C3 Living Design
Practice Patterns

Practice Patterns are concise, actionable technics and methods for use during design, solutioning, and problem solving. They are part of your Innovation Tool Kit.

Transformational Level Patterns: The following Practice Pattern supports a level of change that is not likely to be visible or imaginable to those that begin the journey of exploring and up-taking the pattern.

There is also a strong potential that Transformational Patterns will be rejected as wrong or even dangerous, misperceived as being of limited consequence, or as already being part of the individual (or organizations) understanding of the world. Understanding the impacts and layered nature Transformative patterns can take many years of practice and consideration.

Pattern: Holism / Whole Systems – Bigger Picture Down Thinking + Emergence (Transformational)

“Whenever I run into a problem I can’t solve, I always make it bigger. I can never solve it by trying to make it smaller, but if I make it big enough, I can begin to see the outlines of a solution.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower – 34th President of the United States

The Practice Pattern Holism / Whole Systems – Bigger Picture Down Thinking assists in clarifying and expanding the Systems Thinking Pattern. It is an important Mental Model. This Pattern is Transformative to the understanding of Sustainability, and the Living Design Perspective of Poiètics. You may find it challenging to understand why engaging Bigger Picture Thinking is transformational until you actively engage and acceptance this Pattern as radically important. You may also find it challenging to reach the Transformative Level of Living Design as a whole until you begin to master this pattern and the patterns that make it actionable.

The Pattern Basics: Bigger Picture Down Thinking holds that the Parts of any system are shaped by the Whole System, and the Whole System is shaped by the Parts in an on-going cycle of change, adaptation and evolution – I.e. it is the cycle of Living Systems. Therefore, if you want to change the parts of a System, you must create change at the System level, and / or vice versa, you can effect changes at the System Level by changing the Parts (collectively at scale).

However, if you want relatively rapid and transformative change, one must intervene at both levels, the Systems Level and the Parts Level simultaneously. Our primary cultural and social paradigm embraces Reductive Thinking (thinking centered around the Parts). Attempts to make change to the parts, which is cultural bias, can have a very limited effect unless there are changes at the System Level, or, the Parts collectively change in-mass.

The Transformation at a personal or organizational level that occurs through this pattern is one of opening up to Bigger Picture Thinking. Bigger Picture Thinking expands the conventional boundaries we frequently apply to a design, problem solving, daily business and professional practice. One must come to believe that intervening at the Systems Level is productive, valuable, and practical at a personal level, professional, business, and societal level. Then, one has to learn how to intervene at the Systems Level, which is the topic of other Practice Patterns.

The following Video by Systems Innovation unpacks the distinction between Holism + Reductivism relative to Bigger Picture Down Thinking and Bottom Up Thinking. The Transformative concept of Emergence is also covered an essential part of this video. Pay particular attention to minutes 2:45 through 5:21:

Holism and reductionism represent two paradigms or worldviews within science and philosophy that provide fundamentally different accounts as how to best view, interpret and reason about the world around us. Reductionism places an emphasis on the constituent parts of a system, while holism places an emphasis on the whole system.
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