The characteristics of digitalization are hyper-connectivity, hyper-complexity and inter-dependence. The traditional silo thinking is no long fit for solving many complicated issues facing in business and humanity, so should system thinking turn mainstream thought process now? What is it, and how to apply it to problem solving?
1. System Thinking is a Discipline of Seeing Whole
From Wikipedia ….Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization healthy or unhealthy.
‘Systems thinking' applies at both the level of technology artifacts in the resource category, as well as at the enterprise level (across all the basic concepts). One reason enterprise architects worry so much about business and its alignment and roadmaps may have to do with the fundamental nature of the placement of the resource items of outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. Systems thinking is not one thing but a set of habits or practices within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking focuses on cyclical rather than linear cause and effect. … End of Wikipedia excerpt
System thinking is "a discipline of the seeing whole.” -Peter Senge At its core, systems thinking is a belief that everything is inter-connected and that it is the relationship between things rather than the things themselves that is the primary driver of change. In science systems, it is argued that the only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the parts in relation to the whole.
Systems Thinking has been defined as an integral approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, look at business from an integral perspective rather attempting to understand it from a sum of the parts, understand how the parts fit as in sub-systems. However, the over-arching goal is to design an effective system rather than economical parts.
Integral means comprehensive, balanced, embracing. When it comes to human beings, integral means maps, models, and practices that include the full spectrum of human potentials, often summarized as 'exercising body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature.' —Ken Wilber
2. Linkages between System Thinking and EA
There are many linkages between 'Systems Thinking' and EA. One of the best opportunities for the application of Systems Thinking to enterprise organization and optimization is through an effective EA program. EA may provide a useful conduit for the application of the science to an enterprise, with resources motivated and skilled in the kinds of structured thinking that is required for systems thinking to take hold.
EA is dependent upon Systems Thinking. But EA is much more than systems thinking. It starts out at the outset as systems thinking; or EA sits on top of systems thinking, but tempered by the real world concerns and priorities. In short:
- The first challenge is to actually define the 'system-of-interest' and the environment. This means being very clear about how the definitions of business, enterprise, and organization. For example, take a closer look at what it means to actually have an 'Architecture Description' for an 'Organization' where the 'Organization' is the 'system-of-interest'.
- The second challenge is to understand the parts and their interactions. The good starting point in the systems thinking area was attempting to explain what is behind the statement from Kenneth, a Management Principle One: All successful organizations, however simple, consist of systems within a system.
- Systems Theory was conceived before Systems thinking and could be considered one of the major influencing powers in not just Systems Thinking but also Enterprise Architecture. Thus Systems Theory is at the root on integrations between Systems Thinking and Enterprise Architecture
- EA is practitioner of both system thinking and synthetic thinking: According to J.P. Guilford, divergent or "synthetic thinking" is the ability to draw on ideas from across disciplines and fields of inquiry to reach a deeper understanding of the world and one's place in it.
Most of today's methods make little or no mention of Systems Thinking. There are some voices for changes, indeed, it’s time to change, to see both trees and forest, to see the wholeness than sum of pieces, and it needs to become the mainstream thought process at era of digitalization.