is revenues or other required resources, is determined by the value perceived from those who receive the value generated by the system, which requires a clear and continuous relationship with them to understand what they value.  This is the degree of impact of the system.  The key outflow, in some form of costs, is determined by the responsible ownership of the people who make up the system.  As the system grows and ages, unattended costs tend to rise, unless people are creative and responsible in the ways they work with the outflows, continuously learning how to improve the value generated from resources more efficiently.  Responsible ownership of all stakeholders within the system requires authentic participation, access, transparency, and communication.  Finally, the ability to maintain a net positive surplus of inflows less outflows requires resilience, the ability to shift with changes in the context over time.  This resilience requires that the existing elders and powerholders work closely with the emerging and rising leaders, all four generations, building on what has been learned, is happening today, is emerging soon, and will live on in the distant future.  These three ingredients of net positive flow—the inflows, the outflows, the ability to continue to generate a surplus—highlight the critical nature of equitable participation.

The weak agreements field is a system of embedded resource-extraction structures.  As examples, in the USA, we have the 2008 too-big-to-fail banking bail out.  In Europe, we have the residual artifacts of global colonialism.  In Africa, we have traditional aid examples from the IMF and the World Bank.

The moderate strength agreements field is a system of explicit processes of resource co-generation.  In the USA, we have town meeting in New England.  In Europe, we have the BUILDUPON initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building stock by 50% in the next 25 years, across all member states of the European Union.  In Africa, we have the Bokaap initiative to generate its own electricity, food, and water, creating independence from the national grid.

The strong agreements field is a system of regeneration as transparent resource-generation structures.  In the USA, we see RE-AMP and EAN VT, where states have taken on sovereignty of their own energy future, moving towards 90% self-generation by 2050.  In Europe, Renovate Europe has integrated the legal structures to support “nearly net zero” building standards for the whole EU, drastically reducing energy consumption.  In Africa, the SHIRE Alliance in Ethiopia developed local innovation ecosystems for the self-generation of electricity, run and maintained by the local community.

Regenerative capacity is the capacity of a system, of a group of people, to generate its own life-sustaining energy, a key proxy of its resilience.  Equity is a critical part of that equation.  A system’s regenerative capacity is reflective of the strength of its agreements field, which means that it is a matter of choice.  A choice of inclusion, diversity, and equity.  Your choice.

A hat tip to my colleague Curtis Ogden for inspiring this reflective exploration of regenerative capacity.