Thursday, July 16, 2015

Does Systems Thinking stifle creativity or not?

Creativity is an outcome of a deep understanding of the patterns of thinking that underlies Systems Thinking.

Creativity is an inward process to produce novel ideas and build unique value. Creativity is by definition an aspect of the emergent behavior that exists within us and the emergent traits that extend from us to the surrounding world. Creativity is infused with an inner cohesion and comes from a vision of uniqueness. Is creativity the #1 skill for the 21st century, and does Systems Thinking stifle creativity or not?
Systems Thinking wouldn’t stifle creativity. We, humans, tend to be very fixed in our definitions and Systems Thinking is a great candidate for such boundary-ing - yet in practice doesn't mean restricting anything. In fact, when used properly can enhance creativity to a great extent and push it to very high levels. It surely provides direction to think creatively. For example, simply by observing self-organizing patterns of complex systems, one may get deep creative ideas about the most appropriate actions to be taken. Thinking systemically actually helps the resulting creativity and innovation by forcing yet more ingenuity, rigor, and precision into the approach.

Leveraging Systems Thinking in harnessing innovation is all about taking a scientific approach to problem identifying and solving. It allows you to a number of things: embrace uncertainty, identify interconnections and interdependencies, understand flows or the lack of them, and identify business opportunities. Once you have a comprehensive vision of the system and its characteristics and dynamics, creativity is essential in order to propose: changes, improvements, disruptions, etc. Creative thinking, Systems Thinking, and many other thought processes are all interlinked attributes we bring to our respective crafts in varying degrees depending on our mental models, perspectives, distinctions, etc, but how this manifest itself in each of us is unique, and then such interlinks often fuels new thoughts, perspectives, creativity, and the imagination to spark into the fountain of new ideas and keep creativity flow.

Creativity is an outcome of a deep understanding of the patterns of thinking that underlies Systems Thinking. There are "common structures" that can be used for the purpose of the creativity that is produced by combining different patterns of Systems Thinking. Perhaps this will help. A systems thinker without creativity ends up as a caretaker or administrator. A creative person without systemic thinking might lack the structure frame to keep focus. Systems thinking, and thinking, in general, is more about discovery than about creativity, invention, and originality. Creativity to some extent is the nature of seeing the patterns that already exist, and then being able to predict how they change, and sometimes manipulate them in a direction that fits our needs or that of our objective.

Systems Thinking keeps in mind a global or macro perspective. The true System Thinking is about seeing the connections around us. The only way Systems Thinking would inhibit creativity is if the fullest global perspective is not kept in one's mind's eye when evaluating the sub-systems. If creativity is about solving problems in new and unusual ways, might systems thinking, inadvertently stifle creativity if it did not embrace the potential benefits of contribution from differential culture and class. Say, there is a marvelous system of creativity at work around technology gadgets, but it is only a subcomponent of the global system of creativity. An awareness of the macro-system whenever viewing the sub-system will prevent compartmentalization. For the 21st century, creativity would be more important since the world becomes more hyper-connected with fierce competition, products, and service design is clearly moving from global standardization to more of culture-based designs that satisfy the customized needs of more distributed economies.

System Thinking can stifle creativity when management intends to control or manipulate it too much. The problem comes, when proponents of one discipline or specialty in a subset of ST try to overlay their methodology or criteria on another. Generally, that is when more structured practices are forced on less structured disciplines. Learning from each other is not a problem, but forced participation is happening way too frequently. Now that creativity is seen as so desirable, management tries to artificially push it happens or pull them out of fundamentally creative-unfriendly environments or to control them. And there are whole industries now based not on being creative but on "managing" creativity.

Creativity is the #1 skills for the 21st century because it is the only force to not only keep the world move forward (with positivity) but also make the world delightful; it is the capability human intelligence still out beats machine intelligence; and it’s the superior power to keep the human race thrive, not just survive.


Creativity IS a very important skill for the 21st century. It aids in problem solving to assist CIOs to become more strategic. One example of a creative CIO is P&G's Flilippo Passerini

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