Saturday, June 13, 2015

How to Leverage Systems Thinking in Complexity Management

 Systems Thinking by definition is a cognitive process (thinking).

Systems Thinking is the way of thinking to understand holistically the interconnections and inter-dependencies between parts, and Complexity Management is the way to deal with complex objects to steer the system in the desired direction. Strategically and technically, how to leverage Systems Thinking in complexity management?

Systems thinking is a way of understanding complexity; to transposing another term, 'systems,' emphasis on 'a way.' It is a descriptive term for an object or an experience. Systems Thinking by definition is a cognitive process (thinking). A system is a set of interdependent components forming an integrated whole. Each system is delineated by its spatial boundaries and described by its structure, purpose, and operations. Systems Thinking is that it is a cognitive process that interprets many, but not all, experiences as consisting of interconnected components directed towards some common purpose or goal. One understanding of complexity is that it is a description of the composition of many, but not all, experiences as consisting of often intricately interconnected components around some factor of commonality. If such an understanding of systems thinking and complexity is correct, then Systems Thinking is a way of understanding complex objects.

Complexity principles are in the realm of Systems Thinking: But not all Systems Thinking principles are in the realm of complexity. At the most mechanistic end of Systems Thinking, it's still about cause and effect. Complexity is about effect-and-effect, as illustrated in the Butterfly Effect. Systems work toward some common purpose or goal of the system, often including the continuing viability of that system. This is not the same though as Systems Thinking seeks to define an ideal future (culture), and then define strategies to “close the gap” without first understanding the system itself, understanding the dynamics of a system, what happens if you don't touch it, don't regulate it. Systems thinking includes reductionist methods and good science, reductionist methods such as systems engineering.

Systems thinking is what you are doing while you are managing complexity. As such and in certain contexts where it seems appropriate to build simple and systematic structures, the Systems Thinker will do so with his/her eyes open to the relationships interwoven surrounding the system, whereas the unsystematic thinker is blind to the chaos he/she creates in his/her wake. Systematic Thinking is about the collection of valid information. Systems Thinking is about turning information into knowledge. Complexity Management is about using knowledge to move energies in the pursuit of survival.

The digital business ecosystem is complex and hyper-connected, Systems Thinking, is not a “nice to have,” but must have individual and business (collective thinking) capability to manage it more effectively, it helps leaders and managers breakdown the silo to understand the interconnectivity of business functions, also helps business professionals to see the trees without missing the forest. It is both the principle and philosophy to run a modern organization.


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