August 2005



Organization Systems Renewal Program (Steve Byers)
In2:InThinking Network's Steven Byers shares details on a unique educational program hosted by Seattle University that was co-founded by former Forum speaker Oscar Mink.


News Briefs
Upcoming Events
Book Reviews

By: Steven Byers

This past spring and summer, I've had the opportunity to learn about a different kind of interdisciplinary academic program- the Organization Systems Renewal (OSR) hosted by Seattle University. After spending time associating with its students, alumni, and faculty, and attending its workshops, I decided to apply for admission. For 25 years, OSR has provided graduate students with a unique blend of theory and practice in the service of designing and leading organizational change. Students are granted a fully accredited Master of Arts degree from Seattle University.

I had a vague awareness of the program, which was at the time offered through Antioch University in Seattle, but really discovered it in February when I looked up Margaret Wheatley's speaking engagements and found her scheduled to be in Seattle in March to celebrate OSR's transition to an affiliation with Seattle University. Her visit was part of a series of open-to-the-public workshops that included Fritjof Capra, Linda Booth Sweeney, and Peter Senge, as detailed in a previous issue of the newsletter.
Following each meeting, which included conversation with current students and faculty, I thought about whether I could be a part of this program? Would I fit in? Would I be the oldest student? (At the moment, the answer is yes). There was much to weigh, not the least of which is the 22-month commitment, but I admitted to myself that the next step in my personal learning needed to be some formal instruction resulting in a credential. Helpful conversations with current students led me to see this as a meaningful opportunity, but it still felt strange applying to school after so many years.

The OSR program, which counts former In2:InThinking Network Forum speaker Oscar Mink among its founders, covers a range of areas including systems, organizations, leadership, group dynamics, and global/multicultural perspectives, but it joins these diverse fields by focusing their direction on the interconnects between personal, social, business, governmental, and ecological challenges. Broad as the program is, I'm most excited at the prospect of learning consultative skills and how to apply them- translating theories into practical action. Students learn to understand and address these challenges from a systems perspective and by focusing on a preferred future as the means for moving beyond the current situation. The teaching style is collaboration focused and much of the teaching is delivered by students teaching themselves.

The program kicks off with a week long in-residence session near Seattle. In the following months, there are sessions 3-5 days each month with another week long in-residence session the following fall. I invite you to visit the website,, for more information about OSR especially as we explore opportunities to deepen the relationship between OSR and the In2:InThinking Network.

Steven Byers is Director of Quality Assurance at the Western Institutional Review Board.


Review by: Brian Atwater & Sharon Atwater

The World is Flat:
a Brief History of the 21st Century

Author: Thomas L. Friedman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Length: 496 pages

While reading Thomas Friedman's latest book, The World is Flat: a Brief History of the 21st Century, we were struck by the idea that the 'American Dream' has become the 'World Dream'. Friedman explains how a combination of political events and technological breakthroughs has leveled the playing field allowing enterprising people anywhere in the world to achieve economic success. He also proposes that the driving force behind globalization is the individual.

In the first half of the book Friedman details the ten events which he believes have created the flat world. While this isn't really new material, he does an excellent job of helping the reader visualize the implications of these synergistic events and appreciate how they have significantly changed the way the world operates. In the latter chapters the author discusses the implications of flatness for both individuals and countries covering a wide variety of topics from job security to the war against terrorism. Friedman provides convincing evidence that a major shift will occur in economic development and jobs throughout the world. He also explains how terrorists are making use of flatteners to further their warped causes. Nevertheless, the author suggests that as with all major paradigm shifts the best way to weather it is to embrace change and work with it. Friedman concluded with FDR's famous quote "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

The book is extremely well written and we highly recommend it to those who want to gain further insight into events occurring both at home and abroad. Whether you agree with Tom Friedman's hypotheses and conclusions or not, the book is guaranteed to provide you with ample food for thought.

To purchase this book online from our new online partner Powell's Book and help support the Network, just click below.

Buy this book from Powell's Books NOW!

or view the other books on the In2:InThinking Network online bookshelf here.


Ten Things to Do in a Conceptual Emergency
Review by: Steve Byers

Ten Things to Do in a Conceptual Emergency
Publisher: International Futures Forum (IFF)

What exactly is a conceptual emergency? Consider the blind men who, touching only one part of the elephant, but could not envision the whole. The International Futures Forum (IFF) suggests we live in the age of the missing elephant. "In today's world the most advanced among us know little more than one small piece of the elephant, and there are now so many different pieces, they change so rapidly and they are all so intimately related one to another, that even if we had the technology to put them all together we would still not be able to make sense of the whole."

That is, we find ourselves in a new world that raises fundamental questions about our competence in key areas such as governance, the economy, sustainability, and even consciousness. "We are losing our bearings." This is the "Conceptual Emergency."

A group of strategic thinkers from all over the world has come up with a response to the emergency and to help restore our effectiveness in action. They have been at this for several years, and this little book describes ten of the strategies that have thus far emerged from their collaboration. The authors also describe applications of the strategies in their own back yard. The words seem familiar but each also provokes the reader to think in a slightly different direction.

1. Design for a transition to a new world
2. Give up on the myth of control
3. Trust subjective experience
4. Take the long view
5. Form and nurture integrities
6. Practice social acupuncture
7. Sustain networks of hope
8. Converge ideas and action
9. Re-perceive the present
10. Move beyond an Enlightenment consciouness

Let's look at a couple of the perhaps more counterintuitive strategies:

Take the long view. We've all heard this before, of course, but here's a different tack. "We relish beginnings, innovation, and growth. We shy away from endings, closure, and withdrawal and do not manage them well: the closing of a factory, the end of an industry, the last days of a life in medical care. Might we find new responsibility in acknowledging the natural life cycle?"

Form and nurture integrities. "The development of a better model [than integration] starts by replacing integration with the more flexible and adaptable notion of integrity. An integrity is not closed: it is constantly in relationship and negotiation with its environment…" The theory of integrity is still an emerging theory.

Practice social acupuncture. "Small interventions skillfully administered to have large systemic effects." Leverage points, of course, but further related to a concept called "holarchy."

In addition to these ten strategies, the second part of the book includes applications delivered as "stories from practice" about IFF work in communities, health care, and other circumstances of social learning. The book would also make a fine textbook for any one of a number of disciplines - economics, business, organization development, systems thinking, and even philosophy.

This book may be purchased directly from the International Futures Forum at their website.



Visit our website to order DVDs of the conference sessions.

Browse the online bookshelf of the In2:InThinking Network at Powell's, our online bookselling partner.

View photos from Forum 2005 here.

The In2:InThinking Network is all-volunteer operated. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us at


  • In2:InThinking Network President Bill Bellows will be taking the stage at the IQPC's Lean Six Sigma West joining other notable industry figures including Jack Welch. Controversially, this session is about NOT doing Six Sigma and Lean. Bill address the notion that every company needs a little fat. Follow this link for more details on his presentation. Conference runs October 26-27 in Las Vegas.




We are always looking for news, ideas, letters, reviews of books and conferences, short articles on original research, and suggestions for future issues. Please send these and other comments to or visit our new discussion board at the Online cafe.