"Emergence is a characteristic arises as output of a system, that could not have been predicted from an analysis of the individual parts which comprise the system. "

This is why the study of systems is important. When something good happens, everyone wants the credit. In a linear thinking world each component piece of the system sees their contribution as the "key to success", when in reality the success was most likely emergent and could not have happened without the interaction between the constituent parts. Conversely when something bad happens, everyone wants to lay the blame elsewhere. Again the reality is that the unintended consequence probably was an emergent quality resulting from the interaction between parts of the system.

Only by studying the interactions between all parts of a system (system thinking) can a true understanding of the causality for success or failure be achieved.


Internalization of externalities is an essential ingredient in making the change to a “sustainability” mindset. What does that mean? Previously I talked about “individual utility” vs. “community utility”. Maybe a better way to express it is the distinction between “internal utility” vs. “external utility”. We “internalize externalities” by providing more and better information about the externalities. This is typically done via guilt, which immediately develops resistance. It is better to bring in externalities by showing how the externality can increase internal utility.

Consumer Responsibility

A sustainable future is placed squarely on the shoulders of the consumer. The consumer ultimately makes the decisions that drive what and how products are produced. Given that, producers need to consider what the consumer looks at when making a purchasing decision. The consumer’s first consideration is individual utility, WIIFM. The consumer’s second consideration is community utility, “What is in it for the environment and those around me. If two products are comparable on the first consideration of individual utility, producers can create competitive advantage by delivering products that A) have superior environmental/societal qualities; and B) provide information to the consumer about these qualities.

In the current environment, not many producers are providing essential information about environmental and societal impacts of their products. Therefore it is incumbent on the consumer to push harder for that information.

First Post, First Blog

Into the fray, it is time to join the party. This journal will be my musings about business, general management practice, organizations and how they work, systems thinking, etc.


A system is a group of things that are interdependent on each other. In essence everything is a system. The problem is that almost any system is too complicated to fully understand by any individual. In order to keep from being overwhelmed, we create simplified comceptual models of systems. These conceptual models are sometimes referred to as Mental Models. Through our experiences each of us develop unique mental models to understand the systems around us. Since each of us have a unique set of experiences, each of us have a different perceprion of the world around us. This leads to different opinions, and the common conviction that your own is correct, when in fact no one’s mental model is “correct” since no mental model is an exhaustive portrayal of reality.