What is Systems Thinking

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



Systems Thinking has grown into wide spread use because it offers people a way to approach complex and persistent problems more effectively. By contrast the sense of urgency in organizations to fix problems quickly has led people to take short-sighted actions that result in unintended, adverse, and sometimes devastating effects. It is not unusual for people to acknowledge that they seem to be solving and re-solving the same problems over and over again.

We have learned a lot about how Systems Thinking works best, where its strengths are, how to connect people naturally with it, and how to get it to take hold in an organization. In our experience, more organizations than ever are building it into their work by:

  • shifting responsibility from managers and leaders solving difficult problems alone to tapping into the intelligence and experience of an entire team or community;
  • pioneering ways to build communities of practice across functional boundaries that use systems thinking as the primary vehicle for meaningful conversations around ongoing and new challenges;
  • pulling together new knowledge, identifying high-leverage actions and interventions, and implementing more powerful recommendations;
  • utilizing the systems archetypes to illuminate common systemic patterns in the workplace.

Systems Thinking involves more than drawing feedback loops or using the archetypes. It is about shifting how we think, communicate and act. By bringing both the short- and long-term dimensions into our conversation, asking different kinds of questions, and making our assumptions visible, we are better able to tap into the intelligence and wisdom within our organizations and, ultimately, improve the quality of our decisions and performance.