By Juan Cruz Giusto
in Personal Development -- [Main],
“Stop looking for who’s to blame; instead start asking, What’s the system?” Donella Meadows
Systems Thinking is a way of looking at the world as a series of interconnected webs, all of them interacting with each other. Is about seeing the world from a meta-perspective. It is used to change things larger than yourself.
Reasons to study ST:
- To understand and changer larger structures
- To realize your life purpose and have a big impact on the world
- To change the world
- It is the Yellow stage in Spiral Dynamics
- To avoid collective disaster
System: A set of interconnected elements. It is composed by the elements – mostly physical – and their relationships, which are much less tangible. The relationships are much more important than the elements themselves. A system causes their own behaviors and serves a function/goal. The function is more important than the relationships and the elements of the system. One of the primary purpose of systems is homeostasis (protect themselves).
Goals > Relationships > Elements
What isn’t a system? Scattered parts which are not connected are not a system.
There are problems we have to face as humanity. These are persistent systemic problems. Some examples:
- Shrinking Middle Class
- Global Warming and the Environment
- Drug Addiction
- Low-Quality Marketing
- Endangered Species
- Runaway Materialism
These problems are very difficult to solve and the only way is to solve them is by thinking in systems.
The Principles of Systemic Thinking
1. Problems are systemic and not personal: It is not some Hitler or Trump that is creating problems. It is poorly designed systems that are creating problems. Start asking: What is the system that is causing this behavior? Issues are much more complicated than we think.
2. See everything as a system
3. Non-linearity: Playing the game changes the rule of the game. This mean unpredictability and chaos.
4. They are very counter-intuitive: Systems are incredibly complex and results are not easy to predict.
5. Local actions have global impact: You can no longer worry about your personal sphere. You are part of a larger system and your behaviors will affect yourself and the system you are in.
6. Becoming conscious of back-firing mechanisms: Sometimes you change something in a system and it back-fires on you. Systems’ biggest enemy is its own behavior
7. There are no easy, brute force solutions: Systems are all about balance and harmony. Those type of solutions will collaps the system and make it worse.
8. Intuition and Holism vs Reductionism: We have to recognize that reductionism is not going to fly with high-level problems.
9. Being aware of false boundaries: In reality, there are no fixed boundaries. They are conceptual in nature so don’t get bought into that. Just by understanding the boundary differently, we can create a new solution and perspective
10. The world is dynamic rather than static: Everything is constantly morphing and evolving/devolving.
11. Complexity, valuing nuance, wisdom and learning: You need to be studying and learning all the time. The power in working with systems is not by manipulating but understanding them. A systems thinker will spend a lot of time studying and understanding the system.
12. Take preventative actions rather than fixing problem: It is about being forward looking and having a long-term horizon. It is about sustaining the system for decades on end. Each action has a big consequence!
13. Admitting the unknown: Systems thinkers admit that systems are incredibly complex and it requires a deep and wide understanding to start trying to solve the problems.
14. Self-reflection: Systems thinkers need to self-reflect. They understand the system creates their own problems so by reflecting on themselves they can start to solve them.
15. Looking for the root causes of issues rather than the superficial aspects
16. Concern for balance: STers really appreciate the ying-yang of life. Systems usually have many opposing forces and eliminating one of them can have huge implications.
17. Having a global concern rather than having tribal concern: ST integrates the whole world. We see animals, people and environment are equally important.
18. Materialism is not the only game in town and success is not the most important goal. Growth at all cost is just a cancer.
19. Sustainability is key for STers
20. Recognizing the dangers of self-interest: People in the lower stages of Spiral Dynamics pursue their own interests without realizing its dangers.
21. Changing paradigms is a huge leverage point for changing systems: If we shift our perspective, solutions may appear. An example is the mind-body problem.
22. Integrating multiple perspectives
23. Studying patterns and cycles: Systems are cyclical. You need to study patterns through times!
24. Studying systems vs manipulating them: Study them first
25. Studying feedback loops and realizing its implications.