Thursday, August 13, 2015

How can you tell if you're really Developing a Systemic Perspective?

Systems Thinkers shape a worldview based on the realization of interconnectedness.

Systems Thinking is a worldview that understands many experiences in terms of interconnected, interoperable events that produce identifiable results. Critical thinking is the critical and objective examination of your own thought processes to ensure you are constantly trying to observe events in terms of connectivity moving towards tangible ends. Many people claim they are System Thinker, however, the very small percentage of the population has an in-depth understanding of the Systems Thinking discipline, how can you tell if you're really developing a systemic perspective? How can you tell the difference between Systems Thinking and self-deception?

Systems Thinkers shape a worldview based on the realization of interconnectedness. Simply a lot of us as humans can and really think systemically, even if we are not aware of this fact, or don't use the specific terms by default. Everyone performs systems thinking to some degree, whether they're aware of it or not. Adept intent systems thinkers are typically more interested in understanding than being a legend in their own mind, and while they may fall into linear thought traps from time to time, they're continually investigating via any means possible to further understanding. Unfolding systemic relationships, telling stories to others, soliciting their feedback, and not arguing with their perspectives, is the best approach.

You could take a consciousness assessment: Analyzing anything is contrary to systems thinking. Russ Ackoff claimed that analysis is the scientific method that is taking things apart, the term “analysis” does indeed mean a cognitive process that breaks things down into their parts. The emphasis, however, is “parts.”What systems thinking is attempting to understand the things and then attempting to understand the whole from an understanding of the parts? Both are generally far better than doing either one alone though to do that one needs to understand each perspective. The best thing is to produce cause-and-effect models and predict outcomes. That might be anything from a mental experiment to a computer-based simulation. The discipline forces are getting clear about mechanisms. Put another way, it is very difficult to code "and then magic happens" in a simulation.

Guarding against self-deception is key to real innovation: Otherwise, you are always in danger of drinking your own wine. Digital leaders and professionals have to apply several different methods to keep you grounded in reality. Doing reality checks are important. However, those reality checks are inherently limited. People-checks are prey to conventional wisdom. Data checks are prey to noise and mistaking correlation for causation. That's not a criticism of those reality checks; it's just critical thinking about them, so you don't fall into another kind of self-deception. We all need to think just as we all need to breathe. Both are essential for survival. Neither process needs to be over-analyzed. There isn't a right way of thinking or breathing; both come naturally. That's not to say that Systems Thinking isn't an essential part of thinking, but so is sub-system analysis. They are complementary, not competing. Even we understand all different forms of thinking, the problems facing the planet don't seem to be reducing. Unless thinking is put into actions that result in positive outcomes, the subtleties of the definitions become academic. With a greater understanding of the problems, the trick is to increase the influence and be part of the solutions. So we shouldn't berate ourselves for our thought processes, but we should feel pleased when we leverage different thought processes to solve problems - systemically or analytically or both.

“To know, and not to act, is not to know." - Lao Tzu


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