Systemic & Critical Thinking Principles


Without adequate diversity, we fail to secure the multiplicity of perspectives and experience to fully inform the process.

Independent Judgment

We need processes that leave all participants free to share their experiential knowledge and unique perspectives and thoughts.

Egalitarian Engagement

Every idea is respected and valued. We never can know which idea or set of ideas will richochet or rebound with other observations to yield a pathway forward that has not yet been considered. All ideas are unique perspectives of the issue at hand, and all ideas are respected.

Capture Experiential Learning

All participants are continually learning, hour by hour, and day by day. As complex issues are constantly changing, the participants’ learning is adapting and can be brought into the service of the whole group. In addition, as thoughts are openly shared, new thoughts emerge and contribute up-to-the-minute adaptations and learning.

Time Efficient

Systemic methods are quickly paced and highly engaging: at no time are people sitting around listening to experts. Participants are working the whole time, and thus the total time taken is remarkably short.


We need processes where everyone gets to see all of the ideas and thoughts that are generated. As in any conversation, we learn and respond, share and listen, repeat. We cannot afford to block the flow of learning and insights if we are to optimize the organization’s resources.


We need to protect individuals so that each person can share what he knows or thinks, without fear of recrimination. Anonymity is often provided in our processes to support candor.

Benefits at Each Step

Systemic Methods rely on many steps, breathing with divergent and convergent methods as emergence and critical reflection and exploration enable the group to become increasingly effective. Participants need to find value in each step, as well as at the end of the processes—and with our methods, they do.

Trusting the Participants

No topic is too “hot” to touch; people working in organizations have unique perspectives, and we work to create a free flow of ideas, and trust participants to take on “thinking challenges” usually reserved for those who are charged with “strategic planning” or other higher order tasks. Participants routinely report that they are surprised at how smart their colleagues are, and how much they, themselves, had never understood.

Sharing Organizational Knowledge

Our processes, by their very nature, raise the level of knowledge of all participants about how “things work here.” Increased integration is possible with cross-silo networks and communication, and this pays dividends in unexpected areas.

Thinking Differently

Principle 1 

The process of our thinking begins with clarity of the values and purpose(s) that underlie our work.

Principle 2

The process of our thinking holds the balance between the parts and the whole, continuously accommodating the creative tension and seeing each always in the context of the other.

Principle 3

The process of our thinking focuses on the relationship among the parts, not merely addressing each part in sequence.  From the relationship, we consider coherence and communication flows among the parts.

Principle 4

The process of our thinking recognizes the boundary judgments that are made intentionally or unintentionally that create insider, marginalized and outsider stakeholders and perspectives.

Principle 5

The process of our thinking engages a diversity of perspectives, seeking out as broad an array as possible in order to compare and contrast what each vantage has to offer toward our reasoning.

Principle 6

The process of our thinking invites and supports mobility of thought and imagination.

Principle 7

The process of our thinking builds a  ‘rich picture’ of a complex issue, a qualitative database assembled from story and conversation with multiple diverse stakeholders, from which new insights are emergent.

Principle 8

The process of our thinking recognizes that complex issues with multiple variables are in constant flux (many of which are beyond our control); these are problems that can’t be solved:  rather, success is continuous improvement through enhanced exploration and understanding.

Principle 9

The process of our thinking clarifies our understanding of the core concepts we are using, appreciating their interpretation from the diverse perspectives.

Principle 10

The process of our thinking identifies and assesses the assumptions that are pivotal for the improvement of our initiatives.

Principle 11

The process of our thinking identifies the unintended consequences of our initiative, and takes responsibility for the intended consequences.

Principle 12

The process of our thinking engages the value of intellectual humility of our work, acknowledging our limitations and showcases the strengths and limitations of our initiatives fair-mindedly.

Principle 13

The process of our thinking abides by standards for effective reasoning:  clarity, coherence, consistency, logic (where appropriate), depth, breadth, precision, and accuracy.