Developing the capacity to better understand complex systems

Systems Thinking
We are at a very scary but exciting crossroads. There is an amazing confluence of evidence and circumstance that provides unparalleled opportunities to either improve or destroy the human condition and the greater economy and ecology of our planet. Our solutions will require holistic, systematic, and systemic approaches and true collaboration among stakeholders worldwide. Improving the health and thriving of employee populations will require a similar level of thinking and true cooperation among stakeholders of organizations. 
Systems Thinking—Beyond the Focus on the Individual

Merriam-Webster defines a system as “a group of related parts that move or work together,” as “a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole,” and as “a group of interacting bodies under the influence of related forces.” Given these definitions, most people would agree that employer organizations are systems. But for most of its nearly forty-five-year history, the wellness industry has adopted the medical model and primarily focused on improving the health and well-being of individuals within the system. We have only marginally recognized the larger set of influences and interdependencies within and surrounding the system. 

Systems thinking allows us to use a broader lens to understand the whole system-level impact on health and to map and understand relationships between parts of the whole.  Improving employee health and well-being will take systems thinking on a number of levels. We must think not only about individuals as complex, dynamic systems but also about groups of people and the dynamic interplay of their coexistence and cooperation. We must think about the microsystems within our organizations and about our whole organizations as complex and dynamic systems. We must also think about the place and role of our organizations in the larger ecosystems of our communities and societies.

Organizations must support the health and well-being
of employees as a system-wide undertaking.

 Systems thinking helps us recognize the influences of the workplace, home and community on the health of employees and the health of the organization.  We believe that workplace environments and the programs, policies, benefits, and initiatives that organizations offer can help employees truly flourish.

But it will take systems thinking and a more human-centered design process to create an integrated strategy rather than a series of seemingly unrelated programs.
  
In the upcoming days and weeks, we will be updating this page with evidence, information, resources, and activities.