What is systems thinking?

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to thinking that breaks down larger systems into their individual parts. It focuses on the way that these individual parts interrelate with each other in the context of larger system. Rather than splitting systems down into its component parts systems thinking makes sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of how these individual parts interrelate with each other in the context of larger system.

The 3 key concepts of systems thinking are: 

  1. All systems are composed of inter-connected parts. 
  2. The connections cause behaviour of one part to affect another. 
  3. All parts are connected.

It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective action in complex contexts.

Analysis tools for a systems thinker

Why Is systems thinking important?

Systems thinking is allows us to ask better questions before jumping to conclusions. It acts as a diagnostic tool and approach for examining problems more completely and accurately before acting. By thinking in systems,¬†you can understand the balancing and reinforcing processes which cause system behaviour. A reinforcing process is a behaviour which, if left unchecked by a balancing process, can lead to the system’s collapse. This kind of behaviour basically increases some kind of system component.

A video explanation of systems thinking

Systems thinking often involves moving from observing events or data, to identifying patterns of behaviour overtime, to surfacing the underlying structures that drive those events and patterns. By understanding and changing structures that are not serving us well (including our mental models and perceptions), we can expand the choices available to us and create more satisfying, long-term solutions to chronic problems.
In general, a systems thinking perspective requires curiosity, clarity, compassion, choice, and courage. This approach includes the willingness to see a situation more fully, to recognize that we are interrelated, to acknowledge that there are often multiple interventions to a problem, and to champion interventions that may not be popular. It allows us to acknowledge that there are often multiple interventions to a problem, and to champion interventions that may not be popular.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: