What Systems Thinking Is And Why You Need ItAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
Systems thinking tries to understand the rules that determine how different systems—some seemingly unrelated—behave, how they interact and how they influence each other.
It involves collecting and analyzing large amounts of information from multiple sources, and is primarily used to solve problems that could not be separately solved by any person, company or government.
We always tend to look for the cause of any problem in situations that are close in space and time. However, sometimes the problem is a consequence of the dynamics of one or more bigger systems; systems that we are not able to see.
For example, from a systemic perspective, nowadays an electric car is not exactly something beneficial for the environment, because its manufacturing process involves factories that use polluting fuels.
By ignoring the dynamics underlying a problem—this is called “systems blindness” —it is impossible to establish a strategy to successfully solve it. How many times have you seen decisions being made in your company, or in your country, which seem to work in the short term, but in fact do not solve anything?
The problem is that our perception is unable to detect threats hidden in larger systems. We see the danger when we hear and see a car close to us, but not when we are breathing carcinogenic particles in a polluted atmosphere.
The systemic mind is the one that allows us to identify surprising details in a larger visual display and, according to Daniel Goleman, we need to learn how systems work to move successfully through life. “Although this requires considerable effort, it is a necessary strength today.”
So what has all this to do with your productivity?
You are probably very focused on getting your everyday tasks done, in resolving tangible problems. Problems that will reappear with some frequency even if you solve them today.
More than likely, you’re not seeing the real sources of every one of your problems because you only see the first system to which they belong.
Check regularly your purpose, your principles, and your long term goals. Check the network connections that make up your life and your work. Analyze how all the systems that are part of your life—including those that appear to be unrelated—, and you will realize that sometimes the forest will not let you see the trees.