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The best way of explaining whole systems is in comparison to today’s most dominant operating structure in businesses, government and business organizations today: hierarchical organizational management. In hierarchical management, whether operationally, or pro-grammatically, every entity, division or person, except one, is subordinate to a single other entity. In the context of a hierarchical structure there is usually a singular or group of power at the top of the organization with subordinate levels of power beneath them.

As a humanity and society, we are so accustomed to viewing our lives and our world in a linear manner of myriads of disconnected parts – e.g., our inner world of thought from our outer world of life, our family life from our work, our work from our relationship to our broader community or the world. In the most general sense, a “whole system” is a configuration of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships. The value of systems thinking is that “the whole” of anything will never be found through the reduction or any analysis of its parts. There is a simple Aristotle quote that is enlightening here: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

"Whole Systems:" The term “Whole Systems” is used to describe the systemic nature of life, e.g., the human body, the eco-system, our galaxy, and our universe. In every capacity, these examples are the DNA (distinctive characteristics of someone or something, especially when regarded as unchangeable) of natural life.

Definition: A “whole system” manifests when independent parts come together to work interdependently to accomplish the goal or aim of the system. Indeed, in a technological sense, today’s virtual world mimics nature as a living system.

Examples include:

Human System: Human Body (Nature of Life)

  • The human body consists of 78 organs and 13 major organ systems. These organs work together systematically to keep us alive and active. Each plays a specific role related to our health and development.
  • The organs of our body do not work together randomly and no organ is subordinate to another. Each has a distinct, specific function and an interdependent purpose: the dynamic support of “the whole” of our embodiment as a human being.
  • In a state of optimum health, the organs of our body function in balance and harmony, but physical or environmental impact to any single organ can and will cause stress and dysfunction to the other organs.

Repeated stress to any single organ can slowly (or rapidly) break down the healthy function of our body.


Mechanical System: Automobile

  • If we look at a well-known mechanical system, the automobile, we see the same is true for it.
  • The automobile consists of an interrelated system of 30,000 or more parts.
  • All these parts must function in tandem to make the car run.
  • The parts are not engineered to function randomly; each has a unique and distinct purpose (brand identity) and a distinct function.
  • Collaboratively, without exception, and working in an interrelated manner, a whole new functional purpose for each part is created as the engine ignites and the car is driven.

ORA Whole Systems

The systemic nature of ORA’s whole systems approach is designed to operate in a comparative manner. Whether interpersonally, personally, professionally/organizationally or in community, the system design metaphorically makes symbolic use of the wheel:

  • The wheel’s hub represents the over-arching mission, vision, goals or objectives.
  • Each individual, entity, division, stakeholder, resource, etc. represents a spoke that intersects the wheel’s hub to serve an independent function and interdependent purposes to kollaboratively achieve the desired goals or outcomes.
  • Each spoke constitutes a unique purpose, perspective, skill, or knowledge-set.
  • From this premise we enhance integrity, human potential and the performance outcomes for all involved - personally, professionally, organizationally and in community.
  • Each of the spokes is inherently strengthened by is relationship to the others.
  • Repetitive or isolated stress or imbalance of one spoke throws stress onto every spoke in the wheel. This can either slowly or rapidly break-down the healthy function of individual, group, organization or community performance.

What is Fourth Wave?

Global Comparative Analysis: Hierarchical Systems vs. 4th Wave Whole Systems

Example One

Example Two

Example Three

Example Four

Example Five

What is 4th Wave in Government:

Fourth Wave Government is a transformative environment where employees at all levels collaboratively co-create real time outcomes and 10x improvements. The Fourth Wave approach dissipates silos and hierarchy and brings a global and shared stewardship and leadership to government. It creates a dynamically integrated ecosystem of stakeholders, employees, families, customers, government, economy, and constituents. These stakeholders possess a pledge to service, with a sense of responsibility for the whole mission of the agency. 4th wave prioritizes a commitment to personal fulfillment in doing our jobs, serving constituents, and leaving a legacy.

The 4th Wave approach creates “waves of change” in government. To better understand 4th Wave, understanding 2nd Wave and 3rd Wave becomes important.


A goal of 4th Wave is to recognize when you, your organization or your community are making decisions or taking actions from a 2nd or 3rd Wave approach. We create change (transform) when we consciously take personal, proactive action to move the situation from its current 2nd or 3rd Wave environment to one that personifies the global stewardship of 4th Wave.

A Transformative Paradigm Shift

  • Functioning in the context of a “4th Wave - Whole-systems” is transformative. It teaches us many things – it allows us to see and understand who we are in the context of the world around us. It teaches us to respond in real time as it is a “now-based” system. It teaches us the cause and effect of our actions as response to change is immediate. This, in turn, teaches us agility. The real time nature of activity heightens our authenticity as it requires us to contribute the best of who we are from where we stand. This ultimately hones our instinctual knowledge.
  • In a whole systems 4th Wave environments, we transcend from hierarchy and silos to kollaboration - meaning that we move from reduction to expansion, from duplicated efforts to shared resources, from isolation to group effort, and from “me” to “we.”
  • The fluid flow from independent to interdependent relationships will always enhance the integrity, performance and outcomes of each relationship.
  • This organic flow of information, resources, and knowledge generates a new or hybrid “competitive edge” that is predicated on ever-increasing levels of self-excellence for and from the individual or the group.
  • Our distinct branding as individuals will exponentially expand as we contribute our independent identity into myriads of interdependent interactions. This flow from “independent to interdependent” increases the brand identity, integrity of each in tandem – the individual and the group; creating ever-increasing levels of excellence.

“Interdependent relationships will always enhance independent performance and organically refine our branding in the world. Likewise, as independent performance increases, it will simultaneously enhance interdependent outcomes. At all levels, the fluid freedom of this environment exponentially accelerates innovation in the context of real time unlimited possibilities and futures.” – Rebekah Christensen, ORA Systems, Inc.