Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Is Systems Thinking more about Framing the Right Questions, or Proposed Solutions?

In a broader sense, Systems Thinking is a path to greater awareness.

Systems Thinking is all about seeing the trees without missing the forest. Is Systems Thinking just about asking big questions recognizing the interconnections of things belonging to a system, or is it also about taking a systematic approach to answering these questions, creating a framework within which the journey between the defined problem (question) and the proposed solution (answer) is clearly articulated (logical steps, assumptions, facts vs. opinions, symptoms vs. root cause etc)?



Systems Thinking is simply a method of inquiry, one that starts with analysis and follows with synthesis. All systems include the observer, so starting inside with oneself and working outward is a great journey that uncovers our assumptions utilized in our mental models. A systems Thinking approach also integrates the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our worlds since this is the space we exist and operate as human beings. So ST is an evolutionary journey - from understanding one's own personal and mental possibilities and limitations, to including others and their personal and mental frames to learning as a gestalt experience. Understanding Systems Thinking as a 'fifth' discipline suggests a less mechanistic way to frame the questions. Rather than try to understand ST in terms of questions and answers, and tools that can be 'applied' to solve problems and generate solutions, Senge uses the term 'discipline' to outline the four levels - personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision and team learning - that lead into ST to the next level.

Systems Thinking and Systems Thinking tools are different things: Part of the problem with Systems Thinking is that there is a big bag of tools which are frequently confused with Systems Thinking itself. That makes it worse by the fact that the direction of any discussion goes in is so strongly influenced by which particular "swaggie" has the bag over his/her shoulder at the time. The tools define the framework you refer to. Learning more tools will give you more ways to approach your system, always remembering that problems exist not in isolation, but, as an interacting system of problems.

In a broader sense, Systems Thinking is a path to greater awareness. Because it allows us to be integral and not separate from the world. "Awareness" is a mixed word and it makes more sense to be aware of real boundaries than it does to disregard boundaries in trying to be "more aware." The "Out there" and the "In here" are only divided by our conventions and labels. Erase all the devised coping mechanisms and a more integrated world emerges. Watch it without violence or the "need to fix it...." and connections emerge that you would never expect, or allow with traditional ways. Psychology is just as systematic as anything else in nature. Human beings are certainly purposeful and if system environment’s boundaries consist of the degrees of power ( degree of control, influence, and appreciation) over those things that affect our purpose, Freud’s unconscious id, ego and superego are system boundaries of the unconscious, Jung's conscious, subconscious and collective unconscious and his personality insights , introversion, extroversion= action, reflection or control; his thinking feeling is influence and his intuition sensing =appreciation

It’s important to apply Systems Thinking in framing the right questions before answering them, and it’s also important to leverage a good set of Systems Thinking tools to propose solutions. Although Systems Thinking might slow down the decision-making scenario for strategic or any critical decisions, it’s the necessary thinking process to do both analytics and synthesis, to see both trees and forest.

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