Beginners Guide to Systems Thinking That Will Help You Broaden Your Perspective Towards Life
4 min read

Beginners Guide to Systems Thinking That Will Help You Broaden Your Perspective Towards Life

Beginners Guide to Systems Thinking That Will Help You Broaden Your Perspective Towards Life
Local actions have Global Impact

A System is a collective entity consisting of input, output and movements in between.

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 static ‘snapshots.’ — Peter Senge

Thinking in systems is a great way to immaculate our perspective on how we see the world and ourselves in it.

You might think that Systems Thinking is a complex terminology and out of your understandings. But, the truth is there has never been a better time to understand Systems Thinking than it is now.

Systems Thinking comes in handy when you should find blind spots. It happens when you shift your linear thinking toward non-linear thinking. This means rather than focusing on input and output, you focus on enhancing the processes.

Later, you try figuring out solutions at the root level so that the output is automated, sturdy, sustainable, efficient.

Systems are used to compensate for complexity with simplicity.

Here is a simplified version of the 5 Fundamentals of Systems Thinking

1. Everything is Connected: Interconnectedness

A system is an arrangement of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships or networks.

This makes a system non-linear. Often, the decisions we make at one point affect other components within the system. Reacting to a problem in one part of the system may have unintended consequences on another component or the processes.

The best way to study this principle is by considering our ecosystem.

For example, in grassland ecosystems, herbivores consume grass, but also feed the soil with their droppings, which allows the grass to grow back and permits stability. Still, this does not mean an ecosystem, even a healthy one, is static. In reality, ecosystems are constantly evolving as they are based on dynamic processes that are constantly changing.

2. Dismantle to Mantle: Synthesis

Synthesis means breaking, collecting, and combining things to have them work together.

Today’s problems are often a result of yesterday’s solutions

Consider a motorboat and a bicycle. If we dismantle their parts and take out the bicycle’s handle, bell and boat’s engine and combine them to make it a jet ski, we get a whole new system for specialized use.

In systems, smaller components are used to generate another different system, to get a new, less complicated, convenient, sustainable alternative for the same complex system.

If you map these systems, keep them side by side, draw some interconnected relations out of them, eliminate the redundant parts out of them, we will be able to create more sustainable, future proof, errorless systems.

3. Systems Mapping

Systems Mapping is used to structure the components of a system. It helps create boundaries to distinguish one component from another.

It shows how interactions happen within the systems. It can be represented visually to ease the communication to further pass it on.

System maps can be communicated through Graphs, Mind Maps, Loop Diagrams and Interconnecting maps.

  • Graphs: behaviour over time graphs
  • Mind Maps: for branch out systems where one component is core and rest emerge out of it
  • Causal Loop Diagrams: for cause and effect theory that can be repeated with feedback loops
  • Hierarchies: to arrange items above, below or at the same level

4. The Process of Becoming Visible: Emergence

Emergence is the creation of something new and much complex that could not have been expected from the visibility of the simpler systems before its creation

“Emergence can be described as small things forming bigger things that have different properties than the sum of their parts” — Kurzgesagt: In a Nutshell

The speciality of Emergence is when a fully functioning system works beyond its core properties with other systems, a newer and complex system is formed.

If we look at the case of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, neither of those possesses the ability of wetness. However, when these molecules are combined naturally, it turns into wetness and emerges as water.

We now know that systems combine larger things emerging from smaller parts. It is also true that emergence is the natural outcome of system formation.

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly — R. Buckminster Fuller

5. Trials and Errors: Feedback Loops

Feedback loops ensure the stable functioning of systems. This process is often continuous and iterative. Feedback loops influence human behaviour in our lives. From knowing when to stop eating to how much time you should be putting into scrolling on social media, it influences almost every aspect of our lives.

“Feedback loops are the invisible forces that shape human behavior” — James Clear

There are two types of Feedback Loops:

  1. Balancing Feedback Loop
  2. Reinforcing Feedback Loop
“I think it is very important to have a feedback loop, where you are constantly thinking about what you have done and how you could be doing it better.” — Elon Musk.

Balancing feedback loops are the ones where the default setting is ‘to be in equilibrium’. If you possess a bad habit, a balancing feedback loop can moderate it. This state is good but not good enough to excel in any field or become a master in any area.

Reinforcing Feedback Loops, on the other hand, tops up on your good or bad habit. It has the power of making your bad habits worse, but it can also help you build your good habits and top them up with other many good habits. The results we get here are compounding.

“Rapid Feedback leads to rapid change” — James Clear

In a Nutshell, a feedback loop is a part of processes that are given to the input concerning how good or how bad a system behaviour is. Hence, if we take care of input, the output takes care of itself.

Conclusion

Understanding systems at a personal level can be beneficial for understanding why things work as they do and how by dismantling them, synthesizing them can we transform the older system into a completely new, but a greater system

The world is headed toward Globalization. It is important to systematize locally to impact globally.


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