Explore the big-picture scaffolding—Why?, What?, and How?—structure of this course so that you can organize your thinking appropriately.
- It's important to understand what we call the why, what and how of systems thinking. First, why is systems thinking so important, and why does it exist? Systems thinking was developed in order to deal with three things. The first, baloney. Let's be honest, there's a lot of it around us, and being a systems thinker helps you avoid it. The second is bias. Systems thinking helps us to see our biases. We often see what we want to see, or we see the things that support our argument. This leads to thinking errors, and eventually unhappiness with the results of our efforts. And the third is reality. The world is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous, or VUCA. And this leads to all kinds of interconnected and wicked problems. Systems thinking helps us deal with this complex reality, by taking contextual factors, perspectives and interconnections into account when defining and solving problems, innovating products, or inventing new things. So the next question you have, is likely what is systems thinking? Systems thinking is the act of organizing information to make meaning. In other words, building mental models of the things we experience in everyday life. For example, if six blind wise men are trying to understand what is in front of them, in this case an elephant, but it could be any system. They each think that this elephant system is something different. A rope, a tree, a snake, a spear, a fan, a mountain. Based on the part that they can touch or experience. This metaphor holds true for many things. Different people or interest groups are seeing things, or the elephant, in different ways based on their locality, or the constraints of how they experience those things. And often, no single person is actually seeing the situation, the elephant, in its entirety. To understand the elephant, each of the men are following the same process to decide what it is. So what is systems thinking? It's four simple steps that we use to build an understanding of things. Number one, we distinguish ideas from other ideas, or we make distinctions. Number two, we organize ideas into systems. Number three, we relate ideas to one another. And number four, we look at ideas from many perspectives. But how do we do systems thinking? The devil is in the details, as they say. The most important thing to do is practice applying these four simple steps to anything you're thinking about. Whether it's a problem you need to solve, an invention or innovation you're trying to create, or a system you're trying to understand. Awareness of these four simple rules will lead to better thinking, better outcomes, and greater self-awareness.