Friday, February 1, 2008

Systems thinking

Systems thinking is a social approach using systems theories to create desired outcomes, or change. It is a unique approach to problem solving, in that it views certain 'problems' as a part of the overall system so focusing on these outcomes will only further develop the undesired element or problem. Systems thinking is a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system will act differently when the systems relationships are removed and it is viewed in isolation. The only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the part in relation to the whole. Standing in contrast to Descartes', scientific reductionism and philosophical analysis, it proposes to view systems in a holistic manner. Consistent with systems philosophy, systems thinking concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the elements that comprise the entirety of the system.

Systems thinking attempts to illustrate that events are separated by distance and time and that small catalytic events can cause large changes in complex systems. Acknowledging that an improvement in one area of a system can adversely affect another area of the system, it promotes organizational communication at all levels in order to avoid the silo effect.


• Russell L. Ackoff (1999) Ackoff's Best: His Classic Writings on Management. (Wiley) ISBN 0-471-31634-2
• Bela H. Banathy (1996) Designing Social Systems in a Changing World (Contemporary Systems Thinking). (Springer) ISBN 0-306-45251-0