Wanted: Systems Changers


From climate change to poverty to healthcare, the large, complex social, environmental economic and political problems we face today are too big for any one organisation to tackle alone. A widespread perception that many of the systems that underpin modern life need radical overhaul is spurring interest in ‘systems innovation’.

Systems or Systemic innovation(1) isn’t amenable to simple recipes or toolkits. What makes systemic innovation possible? What prompts it to happen?

  • In some cases a technology may prompt change – the emergence of mobile phone technologies; electricity; fuel cells.
  • In some cases a crisis disrupts (or delegitimises) the existing structures and systemic change happens. War is the extreme example which has sometimes been a particularly powerful accelerator of systemic change.
  • In some cases a new idea may be so powerfully compelling that systems change around it.

The bad news is that even on a small scale, systemic innovation is much harder to orchestrate than innovation in products and services; It’s fashionable to claim that no one can ever know enough to plan or prepare a systemic change.

The good news is that systemic change happens all the time. So, there must be a way…


(1) Systems Innovation Discussion Paper | Nesta [WWW Document], n.d. URL http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/systems-innovation-discussion-paper (accessed 2.14.15).

Featured Image: System analysis of the supply chain for a cup of tea (op. cit.)


  1. The good news is that systemic change happens all the time. So, there must be a way… 🙂 Multi-Stake-Holder-Collaboration? 😉

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