Systems Thinking

Who is the best speaker on Systems Thinking?

Dr. Russel Ackoff (affectionately called the "Einstine of Problem Solving") is by far one of the most knowledgeable and engaging speakers on Systems Thinking. Funny, whip-smart, and passionately engaging, his videos filmed mainly in the 1990's are a must watch if you are new or even an advanced systems thinker. You can thank us later!

 

This presentation is from a 1994 event hosted by Clare Crawford-Mason and Lloyd Dobyns to capture the Learning and Legacy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Russ knew Dr. Deming and speaks here about the difference between "continuous improvement" and "discontinuous improvement," as seen through the lens of systems thinking.

The basic managerial idea introduced by systems thinking, is that to manage a system effectively, you might focus on the interactions of the parts rather than their behavior taken separately.
— R. Ackoff
This mechanical view of problem-solving was made obsolete by the development of Systems Thinking, through which making organizations work better was redefined in recognition of the role played by the design of the entire system. Synthesis - the thinking method involving seeing how different elements in a system interact with each other - replaced Analysis as the method of developing breakthrough operational improvements (otherwise known as Innovation).
— Steven G. Brant in the Huffinton Post

Peter Senge on Common Issues for Engaging with Systems Thinking

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MIT Sloan professor Peter Senge is a leading proponent of Systems Thinking, having authored the 1990's seminal book, The Fifth Disciple. 

The book outlines the key approaches to applying systems thinking, understanding interdependence, and realizing the power this has in helping us change ourselves, organizations, and the systems that we create as humans. 

We highly recommend getting a copy of the book and reading it, but for a quick and detailed summary of the core contents of the book, check out this great summary on Systems Thinker > 

 

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, Senior lecturer at MIT and Founder of the Society for Organizational Learning, shares his perspectives on leadership and systems thinking with IBM. 

The world is made of Circles
And we think in straight Lines
— Peter M. Senge
Peter Senge's keynote speech "Systems Thinking for a Better World" at the 30th Anniversary Seminar of the Systems Analysis Laboratory "Being Better in the World of Systems" at Aalto University, 20 November 2014. Peter Senge is a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability at the MIT.
 

The Green Economy: A Future that is Sustainable, Regenerative and Circular

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THE GREEN ECONOMY

There is no doubt of the need to rapidly address the social and environmental issues facing humanity today. Thankfully, the global creative and business community has started to adapt and take action in moving toward the United Nations (and many others) calls the 'Green Economy'. An economy that is sustainable, regenerative and circular in nature.  

This is a global movement away from the ‘business as usual’ approach to the commodification of natural resources and the prioritization of profit over purpose, to circular and regenerative products and systems that provide economic growth and social equity all within the Earth's carrying capacity. 

Seeking to incorporate the ‘ability’ to ‘sustain’ life on Earth, the conjoined word ‘sustainability’ has taken on many cultural meanings since it started to become more widely used in the late 1990s. The concept of economic growth in line with biosystem constraints and in respect of social systems makes complete sense when you consider the fundamental principles of life of Earth. We are all sustained by food, air, and water – none of which we can make ourselves without the beautifully complex natural systems that flourish on Earth. 

The shift towards a circular, sustainable and regenerative economy is often referred to as being ignited in 1987 when the Our Common Future came out (called the Brundtland Report, crediting the main author). Then, at the Rio Earth Summit, the definition of sustainable development was catapulted into the public arena, setting the global agenda for a future that is sustainable and regenerative. 

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
— Definition of Sustainable Development in the Brundtland Report, 1987, p. 43
A new plan for people and planet has just launched - the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Tell everyone!
 

In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 17 global goals to be achieved over a 15-year plan. The Green Economy is critical to achieving these goals, with the Partnership for Action on the Green Economy bringing together nations, states and the private sector to rapidly transition to sustainable systems. 

Many organizations and industry leaders who are adapting to the Green Economy need to rapidly upskill in Circular Systems and Sustainable Design in order to build capacity in creating new business models, technologies, and service models that fit within this fundamentally different approach to generating wealth and serving global human needs. 

How are you making changes to be apart of the future economy? Circular Systems Design, life cycle, and systems thinking are all credible and powerful tools to enact organizational shifts towards a circular and green economy. 

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.

 

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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.