Are You a Natural Systems Thinker?

SYSTEMS THINKING WORKSHOPS WITH DISRUPT DESIGN

Systems thinkers can simultaneously see the complex whole and the minute parts that create it, in a dynamic and reflexive way. It is a way of thinking in three dimensions, rather than across one linear plane.

Adopting habits of a systems thinker is a secret weapon in solving complex problems, being a more effective leader, and enhancing creativity.

Check to see if you are a natural systems thinker:

  1. You seek to understand the big picture as well as the intricate parts that make up the whole.

  2. You see the patterns and trends within systems and can extract insights from them.

  3. You see everything as being interconnected.

  4. You identify the cause and effect of relationships.

  5. You don't assign blame; instead, you seek out causality and feedback loops.

  6. You see the whole as being different from the sum of the individual parts.

  7. You appreciate the dynamics and complexity of a problem.

  8. You think through the unintended consequences of your actions and design to reduce them.

  9. You can find leverage points to intervene in and effect positive change within a system.

  10. You are constantly testing, exploring, and experimenting.

systems thinking tools with disrupt design

7 Systems Thinking Benefits that Every Organization Needs

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THINKING IN SYSTEMS

 

Systems thinking is one of the most powerful tools we have to understand and change the world around us. The original application of systems thinking in organizational management and change started to evolve in the 90’s, with the need to reconfigure efficiency and productivity within organizations.

Today, many industries leverage the power of systems thinking, from healthcare to advanced technological applications. Redesigning how we can sustainably deliver products and services also requires a systems thinking approach.

This ensures that we meet human needs without negatively impacting the natural systems that sustain life on Earth.

 

systems thinking with disrupt design
 

BUILDING SOLUTIONS

Organizations employing a systems approach to sustainability and organizational change gain a more evolved understanding of how things are interconnected.

This helps develop creative, divergent, and effective ways to rapidly build solutions that have positive impacts.

Here are seven exciting outcomes that you gain from applying systems thinking to personal and professional activities:  

  1. Optimization: With a deeper understanding of the dynamics within a system, optimization is an emergent outcome of systems thinking. It allows organizations and individuals to take full advantage of any element within their system.

  2. Problem Loving: Rather than avoiding complexity, systems thinking helps individuals discover the exciting opportunities that problems offer for innovation and creative development. Employees become problem lovers, not problem avoiders.

  3. 3-Dimensional Perspective: A systems approach looks at the whole organism or ecosystem, not the individual parts. This means moving beyond the siloed ‘departments’ and developing a trans-disciplinary understanding of the macro and micro in an interconnected, dynamic way. The world is not flat – developing a wholistic systems view unlocks the power of creativity.

  4. From Linear to Circular: Human-produced systems are largely linear. We take things from nature, manufacture them into usable goods, and then dispose of them back into holes from where resources were extracted. This approach is reductive and inefficient. A systems approach allows for the circularizing of all products and services so that we design out waste and inefficiencies, plus create more value.

  5. Failure is Fun: Since there is no blame in a system and everything is interconnected, systems thinkers get excited about discovery. This is especially true when it's learned through ‘failure,’ as it helps gain new perspectives that build our creative capacity.  

  6. Interconnectivity: Everything in nature is dynamically interconnected and interdependent, just as humans need each other for success. Creativity and productivity depend on interconnectivity, and systems thinking provides the tools to integrate this into everyday practices.  

  7. Creativity: The more you develop a dynamic understanding of the world, the more creativity your brain starts to develop. Conformity kills creativity; to overcome this crisis, systems thinking activates new neurological development and enables dynamic, divergent thinking.

 

The Productivity Hack Your Organization Needs: Shifting Mindsets

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SHIFTING MINDSETS

In order to maximize productivity in a positive and regenerative way, we need to shift mindsets from a mechanical worldview to one of dynamic, creative, interconnected systems worldviews.

 We need to apply our past knowledge of the evolution of the natural sciences to our organization and production processes and systems of today.

CREATIVE POTENTIAL

Creativity pioneer Edward de Bono argues that possibility is what makes a beautiful creative mind. In his work, he illustrates how the mind uses experiences to map and pattern thoughts.

It shows significant insights into the way humans can bust through linear thinking into lateral, divergent, and disruptive thinking modes.

For de Bono, creativity stems from being open to provocation. Stagnation of ideas come through the repetition of the same experiences and thus comfort is a killer of creativity.

How often does your organization seek out provocative new experiences that challenges the status quo so that your creativity can be enhanced through positive challenges? 

SYSTEMS THINKING

Systems thinking, with all its different offshoots and branches, evolved to help humans understand how to be more effective and creative as communities, as collaborators with nature, and as contributors to the future.

Knowledge, meaning, and purpose are understood through the building up of ‘whole pictures’ of phenomena rather than the breaking down of things into parts.

systems thinking and mapping

SHIFTING MINDSETS

By adopting a creative systems worldview, we shift our mindsets to look for interrelationships within and between systems.

When looking to increase efficiency, productivity, and creativity, organizations need to think about the untapped knowledge that exists in the deeper worldviews that people hold.

This helps overcome natural cognitive biases and unlock the creative potential of their human resources.

This will help us learn how to build regenerative businesses that give back, rather than take away from the planet.

The 3 Main Systems at Play in the World are...

3 main systems at play in systems thinking by leyla acaroglu

One of the obstacles many people experience when starting to embrace a systems worldview is the infinite possibility of everything being interconnected.

This often overwhelms people, limiting their ability to see what is immediately at play in the world around them. So, we have developed a simple identification tool for people who are starting out in systems thinking.

MINDSET SHIFT

Shifting to this mindset begins with identifying and thinking through the major systems at play: social, industrial, and ecological. This helps people to classify the intangible and structural systems to then be able see how they interact and impact society at large.  

  1. Social: these are the human-created systems that are constructed to facilitate and advance human society, such as education, finance, legal frameworks, and government.

  2. Industrial: these are the products, goods, infrastructure, and services created to facilitate the social systems that serve humanity. Their physicality and need for materials to function usually categorize them. These include roads, transport, cars, petrol stations, and the parts needed to make each of them function.

  3. Ecosystems: these are the natural systems that sustain life on Earth, provide the raw materials that facilitate the industrial systems, and literally keep the world spinning. These include the hydrogen cycle, carbon cycle, flora and fauna, minerals, and nutrient cycles. Everything in nature is circular. Humans, however, tend to make our industrial systems linear – which is one of the root causes of unsustainability.

These three system categories form the foundation for an understanding of how the world works. They inform the dynamic relationships between human needs, social order, infrastructure, and ecosystem services.

Of course, you see that they are all interconnected when you begin mapping them.

Shifting Mindsets through systems thinking

DEVELOPING CAPACITY

If your goal is to develop the capacity to intervene and leverage change within a systems framework, then use social, industrial, and ecosystems as the foundational building blocks for this approach.

Each of these three major categories contain many subsystems that allow one to identify and map the landscape within which one is seeking to effect change. For example, the human system is a subset of education, but it needs infrastructure, life, schools, and books to fit within the current model of education.

Without raw materials for buildings and food to sustain the educator – we would not have the ability to deliver the service of education.  

When we run workshops at Disrupt, we always start with this map and then move into more detailed and complex explorations through analog systems mapping techniques.

Within a short period of time, people understand it. The world is complex, but it also is completely relatable when you start to explore its dynamic interconnectedness.