Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is an integrated way of looking, seeing and thinking about the world in which we live, work and find ourselves. Importantly, the various phenomenon of experience reflect the duality of being subjective constructions of my worldview and at the same time the objective manifestations of a larger system in which I find myself. Bound by the legacy of the world of  which I am conscious, systems thinking provides me with a range of tools to guide both  my processes of thinking and appreciation , as well as my understanding of the various systems I apprehend.

The thinking aspect of systems thinking preferences the determining role of individual worldview and the importance of mental models as the framework of reference for all enquiry. It accepts that individual perspective enlarges our appreciation of the system in focus, although it is moderated by conscious assumptions and unconscious biases. The process of appreciation is accordingly further bounded by the limits of rationality and the artefactual nature of boundaries placed on enquiry. Central to our understanding are the beauties of dichotomy and paradox, between and through which our appreciation can be transcended and transformed. Central to our thinking in systems processes are the values of curiosity and wonder, and the imperative for dialogue and  conversation, through which ”other” can be encountered.

The systems aspect of systems thinking  regards the encountered world as a dynamic whole constituted of interconnected parts exhibiting reciprocal influence on each other. This context of complexity creates the preconditions for emergence and unpredictability. However indeterminate, the manifest structure and self organisation of the whole exhibits variety and over time equilibrium, facilitated by feedback and information flow. Between states, path dependence is observable through flux and change that is influenced by attractors and a priori conditions.

Systems thinking is holistic not reductionist. It attempts to balance analysis with synthesis and objectivity with subjectivity. In many ways it is a response to the inadequacy of the Western way of thinking, which, in light of the eclipse of classical physics and the rise of the social sciences, is manifestly inadequate to respond to the significant problems of our time.

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Posted: January 18, 2017


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