In my previous post on “Beginners Guide to Systems Thinking That Can Help You Broaden Your Perspective Toward Life”, I mentioned fundamental aspects of Systems Thinking that can be leveraged in our daily lives directly or indirectly.
In this post, various ways to implement these fundamental principles are discussed.
Systems Thinking is growing as the world is moving toward globalization. The world now is more hyperconnected than it has ever been in the past. A small piece of information can be transferred from one end of the globe to another within a matter of seconds.
The world has become a collective body of systems that functions in a particular order. This can be our education system, healthcare, and governing bodies.
It is necessary than ever to understand a few fundamentals and implementations of systems thinking. It could help you tap into a dimension where only vision is not enough.
Following are a few of the many ways in which we can implement Systems Thinking being an Entrepreneur, Student, Writer or just anyone!
The basic difference between linear and non-linear systems is that non-linear systems’ output is not proportional to the input.
Because we have processes in between. They magnify or reduce the output according to feedback loops.
If you observe, most of the fundamental parts of systems are non-linear.
Linear thinking is straightforward thinking. It puts you in a default state of not thinking much about the activity and going with the masses. It is lead by the fear of activated emotions.
When you are dealing with an outside world, non-linear thinking comes in handy. It is more like extracting information based on the patterns that you have observed, getting positive or negative feedback, modifying your process to get a well-defined output catered to your requirements.
Note that linear thinking is not associated with anti-proactive behaviour. Both types of thinking can be useful in certain situations at a certain time.
Non-linear thinking goes off track, question traditions and comes out with a methodical solution.
Look Out For Patterns, Structures and Hierarchies
To find non-linearity, we should find patterns, structures and hierarchies
Structures and patterns help us understand the holistic view of any situation. Therefore, systems mapping is important.
Patterns can be defined as set regularities that we see everywhere around us.
If we understand patterns, we can predict the future. We can make theories and assumptions that can lead us from unclear and blurry situations to a clear path.
A lot of your current habit is the reflection of your past self. If you change the way you think now, your future self will be grateful.
Think Feedback Loops as Checkpoints
“The best way to change the long-term behavior is with short-term feedback.” — Seth Godin
Feedback loops help us enhancing/minimizing the input continuously.
There are three major steps:
Step 1: Quantify
We can measure data. If it is unmeasurable, it is non-existent. Identify patterns if there are any. Once we understand patterns, we can easily track data. This is done to keep a record and history.
Now, if there is any system failure in the future, you would know where the root causes lie. Hence, more data could lead to greater accuracy.
Step 2: Contrast
Once the information is quantified and stored, it can be compared with other relevant versions. We can then choose an efficient path.
Comparisons are done as patterns are visible after observing the tracked data.
Step 3: Iterate
Act on the new findings that you have got through while quantifying and contrasting the relevant information. Iterate quickly so that you can close the gap between the desired and actual level quickly. Iterations should be done to make the feedback loop tightly knit.
For example, I am a passionate driver. I want to save time and choose the shortest path between Place A to Place Z. There are 3 potential paths that could lead me from A to Z. Let us call them by path numbers 1, 2, and 3. I go to Google Maps, how much distance and time each path is taking. I note down the figures. I compare and conclude that path 2 would take the shortest amount of time to reach.
On my path-2 way, I discovered that there are potholes. A lot of it. It took me double the time to reach Z. That is more than the longest path (path 3) that would have taken.
Conclusion: Even if path 2 is the shortest, it may have other system failures that are not yet noticed.
Solution: Next day, while returning, I chose path 3. It was the longest, but the road was smooth and I reached back at point A within time.
Linear Thinking approach: Path covered from A to Z
Systems Thinking approach: Path covered from Z to A
When it comes to systems, failures can be opportunistic.
According to Naseem Taleb’s Antifragile, failure in a system helps the system to become stronger. For example, he says if there is an unfortunate aeroplane crash, which demonstrates a failure in a system. You avoid making the same problems in the future if you can track the pattern.
If the same crash would have happened later, there would be a higher impact with a greater loss.
Every feedback loop comes with the cause and effect. They are managed through studying patterns.
Study How Systems Interact
A small system is a subset of a larger system. Every smaller system has some role or impact on the larger systems.
If we ensure that there is less friction between the two systems while interacting, the processes will be smoother and the time required to finish a task can be lowered.
For example, having a sustainable mindset reflects in your actions. When you pull out your glass straw or pick up litter and throw it in a garbage can, you set an example, so people start admiring their actions and slowly, it influences the mass.
If two major systems with high efficiency interact, then the output is much greater than it was before managing the system. The chances of system failure in such cases are also manageable if everything is properly scripted first and documented later.
- Fragmented Systems: As discussed previously, we know that local actions have a global impact. To make system bodies run efficiently on a larger scale, we should make fragments of the systems and find an increasing number of efficient ways to systematize it. Micro-Manage small systems so larger systems are streamlined.
- Interconnectedness: Find the connection between Input, Output and Processes.
- Systems Mapping: Look out for patterns, structures and hierarchies. So that you can break the system and reform it in a more sustainable way. Once you start observing the patterns, you will find it everywhere in the form of fractals.
- Feedback Loops: Balance the feedback loop to bring a system in equilibrium and top it up with reinforcing feedback loops to magnify the outcome. Checkpoints in feedback loops are important. This can be achieved through documenting and tracking the information.
- Non-Linear Thinking: Rather than itching the surface and expecting relevant output (Linear Thinking), you should go deep down to the root cause of the problem and eliminate it from there (Non-Linear Thinking).
- Systems are actively functioning everywhere around us as well as within us. It is important to identify where, when, and how you want to tweak the processes. Iterate and Repeat!
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