Systems Thinking

  1. Why do you need to learn systems thinking?
  2. What is systems thinking?
  3. Examples of systems thinking
  4. Cognitive biases vs systems thinking


Systems thinking is an effective process of describing systems.

Systems thinking helps us to see the big picture, such as overall structures and patterns.

Systems thinking allows us to identify the real causes of problems in systems and organizations.

Systems thinking helps us to redesign existing systems and create new systems.


Systems thinking is a process to understand simple or complex systems, using four simple steps distinction, system, relationships, perspective.

The process is in four simple phases:

  1. Distinctions: differentiate between and among systems, organizations, structures, or ideas. Use the following questions in this phase: What is …? What is not …?
  2. Systems: identify elements, parts, subsystems, or ideas within a system, organization, structure, or idea. Use the following question in this phase: What are the parts of this …?
  3. Relationships: understanding relationships among elements, parts, subsystems, or ideas. Use the following questions in this phase: What is the relationship between these parts? How can this part affect that part?
  4. Perspectives: looking at the system from a different point of view and angles. Use the following question in this phase: Can we see … from a different point of view?

Here are examples to improve your systems thinking process:

Conversation between A and B about distinctions. 
             A: What is this?
            B: This is a satellite.

Example of system in systems thinking:

Conversation between A and B about systems.
            
            A: What are the parts of this system?
B: A satellite has the following components: power system, antenna, thrusters, onboard computer, and sensors.

Example of relationships in systems thinking:

Conversation between A and B about Relationships.
          A: How are they related?
          B: The power system generates electricity for all components. The onboard computer controls all the components, communicates with the earth via the antenna, changes the satellite direction via the thrusters, and performs the satellite mission via the sensors.

Example of perspective in systems thinking:

Conversation between A and B about Perspective. 
          A: Can we make different types of satellites?
B: Yeap. There are satellites for communications, remote sensing, navigation, global positioning, geostationary, ground, etc.

Cognitive biases and systems thinking

We experience the world indirectly through our mental model, shaped by our experiences, beliefs, culture, news, etc.
Cognitive biases are error thinking when we process and interpret information.

Conversation between A and B about Cognitive biases vs systems thinking. 
            A: Why do people disregard facts that oppose their wrong ideas?
            Because of the mental model and cognitive biases.
            B: We experience the world indirectly through our mental model, shaped by our experiences, beliefs, culture, news, etc.
            Cognitive biases are error thinking when we process and interpret info.
            A:Basically, in my head, I have a world model and filters
            B:Yes,
            A:I never heard about that at school.