Get unstuck with the centres of gravity for change

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Now you have a much clearer picture of what you want to achieve and where the bright spots are. You might also have identified what you can do differently now to move your situation away from its current stasis. But where do you focus? What are the centres of gravity that will catapult your solution from simply being symptomatic to truly transformational? What should you focus on? In this article, we will answer just that.

The centres of gravity

This is where we will do some heavy lifting. This is where we start to de-clutter your situation. Problems, by their very nature, are situations that resist all attempts at solving them. The more it thwarts our efforts, the more helpless we feel. And the more helpless we feel, the worse we get at solving them! A vicious cycle, if ever there was one! The reason why this happens is because our problem is part of a system; and in a system, everything connects with everything else. So while we normally try to isolate our problem and work to overcome the immediate cause and effect, we are usually just address the symptoms rather than the cause. The centre(s) of gravity normally lie(s) deeply embedded within the system and to solve the issue, we need to step back, identify the drivers that reinforce or hinder the system in meeting the intent, and then make the appropriate changes. This will allow us to find the holistic solution to put the problem away once and for all.

Related: New Systems Thinking - Part 1: A refreshing way to find solutions

A six-step process

We have a six-step process to do just that, resulting in a system map that looks quite like this:

Systems Diagram

Step 1: Pinpoint your system

Your first step is to identify the system your situation is in. That will be guided by your intent. Let’s just say that your intent was to increase your household income by 50%. So the system is “Increasing household income”. If your intent was to lose weight, then your system is “Increasing weight loss” or “Decreasing weight gain”. As far as we can, we identify our system in the positive (to increase a positive goal or to decrease a negative one).

Step 2: Identify drivers

The next step is to identify the drivers of your system. A driver is a factor that impacts the system. For example, for the weight loss system, the drivers could include the type, and quantity, of food intake; exercise; lifestyle; environment; and sensorial cues. The drivers of household income include education level, opportunities, risk aversion, cost of living, lifestyle and even social circle. Spend as much time as you need brainstorming the different drivers, writing each one on a sticky notepaper, before you move onto the next step.

Step 3: Categorize drivers as “reinforcing” or “hindering”

Take a sheet of newsprint paper and draw a line horizontally across the middle. Label the top half “reinforcing” and the bottom half “hindering”. Then take each driver and identify if its current effects are reinforcing your system or hindering it. You should classify it based on its current impact, and not on what its potential is. For example, we all know that exercise is a reinforcing driver when it comes to increasing weight loss. Yet, if you currently don’t exercise, then the lack of it is a hindering driver.

Step 4: Connect drivers using arrows

Draw in connecting arrows to link the drivers together. If A leads to B, then an arrow will be drawn to originate from A and an arrowhead pointing to B. If both A and B lead to one another, don’t draw in a double-arrow; instead, draw two arrows: one leading from A to B, and another leading from B to A. Do this for every driver on the chart. You will get a complex spaghetti diagram.

Step 5: Identify your centre(s) of gravity

The centre of gravity will be the drivers that have a large number of lines leading into, and out of, it. These will be the ones that are either causing you to feel helpless or can be the focal point of your solution.

Step 6: Form your holistic solution(s)

Your holistic solution is one that decreases the impact of the hindering drivers or enhances the impact of reinforcing ones.

Focus on the right things

By knowing what to focus on, and on what we need to do, we can overcome helplessness. The centres of gravity do more than just give you a focus; it has the ability to pull the whole system away from a negative bent. Hence, it allows you to concentrate your resources to give maximum returns. This is just what the doctor ordered in giving us the proverbial kick in the rear to get things going!

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