6 Principles of Systems Thinking

Here is a brief but solid explanation of one of the most important concepts associated with metacognition. For a wider and deeper examination of systems thinking, I highly recommend Wallace Wright’s Learn Systems Thinking: Use Problem Solving Skills, Understand the Theory of Strategic Planning, and Create Solutions to Make Smart Decisions, published by Liviu Adrian Taut (2019).

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Systems thinking is a discipline used to understand systems to provide a desired effect; the system for thinking about systems. It provides methods for “seeing wholes and a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.” The intent is to increase understanding and determine the point of “highest leverage”, the places in the system where a small changes can make a big impact. Here are six foundational principles that drive systems thinking methods.

Wholeness and Interaction: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (the property of the whole, not the property of the parts; The product of interactions, not the sum of actions of the parts)

Openness: Living systems can only be understood in the context of its environment.

Patterns: To identify uniformity or similarity that exists in multiple entities or at multiple times.

Purposefulness: What you know about how they do what they do leads to understanding WHY they do what they do.

Multidimensionality: To see complementary relations in opposing tendencies and to create feasible wholes with infeasible parts.

Counterintuitive:That actions intended to produce a desired outcome may generate opposite results.

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Kishau Rogers is the editor and founder of the bigThinking project, a resource and collaborative innovation center which promotes the principles of systems thinking. Its mission is to empower the next generation of innovators to think bigger, to think better, and to create solutions that make a significant impact in the areas that matter. Kishau Rogers is an award-winning entrepreneur with a deep background in Computer Science, over twenty-five years of experience in the technology industry, and more than 15 years of entrepreneurial leadership. She currently serves as the Founder & CEO of Time Study, Inc., a high-growth startup offering solutions for using machine learning, advanced natural language processing, and data science to automatically tell a story of how enterprise employees spend their time.


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