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Not many of us realize that there are various forms of systems everywhere we look. Your family unit, the community, your county, all are examples of systems. Furthermore, your university and similar other academic places also include multiple systems.

What is systems thinking? Think about it. If you endeavor to understand the world as a series of systems and determine your role in each, you will be in a better position to realize your purpose. Your decision-making approach will improve, and you will be inclined to work with others as a team. Yes, systems thinking is an excellent way to fathom the part you can play in various aspects of life.

"Remember, always that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and their own."- Donella H. Meadows

What Is Systems Thinking And Its Value?

To put it in simple terms, systems thinking refers to determining the set of factors and interactions that work together to contribute to a particular outcome. This approach helps a team be better acquainted with their interactions with one another, thereby enabling them to understand their development in a better manner.

If you start thinking about the impact of your decisions on any system, you will be inclined to look at the bigger picture at all times.

"The system, to a large extent, causes its own behavior! An outside event may unleash that behavior, but the same outside event applied to a different system is likely to produce a different result." - Donella H. Meadows

If you are still confused and wondering what systems thinking is, here's an easier way to understand the concept. Perhaps the biggest system that all of us are familiar with is the natural environment. You must have noticed the various interactions that occur in the ecosystem and how they influence one another. Any change in one part of the ecosystem is bound to affect the rest too. The same is true for all other systems.

In The Workplace

Let's talk about your workplace. Any organization comprises many professionals who do their job and play a role in taking the company forward. They work together in harmony, striving to connect the dots and providing the best outcome for the business. This is what systems thinking is all about.

Systems thinking encourages us to look at the bigger picture and understand how different individuals are affected by our decisions and ideas.

Whenever you decide to implement a change in your company or have an issue to solve, you have to figure out how your decision can affect the different systems. It enables you to put things in better perspective and look at situations from others' point of view.

When to use systems thinking? There are quite a few circumstances that make the use of systems thinking a necessity. Here are a few examples.

  • When a problem is crucial
  • To solve a chronic issue
  • To deal with a problem that has a known history of occurrence
  • When others have failed to solve the issue before

How To Start With Systems Thinking?

So you are now well aware of what systems thinking is. The question is, how do you start with its implementation?

Whenever you face a problem, the first thing you have to do is avoid blaming anyone for it. You will be surprised how often this happens between teams, and needless to say, it seldom gets the discussion anywhere.

So, instead of looking for someone to blame, it's vital that the team tries to figure out the root of the problem. Endeavor to pique everyone's curiosity by talking about stuff that would otherwise be brushed under the rug. The purpose of the discussion should be to determine its cause and unearth the whole story. The group should try to focus on the issue by viewing it from all angles.

"Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing 'patterns of change' rather than the 'static snapshots'." - Peter Senge

Different Perspectives

Let's be clear. Not everyone has the same view of a situation. People look at things from different perspectives, and it's vital to understand everyone's viewpoints to come up with a solution that would be acceptable and beneficial to all. If you are investigating an issue, involve all the relevant departments. Their inputs can change your perception for good.

Systems thinking teaches you to consider every aspect of the story. You have to take the patterns of behavior into account too. Think carefully about every department and individual who will be affected by your decision, and then come up with a solution.

Systems thinking wouldn't be possible if you aren't willing to ask the right questions. You have to reach the root of the matter, and for this, the factors contributing to it have to be determined. Ensure that you consider all possibilities and even try to experiment to find the right answers, which will enable you to make appropriate decisions.

The Benefits Of Systems Thinking You Must Know

The world can undoubtedly feel a bit too complicated at times. Hence, we have to adapt our thinking to match its complexities too. If we consider our role in connection to others, we realize how our work and decisions impact others. This encourages us to come up with better solutions. As David Peter Stroh said,

“If you do not understand your role in the problem, it is difficult to be part of the solution.”

Here are some of the benefits of systems thinking that will make you realize its importance in your decision-making.

  • When you involve everyone in your decisions right from the beginning, it saves time, energy, and money during implementation. No one is likely to raise any objection at the last moment.
  • You are inclined to look at things from different perspectives and ask questions. This enables you to gain a better understanding of every situation and the individuals involved in it.
  • You learn to focus on appropriate time intervals when faced with a problem. You start thinking about how your decisions impact everyone in the long run.
  • Will lead to you becoming more aware of the systems around you. Furthermore, You get new feedbacks which enables you to make appropriate strategies accordingly.

How To Practice Systems Thinking?

Let's be clear. Practicing systems thinking requires a strong commitment. You have to be ruthless while analyzing your skills. Here are some steps that can help you out.

Focus On The Questions

The purpose of systems thinking isn't only to define the problems but also to solve them. Hence, you have to look at things from every perspective if you want to practice systems thinking.

Think more about the questions you can ask pertaining to the situation. Your questions should be directed to reveal the underlying issues that people are reluctant to talk about. Don't worry if your questions make others uncomfortable. In the end, it will all prove to be worth it.

Always Look At The Bigger Picture

Typically, when we encounter a problem, all we can think about is how to get out of it at the earliest. We don't realize that sometimes our decisions, although beneficial for the time being, can land us in more significant problems in the long term.

You have to work on your perception of time. It's vital that you don't only think about the present but also look a little far ahead and determine the consequences of your actions.

Be Conscious Of Your Surroundings

As we established before, you are surrounded by systems. Whenever you face a conflict, take note of the systems around you. Try to understand how your decision will impact everything.

For instance, if you decide to discontinue the manufacturing of a particular product, how will it affect those around you? Are there people who depend on the product significantly? Will people lose their livelihood due to your decision? Is there an alternative? Being mindful of how your actions affect others will encourage you to improve your decision-making approach.

And it's not only about your work. You have to think about the systems in your personal life too. Let me give you an example. When you decide to increase your working hours to benefit your business, how is your family affected in the process?

You can become more aware of the systems around you if you reflect on the happenings each morning. Look for stories around you that enable you to observe new patterns of behavior.

Find A Mentor

It's not always necessary to walk the path alone. If you have trouble implementing systems thinking in your life, you can seek help from a seasoned systems thinker too.  Work with him and observe how he works and makes his decisions.

Pick up situations to discuss with him and come up with questions and solutions and then pay heed to everything that he has to say.

Form A Learning Community

You can also connect with like-minded individuals who are also trying to under systems thinking. You can start a book group or arrange regular meet-ups.  Encourage everyone to share their experiences and stories and then give your input on the same. You will be surprised at the numerous perspectives even the simple stories have.

Use Systems Thinking To Deal With Complex Situations!

I get it. Implementing systems thinking is definitely not easy. But with practice and effort, it will become a part of your personality. If you have started asking different questions and look at things from different perspectives, you are on the right path.

"Pull a thread here and you'll find it's attached to the rest of the world."- Nadeem Aslam

Try to use systems thinking for simple situations initially. Once you have gotten the hang of it, you can move on to the more complex models. Keep one thing in mind. Everything you do has an impact on others and vice versa.

See ya next time,


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