HSD | August Event Review

August 2022 Event Review: Learning to thrive through adaptive action in the midst of uncertainty and exponential change

Monica and Wendy joined us for a morning breakfast session to demystify their work around Human Systems Dynamics (HSD), a growing field of work in OD based on the work of Glenda Eoyang, founder of the Human Systems Dynamic Institute that focuses on creating adaptive change in complex and chaotic environments. I was really taken with the work and how it helps us as practitioners open to a different way of thinking and being that can be applied to our stickiest issues.


Most of us who work with organisations know that change is the norm and constant. Every second of our lives involves a level of change, whether we are aware of this or not. Because organisations are essentially comprised of humans, they can be characterised as human systems. So how do we help human systems in organisations change, especially when we can’t predict what is changing? Here were my key takeaways:

  1. We influence the change and nudge the system forward through this subtle influence. One small action can have large ripple effects through a human system.
  2. We amplify difference – we surface subtle tensions that become a resource for change.
  3. We inquire and ask different questions – ones that are more curious, open, focused on future possibilities, and expand the way we think. As a result, we get different perspectives, focus less on answers, and become less defensive of our point of view.
  4. We become evidence-making – we rely less on what we’ve done in the past or figuring out the root cause of a problem (human systems keep changing so it becomes less important to identify the root cause). We focus more on adaptive action for the future, getting clear on the what, so what, and now what.
  5. We learn new mindsets that help us meet complexity and chaos – we move beyond “conventional logic” or mechanistic ways of thinking to include “pattern logic” that embraces complexity theory where we see our world as constantly changing, having an unknowable future, and as a whole that is different or greater than the sum of its parts.
  6. We practice this craft with precision – not overly adopting a new mindset nor trying to apply both at the same time. This is not an either/or, both/and. Rather, we become more discerning in our practice of OD to apply the right mindset to meet the situation or challenge at hand.


I walked away with a key insight into my own sticky issue and a resolve to practice or experiment with as a key step forward to influence the human system that I am a part of. Thank you to the skilled facilitation of Wendy and Monica, who also run a larger HSD course that dives much deeper into the content, as I know we only experienced just a taste. But that small morsel tasted so good! Check out their work here and an upcoming workshop they are facilitating.


By Allison Tsao


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