Systems Think


We spent an amazing couple of days in Calgary talking about systems, collaboration, creative destruction and myriad topics related to making a stronger, more resilient social profit, or "For Purpose" sector (as opposed to "For Profit").  We convened from all parts of the country representing organizations working in the areas of environment, hunger, employment, arts, philanthropy and energy, just to name a few, thanks to the generosity of the Suncor Energy Foundation.

As with most of these types of conferences, we spent a lot of time in our heads and in our groups playing with models of how systems operate and doing the hard work of figuring out how we might work more effectively together and as a society.  My brain was full by the time we wound down on Sunday afternoon and began the process of packing and heading back to our regular lives.

Combined with everything going on back home - election, personal stuff, work stuff - I was both buzzing and baked from the cognitive effort of processing everything.  Flying back, I decided to draw what I was feeling.  Starting as we departed from Edmonton on the second leg of our journey home, I began with a simple human figure in the middle (me) and let the pen do the talking.


It was a very effective exercise in working out a complex system of forces that are at play in my life right now.  More importantly, it revealed a couple of great strategies to better manage those things over which I have little or no control.

"Was that a mind map you were drawing?" asked the fellow sitting behind me as he rose to collect his bag from the overhead compartment.

"Uh, yes.  I guess it was.  I was just working some things out."

I had no idea I was being watched and I was happy to share a quick up-close glimpse at the system that emerged during that 45-minute flight to Fort McMurray.


"You have quite a skill," he said.

"Thanks. It helps me figure things out, that's for sure."

I stepped off the plane, gathered my bag, hiked to my car and happily went home.  That is a system that I mostly understand and completely appreciate.

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