The Patterns of Possibility

Interventions report

February 2022

System innovation initiative. The Four Keys: Relationships


In Building Better Systems, we introduced four keys to unlock system innovation: purpose and power, relationships and resource flows.


These four keys make up a set. Systems are often hard to change because power, relationships, and resource flows are locked together in a reinforcing pattern to serve the system’s current purpose. Systems start to change fundamentally when this pattern is disrupted and opened up so that a new configuration can emerge, serving a new purpose.


In this article series we delve deeper into these four keys and provide practical advice on how they can be put to use. This article is about relationships.


Systems are defined by the patterns of interactions between their parts: their relationships. Those interactions generate the outcomes of the system as a whole. Transforming the outcomes of a system requires remaking its relationships and then unlocking the other keys to system innovation: purpose, power and resources. This shift in relationships allows all those in the system to learn faster, to be more creative. System innovators redesign the relationships in the system to allow dramatically enhanced learning across the system, and thereby generate far better outcomes.

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Webinar: Creating Patterns of Possibility

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