Intro -- Dave Swenson LO61

david swenson (
Fri, 10 Feb 95 15:03:37 CST

Greetings from the Far North!

I've been looking for such a list for months and was pleased to finally
locate this one.

Describing myself, I suppose I'd have to say I'm a "generalist" (although
that's an often overused term): My training is in psychology (Organization
Development and psychotherapy), education, management, and a smidgin of
computer programming. Over the years I've been fascinated with the change
process: first within the psyche of individuals, then families and groups,
now to organizations and larger systems. I've noticed how small, strategic
"tweaks" can produce resounding changes and rearrangements in a system.
I've been reading for some time about fractals, complexity, chaos, and
related ideas (most of which overwhelm me with their mathematics), and in a
sense feel driven to understand these subtle and intricate change drivers.

I've also studied Ericksonian hypnosis (a strategic and subtle approach
with the unconscious) and t'ai chi ch'uan (equally subtle martial art), and
think that there are certain principles that tie together all levels of
systems and how they change. My teaching has included OD, strategic
management, varius psychotherapies, and systems theory (using the Fifth
Discipline, among others).

I presently teach graduate management courses at a small liberal arts
college in Northern Minnesota on the edge of Lake Superior. In addition to
my teaching, I have a small private practice as a forensic psychologist,
and recently have started writing ad hoc computer programs, mostly
tutorials on things like career planning, leadership, and cross-cultural

Most of my work has left me with more questions than it has answers (and I
kinda think that's the way it should be). I've been playing with PowerSim
as one way of representing systems and exploring their "tweaking," but want
to find other ways (or get better at using PowerSim). Some of the questions
that have been driving me recently include:

--How can leverage points for change be identified in a system; or from
among several leverage points, what criteria can be used to select one?

--To what extent are small scale systems (e.g., individuals) subject to
the long term and deep structure dynamics of large systems (e.g.,
organizations, societies, etc.) such that individual "free choice" and
similar constructs are moot?

--How can strategic thinking skills be taught/learned? I've started to
generate a composite skill list and want to compile sample activities that
develop each area.

I would like to use this discussion group to bounce some of my ideas
around, test and revise them. I have a sense that I have some understanding
of systems just beyond my ability to articulate them, and sometimes talking
about those misty images helps clarify them. I hope I will be able to offer
the same to all of you.

I look forward to our enchanges.

Best regards,

David X. Swenson Ph.D. (
Associate Professor of Management
College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811