Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Holistic Thinking Mind

Holistic thinking is a combination of analysis, systems thinking, critical thinking and more.

The business and world become over-complex, hyper-connected and interdependent, do you *use* holistic thinking (applying both left brain and right brain for thinking the wholeness, the "holos") for problem-solving? Or do you regard holistic thinking more as a philosophy or worldview?

Holistic thinking requires a very open mind and ability to transcend conventional wisdom:  Holistic thinking is more than a combination of those three ways of thinking: analytical, systems, and critical thinking. The word "holistic" itself refers to something that transcends an adding or combination of thinking ways. Holistic thinking has its specific nature, and it is a type of digital thinking which helps to frame the right questions and balancing the diversified point of view.

Holistic Thinking vs. Systems Thinking
Systemic thinking is not necessarily holistic. But holistic thinking 'contains' systemic schema that could be used or not. In systems thinking, we define boundaries for the system under study. We may define a system of systems, and sub-systems within a system. In a sense, those conceptual boundaries are practical but constraining. When you think of the wholeness ("holism" from holos=wholeness) as a system of systems, boundaries make sense. You'll never manage to grasp the wholeness without splitting it into several sub-systems. It's where reductionism and holism come together into one. However, the concept of emergence is very important for holistic thinking. In holistic thinking, boundaries have the limitation, but complex interconnections do, many times subtle ones but relevant at the same time for outcomes. The Boundaries limit our understanding of emergence, would it be computational, behavioral, or economic.

Holistic thinking vs. critical thinking vs. system thinkingThinking in different ways often has to do with how one is willing to perceive, through WHAT lens ... knowing that each offers new and varied information that can be thought of using diverse ways of thinking (which can also be highly varied and constantly expanding).

Holistic ThinkingThinking about the whole system in question.
-What is the question? Is that the right question?
-What is the behavior (observable input-process-output result) of the whole?
(There may be many results or consequences ==> outputs)
Critical Thinking: Which factors or aspects of the problem seem most critical?
-What is the problem? Why? What seems to be the constraints? What are the enablers? Where is the weakest link / strongest constraint? (Can we apply Theory of Constraints?)
Systems Thinking: How are all of the components/actors /measures in the system related? -What are the components? How do they affect (enable/constrain) each other? How strong is each individual effect? Which functions are integral to the value-chain pipeline? which is directly supporting? which are peripheral?

Necessity and practice drive system concepts: There are disciplines as Epistemology (and its main branches namely “Rationalism” and “constructivism”), Anthropology, Cognitive Psychology and Neurosciences which since the last century have lighten us up about what knowledge is and how it can be acquired, and the extent to which knowledge pertinent to any given subject or entity can be acquired. The solutions to any real problem; especially the so-called wicked problems, is about looking to patterns and the boundary conditions that innately define a system's limits.

Our mind is a complex system of complex systems and many of them are very difficult to understand and grasp. They shape our thinking and the way we perceive and understand things. You can acquire all the knowledge you wish, but it won't be enough if you don't get rid of the many subconscious thought patterns that can limit its application. Hence, we should spend much more time exploring how we acquire knowledge and we build all different LENSES to see the world (the “holos,” the “wholeness”), to understand each other, the businesses and the world holistically.


Beautifully written discussion on thinking, thank you for writing the article. I am going to sharing it on my social media account.

Dao #DaoIsTheWay

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