Sunday, July 12, 2015

What’s your System View of the World

Balance and harmony are not fixed, they are flowing.

Both business and the world become over complex and interconnected, the linear thinking often applied in the industrial age seems to be too limited to see the intriguing and interwoven picture of the world. When we do the linear thinking, we do not see the impacts and consequences of our thinking and actions socially, environmentally, locally and globally. The systems thinker looks at their business as being part of a larger system, the socio-economic system, which is part of a larger system - the natural environment. So is a systems view of the world needed? How can this kind of thinking and perception become mainstream and promoted in such a way that it is adopted as a serious alternative to linear thinking?

The Systems Thinker understands that the purpose of their business is to serve the purpose of its containing system. A systems view of the world, on the other hand, encompasses impacts and consequences of our thinking and actions. Interconnections and interdependencies are distinguished, wise choices and decisions are made. Solutions are also made from a much broader and encompassing view that is not possible in linear thinking. It is both detailed and holistic picture. A systems thinker solves each unforeseen problem as it arises. Systems thought means, at a minimum:
- focusing on relationships between things rather than characteristics of things
- recognition of the hierarchical nature of systems (sub and super)
- sensitivity to 'emergence,' the ability of the collection-as-a-cooperative-whole to have modes of operation not calculable from knowledge strictly of those of the sum of the components. A holistic system is any set of interdependent interactive parts. Parts are sometimes seen as systems in and of themselves-- being composed of other parts, just as systems are generally parts of other systems. To reveal the main interactions and input-output loop functions, the map unbundles the human (living subsystem) domain of the whole system into interacting functions. It includes functions that are both intangible: (observing, connecting, knowing and imagining); and tangible: physical human bodies and the rest of the physical environment/world.

Balance and harmony are not fixed, they are flowing. Think about interconnections and interdependencies on the impacts and consequences both on a local level, but also on a global level if the product were to take off around the world. And then having thought all that through, you can come up with a better product through design and method that will have a benign impact environmentally and on human progress. Yes, a business needs to make money, just as a human needs to respirate, but that is not their purpose. A different living-context may require a different set of values be adhered to, and still be able to legitimately claim that the solution strategy be that of a 'Systems Thinker.' Understanding interrelated relationships is not easy because it is something that goes counter to the reductionistic view of traditional scientific enterprise in Western culture. In science, we have been told, things need to be measured and weighed. But relationships cannot be measured and weighed very tangibly; relationships need to be mapped. So there is another shift: from measuring to mapping.

Understanding of Systems Thinking is that it is synthesis followed by analysis. Reductionist thinking is just analysis. Systems Science, as a formal discipline, has its formal field of study the nature and characteristics of relationships among things without regard to the inherent nature and qualities of those things. One of the prime interests of formal Systems Science is to discover 'transferences' – abstracted (from their 'thing-ness' cloaks within which they were first discerned) sets of relationships that are found to be identical to (a fair approximation) those at the heart of some other things bound system, thereby constituting a correspondence between the two.

Yes, because it is the common non-systemic view of the world that is being uploaded into every generation by the previous one - that generates most of the human dysfunction and destructiveness. Yes, because the world is itself is a system, which means that any view of the world that is not based on the world being a system - must be inaccurate. Yes, because a view of the world that regards it as a system can be the most accurate view of the world, and, as such, is needed.


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