Systems Thinking

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In our fast paced, complex world we spend most of our time reacting to events.
We make snap decisions that though well intentioned, often have undesirable outcomes

Why is this so?

It’s in our nature. We all form our own mental models of the world around us. Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions and generalisations of our world. Our models are heavily influenced by our environment, culture, education and training. They influence how we understand events and what actions we should take. We are often unaware of our models or how they affect our behaviour. How often have we made a snap decision based on gut feel?

What can be done?

We can only solve a problem once we understand it. In order to understand a problem we must adjust our mental model so that it better matches the reality of the problem. One such method is systems thinking.

How does it work?

Systems thinking works by applying the concept of a system to a problem. By assuming that any problem is a system, we can assume that it has all the properties of a system.

A system is a construct that describes some aspect of the physical world that has been created or occurs naturally. It describes an aggregation of interacting components arranged in a particular way.

Systems respond to events, and behind each event is a pattern of behaviour. System behaviour is a consequence of its architecture. A system architecture is defined by its parts, and how they are arranged and connected.

Rather than instinctively reacting to events, systems thinking encourages us to observe events, and discover patterns of behaviour caused by the underlying architecture. Once we understand the underlying system architecture we can start to make predictions about future behaviour and decide what can be done.

Who can do it?

The beauty of systems thinking is that anyone can do it.

Where can it be done?

Anywhere.

When should we do it?

Whenever we wish to gain more insight or understanding of a problem.

What do we need?

Systems thinking does not require any expensive tools, a pencil and paper will suffice. But we do need to acquire some useful systems thinking techniques.

How does systems thinking help?

It allows us to explore the properties of wicked and complex problems, which promotes insight and understanding.

More

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Anybody can be a systems thinker but it is not our natural state of mind.

Systems thinking is simple, but like many things in life, it must be learned and practised to become natural.
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By thinking systemically your organisation will become better equipped to cope with demands of complexity.

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