Systems Thinking

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The first principle of systems thinking is that structure influences behavior. In other words, "architecture dominates material".

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It doesn't mean that we're powerless, on the contrary. By adopting a systems thinking approach, we can better understand the dynamic of the system and find the actions that will have the most leverage.

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Linear thinking, A causes B, is not an appropriate model to think about complex systems. Worse, this type of thinking often makes us act contrary to the best interest of the system as a whole.

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Unfortunately linear thinking is deeply embedded in our everyday language. We need a new language that restructure how we think.

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This new languages focuses on (1) complex relationships, potentially cyclic, rather than linear causal chains, and (2) process of change rather than snapshots.

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System thinking models are often represented as causal loop diagrams.

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By identifying the causal relationships between the parts of a system, we discover feedback loops that will have an impact on the growth and stability of the system.

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Often, the system will be steered by adding a negative or positive feedback loop depending on the desired behavior.

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Those feedback loops often have delays that make the effects hard to notice.

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It is important to distinguish the relationship that are natural laws from human decisions. We can't change natural laws but we can change human decisions.

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When two people blame each other they likely are in a destructive feedback loop.

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In Management

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In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge presents systems thinking as the foundation to build learning organizations.

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In the first volume of Quality Software Management, Weinberg presents a systems thinking approach to help software managers better understand complex situations so they can plan, observe, and act to keep the project going.

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