In the last post I defined a system as a bunch of interconnected parts, often with a goal or purpose. I also noted that the idea of interconnection is the key to everything. In systems thinking, this interconnection is called wholeness.
Have you ever been mesmerized by the soft swaying of a wind chime? If you observe closely, the principle of wholeness is at work. That is, what affects one part of the system affects the entire system. Imagine the wind chime being perfectly still and you gently touch the smallest chime. Even if that chime doesn’t touch another one, everything moves and the touch creates a ripple effect. All the parts are impacted because the chimes are interconnected in one system. In contrast, if you aggressively yanked on a larger chime, the impact is obvious and noisy!
Likewise, in our social systems the most noticeable events are yanks on the big chimes, like a family member dying, a leader resigning, or other highly visible disruptions. Despite the challenge of dealing with the situation, it is easy to identify and name the impact of this interconnection.
Sometimes, however, there are little things that impact one person, like reading a new book, trying a new product, or getting stuck in traffic. Even if the person does not share these experiences with co-workers, systems theory suggests that because they have impacted the person on some level, the rest of their connected systems are also impacted.
In the broadest scope, everything that happens to you has the potential to impact everyone else to whom you are connected. That includes indirect connections as well, such as people who work in your organization who you might not know.
Frankly, I find this principle a bit overwhelming because what it calls for is personal accountability. Our decisions impact others. Our behavior impacts others. How we care for ourselves impacts others.
That is why at ENHANCE we promote the Flinders Program not just for patient care, but for people care. We believe (and research suggests) supporting the good health of health care workers makes a difference in everyone’s lives.