How to Create a Living-Systems Approach at Work


I am selective in choosing authors for guest posts to promote their books; the topic needs to be aligned with my blog’s purpose and the book needs to capture the attention of my readers. I knew when I had Sonia Di Maulo’s book in my hands and had read through it that I wanted to help spread the word about The Apple in the Orchard. Its deep message and beautiful illustrations pulled me in. This lovely book is one I will tell others about and will purchase as a gift for special people.

Sonia Di Maulo M.A. ― founder, author, feedback enthusiast, speaker, performance improvement professional and creator of award-winning programs ― is passionate about helping leaders cultivate trust and collaboration.

This post is part of the Virtual Blog Book Tour for Sonia’s book, The Apple in the Orchard: A story about finding the courage to emerge. Discover the new vision for the world of work and get a glimpse into the power of living systems as models for sustainability, collaboration, and growth. Purchase your copy at Visit the other stops on the Book Tour on her Harvest Performance Blog.

As she’s responding to urgent email, she feels the need for her afternoon coffee fix.

Her walk to the kitchen seems especially long today – her mind is thinking about the email she just sent and she doesn’t notice her team lead walk past her.

David notices that Catherine is not herself – she usually strikes up conversation when they connect in the hallway. As he continues his walk to the boardroom for the client meeting, he starts to feel apprehensive, without knowing why. Then he worries about his ability to sell the new account. His team member, Sharon who is joining him has a look of despair – this is a big account.

As they think about their own fates, the client, from the reception area has observed the unspoken interactions. He picks up the pensive energy and for some unknown reason he starts to worry too.

Anxiety is now in the air. And even though no one can see it, it’s very present. And it has power as it builds momentum.

The Collaborative Work Environment

In the story above, the connections, though invisible, have a powerful effect. We can only imagine how the rest of the day goes and how that energy affects the weeks and months ahead, the relationships of all the people involved. They are collaborating at a subconscious level.

Each of these employees is focused on themselves, worried about their own fates.

  • What is the energy at your place of work?
  • What can you see? Feel? What is unseen though felt?
  • Are you aware of the reason for your uneasiness at work?

What if the environment above was modeled by a living-systems approach? How would the characters in the scenario feel then? A redo of the scenario is at the end of this post.


Creating a Living-Systems Approach at Work

In a living system “the connections with the environment are much more vital” (Capra, The Web of Life, 1996).

An environment that is infused with LIFE, based on LIFE-giving principles, and focused on creating for the benefit of LIFE feels very differently.

Like an apple tree, a living system as a work environment, brings people together and helps people grow together. All tasks are identified to benefit the whole and to create someone new and unique.

What is THE #1 benefit to you, if you were to work as part of an organization that “brings the goals of business and life together”, “enabling life to thrive”?

Quotes by Michelle Holliday, Benefits by

  1. People Are More Energized And Productive
  2. Diverse Teams Produce Innovation And Improvements
  3. Everyone Is Informed And Makes Better Decisions
  4. The Organization Adapts Rapidly To The Changing Environment
  5. Plans And Goals Are Realistic And More Often Achieved
  6. Leaders Are Less Stressed While Staff Develops More
  7. Income, Productivity And Resilience Increase
  8. Caring-Focused: one united system, working side by side for shared benefit

If you had to choose only one benefit, which one is the most important one for you? Join the others who have voted on Facebook, or comment below with your selection.

The Redo: The Invisible Lines that Connect Us

I like the redo technique. It allows me to revisit events to see how they could turn out if people used their natural forgotten ability to connect. Here goes…

As she’s responding to urgent email, she takes a deep breath and aligns her words to the purpose of the project and the needs of her team and client. Satisfied, she decides to grab a coffee and see what the rest of the team is up to.

Her walk to the kitchen enables her to look around and feel the energy of the day in the office. She thinks to herself, “How can I recognize my team’s effort and thank them for the unique environment they create here everyday – it feels like home!”

David notices Catherine as she passes – they make eye contact and smile knowingly to each other. It’s a big meeting, with their favorite client, one that joins their creative effort and aligns to a shared purpose.

As he continues his walk to the boardroom for the client meeting, he takes a deep breath. He starts to feel the excitement of innovation, knowing that the team, his manager, and the client support this project. His team member, Sharon connects her eyes to his – she’s excited to get this meeting started.

From the reception area, the client feels the excitement too; even though the road was rough they followed it together towards the creation of something that that they can all be proud of. He’s already thinking of his drive home to his family who has been so supportive of his time on this project.

We are all connected – every word we speak and every action we take affects the people we are connected to.

What is your place in this web of life?

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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