Open meeting - winter 2015/16

£10 - pay via eventbrite please
Event date: 
Monday, January 25, 2016
9.30am - 5pm (9.30am start is for intro to the viable system model, whole day starts 10am)
Open Meeting
London, BT Centre (please book for full joining instructions)
(All Welcome)
Event Details: 
An open meeting where a series of presentations of general interest regarding systems practice will be given - this will include 'craft' and active sessions, as well as introductions to theory.
For this open meeting we would like to bring the two 'communities' of complexity and systems thinking together to explore what they have in common and what (if anything) is signficantly different. We have speakers on both complexity and viable system modelling, so the conversation should be lively, challenging and very interesting. This is one you really don't want to miss! Excellent speakers lined up!
There is a fee of £10 for all attendees for these meetings (plus a small eventbrite fee), and booking is required via
Please note that the eventbrite booking fee has been removed, so you pay only £10. For any queries, please email
Session: Patrick Hoverstadt and Peter Miles - Cybernetics and Complexity Science

Patrick Hoverstadt is Chair of SCiO and has written extensively about systems thinking and in particular about the Viable Systems Model in his book, The Fractal Organisation. Peter Miles was a director of the Complexity Society and is also a member of SCiO, and has observed that there are strong common themes (although sometimes using different language). SCiO has an outreach programme, and has previously explored this situation with complexity practitioners such as George Rzevski. There have also been a number of online spats between more vocal members of each community along the lines of 'my thinking is better than yours'. The objective of this brief session is to examine what we think is common and what might be different, to set the scene for subsequent presentations.

Session: Jean Boulton - Strategy and Adaptive Management in a Complex World

We live in a VUCA world - volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Meanwhile, the impact of climate change, conflict, globalisation, economic and social shifts means that change can come fast, be hard to predict and lead to emerging and unexpected outcomes to markets and contexts.

Meanwhile, due to concerns about budgets, and demonstrating efficacy, the desire to predict, control and measure has never been higher - particularly for the public and not-for-profit sectors. We want the world to operate like clockwork - with clear outcomes from clear inputs, allowing for detailed planning, rolling out of 'best practice' , a focus on process and on evidence.

The issue is that we have conflated our desire for the world to work like a machine, into a belief  that it works like a machine, and a belief that emanates from a view of what is scientific and professional.

In this talk, Jean will explain that the science of complexity gives us a new understanding of 'the way the world works' and what that means for practice. She will explain what complexity science has to say, and what it implies for strategy and adaptive management.

Jean Boulton has spent much of her career combining roles as director, non-exec director, trustee, strategy and change consultant. She is also a Visiting Fellow with Cranfield School of Management and with the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath and lectures on complexity with several institutions. She will draw on the recent book, Embracing Complexity, published by OUP of which she is a lead author. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics.

Session: Lou Martingale - Applying VSM within the Defence Enterprise

In 2010, the Secretary of State for Defence tasked Lord Levene of Portsoken to carry out an independent root and branch review of how the Ministry of Defence was structured and managed, to address the legacy of overspend and maximise the use of people and resources.  The subsequent 2011 publication of Lord Levene’s ‘Defence Reform’ report, setting a new operating model for the MOD, hailed an unprecedented level of organisational transformation. 

Lou will share how Dstl has developed and applied a VSM-based approach to support the MOD in assessing and maturing the organisational and functional health of key systems within the Defence Enterprise, and will discuss the challenge of effective engagement and communication between systems practitioner, system participants and senior decision makers.

Lou is a Consulting Fellow within the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence.  Since gaining a PhD in chemistry, she has taken a wiggly career path within the MOD, meandering through chemical and biological arms control, research into development of system skills, programme management, and leading organisational change programmes.  For the past three years, she has been a systems consultant, supporting Government in understanding and addressing some of its trickiest problems. 

Session: Stephen Brewis and Scot Nelson - From Human Capital to Social Equity

Businesses have become very efficient at managing individuals in the form of human capital - defined as the skills, knowledge and experience of individual employees within the company. In the past, with relatively stable markets, this was adequate, but the current competitiveness in our markets have put pressures upon our margins as well as the need to respond quicker to our customers. It is therefore no longer sufficient to manage the individual assets within the business. In the knowledge economy of the 21st century businesses must manage the inter-connected assets of their business moving it away from the individual and its associated cost paradigm to the network and its new value paradigm. This new network is what we term Social capital ad is what connects various forms of human capital. It is how we organise this human capital which will determine our future competitiveness. This talk will give you insights in how BT has taken on this challenge by the transformative fusion of sensing, computing, cybernetics and biological Stigmergy.

Stephen J Brewis CEng is Chief Research Scientist at BT Innovate and Design. Scot Nelson is General Manager, Organisational Transformation at BT.

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