Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Leverage Systems Thinking in Solving Thorny Problems

Systems thinking is about reaching a shared understanding through studying, knowledge, and experimenting.

As some saying goes: It is not what we don’t know that is a problem; it is what we know that is not so, that is a big problem. The world becomes overly complex and paradoxical, does every problem have solutions? How can you leverage Systems Thinking in problem-solving? What is the best way to handle a problem that seems to have no solutions?

Systems Thinking is all about understanding the situation as it changes, as an emergent system of learning: This capacity to hold alternative mind-generated possibilities simultaneously and then use various criteria to compare and contrast them against unfolding reality, is what is required for adaptive management in complex circumstances. It also reflects different levels of capability and maturity: What do you do when your beliefs cannot be proven, or when your facts don't match your beliefs. Systems thinking is about reaching a shared understanding through studying, knowledge, and experimenting. It is a method of development that works with certain conditions being met/ prepared. It changes the way you think. It should be performing within a controlled environment. It is about creating an anticipatory whole system design; and good design - the design that best meets the needs of many, it becomes the 'ideology du jour' to those that do not continue to inquire as to the 'fit' of the level of thinking with dynamic system context.

Einstein wisely pointed out: you cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking when you created it: First of all, a problem, any problem depends on your perspective. A problem is a difference between an expectation (or intention, vision, ..) and the actual situation (current reality) coupled with a negative feeling. When you encounter a tough problem, you need to use a creative way. You seek for inventions, new designs, creative problem-solving. It drives innovation. Co-create alternative visions and dream into the existence of new solutions, these are the capacities of humans who are not trapped in 'the same level of thinking' as others or even former personification of 'selves.' Evaluating which alternatives might work better than others - that is the realm of logical analysis within systems understanding.

Problem-solving itself is paradoxical: all problems are created by solutions. What is the best way to handle a problem that seems to have no solution?" Scenario aside, a problem that has no solution is not a problem - it's a dilemma. Dilemmas have no solutions, these challenges are not binary. Dilemmas need to be managed, often best managed by recognizing the tensions between presenting polarities. The Systems Thinking principle that says one should aim to enhance total systems properties and resilience might be of help in this situation. From this perspective, any action that enhances the functioning and survival of the system as a whole could be regarded as moral behavior, because in the end, all the elements of the system will benefit from this. Instead of action-reaction, creativity is often the secret sauce for problem-solving by assessing what is your current situation and what is your fundamental choice. Leadership is based on understanding a situation and weighing up the odds, trying to find an entrepreneurial way forward; it is very aligned with the wider principles of Systems Thinking. Every problem has a way forward, to determine that a problem has no solution is giving up, even a dilemma has a way forward and impossible choices become easier when the options are limited, in fact, the choices become based on values as an alternative level of thinking.

Every situation has choices, every situation has unknown unknowns, the only way we get to understand these is by not giving up and using a higher level of thinking. Systems Thinking, coupled with design thinking, allows us to not only see systemic dynamics and relationships, but also how to step out of or beyond them, to see things differently, and therefore, have better opportunity to solve problems or improve situations creatively.


Good way to adapt to see through the problems and find solutions. Guess most of the time we have dilemmas still we need to find a way forward. Very good insight.

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