What is Systems Thinking

Importance of Systems Thinking Today
Reading Systems Diagrams
Case Examples
Evolution of Systems Thinking



The purpose of systems thinking is to make the powerful concepts in system dynamics relevant, available and easily accessible to managers and leaders who often do not have the time or skill to develop formal mathematical models, as first pioneered in the 1950’s at MIT by Jay Forrester, the founder of the field of System Dynamics. This field challenged business and world leaders to use these tools to consider the long-term, unintended consequences of their policies and actions.

Systems Thinking is deeply rooted in the key concepts and frameworks of system dynamics. However, it has evolved to focus less on the development and use of computer simulation and more on the key ideas, concepts and lessons found in system dynamics models - These include:

  • Dynamic systems are driven by complex and often non-obvious feedback relationships;
  • These relationships shape behavior and results over time;
  • Time delays are also a critical factor in determining system performance;
  • Recurring or classic patterns of relationships that appear in virtually all organizations undermine people’s best efforts to improve performance;
  • Sustainable performance improvement is achieved by focusing on a few key coordinated changes sustained over time.