19 February, 2009

Systems Thinking

. 19 February, 2009

Systems Thinking : One of the better ways to deal with our most difficult problems.

So many important problems that stalk us today are complex, involve multiple actors. These are at least partly the result of past actions that were taken to alleviate them. Dealing with such problems is notoriously difficult and the result conventional solutions are often poor enough to create discouragement about the prospects of ever effectively addressing them.
Systems thinking are one of the major tools of system analysis. The approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from that of traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on individual pieces of what is being studied, whilst system thinking in contrast, focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system – a set of elements that interact to produce behavior – of which it is a part. It is a way of helping a person to view systems from a broad perspective that includes seeing overall structures, patterns and cycles in systems, rather than seeing only specific events in the system. This broad view can help a person to quickly identify the real causes of issues in organizations and know just where to work to address them.

There are many definitions of system thinking written by many authors such as Richmond (1993), Ward (1999), Senge (2000), Bellinger (2004), and Wikipedia (2005) which essentially means the same. I would quote that of Senge since this is the most relevant to what I am viewing over the nature’s system. Here in Senge’s definition of systems thinking :
"Systems thinking is the ability to understand (and sometimes to predict) interactions and relationships in complex, dynamatic systems: the kind of systems we are surrounded by and embedded in." (Senge, 2000)
One of the key benefit of system thinking is its ability to deal effectively with just these types of problems and to raise our thinking to the level at which we can create the results we want as individuals and organizations even in those difficult situations marked by complexity, great numbers of interactions, and the absence or ineffectiveness of immediately apparent solutions.
By seeing the whole system, one is able to think new possibilities that he/she had not come up with previously. The broader perspective of systems thinking creates the understanding necessary for better long-term solutions.

Site includes definitions, contextualization of the issue, issues to consider for future applications, and a bibliography of the research so far :
http://www.ed.psu.edu/insys/ESD/systems/thinking/SysThink.htm
A well-developed approach to understanding systems thinking from a business model, this is an excellent place to start one's research. http://www.systems-thinking.org

To non systemic situations such as problems situations in which there is a high social, political and human activity component, there is the Soft Systems Methodology (SSM). One of the links to SSM is http://www.12manage.com/methods_checkland_soft_systems_methodology.html

5 comments:

Rondi said...

Great post! Well written.

Kenny said...

Interesting post it reminds me of chaos theory but applied to social behavior.

RKS said...

Great subject that needs to be expanded into our school system..

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