Systems Thinking Primer

Beer Game

The Fifth Discipline



Systems Thinking



"From a very early age, we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world.  This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden enormous price.  We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole.  When we try to 'see the big picture,' we try to reassemble the fragments in our minds, to list and organize all the pieces.  Bus as physicist David Bohm says, the task is futile -- similar to trying to reassemble the fragments of a broken mirror to see a true reflection.  Thus, after a while we give up trying to see the whole all together."


Peter Senge

The Fifth Discipline






The practice of Systems Thinking shifts the focus of the mind and enables one to:

  •     see interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect chains

  •     see processes of change rather than snapshots

Lessons from Systems Thinking:

  • System Structure Influences Behavior -- Different individuals immersed in the same structure (environment or circumstances) tend to produce similar results.

  • No single element (or problem) can be fully understood without an understanding of the whole.

  • The Structure of Artificial (Human Created) Systems is nearly invisible -- The transparency of the structure is a result of acculturation - Human-made Systems are often an intrinsic unquestioned element of the society in which one is born into.


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