One thing I have to admit is that I am not much into doing sports, never have been. I know that it is part of a healthy lifestyle to keep yourself fit, but I’m struggling to put this into practice. The one sport I have tried to keep up is running, because of its simplicity – all you need is a pair of running shoes. But also with that, I have been struggling. For a while I do it fairly regularly, then I drop it again for the one or the other reason. I often struggled to convince myself to go out running during the day, particularly if running competed with reading a book or writing a blog post! So it has all been quite frustrating.
In personal development and self-improvement, using an approach that is based on habits seems more promising for most people than an approach that is based on goals. Just think about the many New Year’s resolutions that were never achieved. I tried to put this advice into practice and it seems to work. By making it a habit, rather than by setting a goal of running a half-marathon in six months time, I am now running relatively regularly, which is good for my health. But would this also help us when we approach systems change? Can we think of certain institutionalised behaviours in systems as good or bad habits? This thought I had while running this morning seems worth exploring.
This blog post was originally published on the Website of CGAP, an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor. The Blog post was part of the Systemic M&E initiative I worked on for the SEEP Network.
There is a controversy brewing among systems and complexity thinkers. Is it useful to define a future goal towards which our initiatives strive? Or is it wiser instead to focus our attention on what we know we can change and trust that this will eventually lead us to a future that is better than any we could have anticipated? While the first feels intuitively right to many development practitioners, proponents of the latter argue that the absence of defined goals and targets may lead to future possibilities that are more sustainable and resilient (and that could not be fully anticipated). So the question is: can we know in advance what the best (or a good) outcome will be? Continue reading
David Snowden has written on his blog about purpose and virtue (more specifically here, here, here and here). I find it a fascinating line of thought, but still cannot wrap my head around it completely. The basic idea is that in contrast to systems thinking, where an idealized future is identified and interventions aim to close the gap to this future, complexity thinking (or at least the one advocated by Snowden) focuses on managing in the present and with that enabling possible futures to emerge or evolve that could not have been anticipated. Now the latter, the management without a specific goal, of course, asks for a purpose or motivation. Why should we bother, if we don’t have a goal? Continue reading