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What is systems thinking?

What is a system?

A system is made up of components that operate interdependently to function as a whole. 

I am a system. You are a system. Outside of ourselves we operate through relationships with others and the larger world. The biggest system of all is the universe – this is the system, and we are parts of that system. We are a subsystem of the whole. 

Systems thinking studies the relationships of the components and the feedback loops in systems. Feedback loops are the bonds of individual cause and effect relationships that can act in a positive manner or a negative manner. 

Feedback Loops

The common ‘2D’ approach to thinking and acting in the world is imagining action and reaction, cause, and effect, as a linear chain of events, each of them with a clear beginning and end. We at PAF, replace 2D with an interactive ‘3D’ space of activity (a sphere) where any action is simultaneously connected to a multitude of other actions in the same spherical space, connected through feedback loops.

As a result, feedback loops replace the notion of singular cause-and-effect-chains since instead of taking single data points, systems thinking understands the real world is a network of data points that are all interrelated to each other. As a result, systems thinking, and the sphere economy, is prerequisite for development of more inclusive, integrated solution-building.

When we make decisions and act in a way that does not take account of the relationships between the multiple components of the system, we break the feedback loops. This action can lead to poor well-being, marginalisation, climate change, and degradation of the biosphere amongst many other things. We want ourselves, our families, friends, businesses, and our communities, to be strong and resilient. But the current proposed method to achieve this, is the continuation to focus on improving siloed parts of the system one at a time. But what makes a system strong is the connections! Optimising individual parts will not necessarily optimise the whole. Imagine a building held together with sticky tape. Would you want to see the view from the top?

What is system thinking?

The essence of systems thinking, and its practical implementation is to see the world in a particular way since how you see things affects the way you approach situations or undertake specific tasks. Systems thinking helps you to define a system and how to use some of the key concepts such as feedback loops. As a result, you become enabled to visualise and compute an array of decision options by visualising the relationships between interdependent system components. These competencies are essential to optimise problem-solving skills, eco-innovation, eco-finance, productivity, inclusion, and zero-waste strategies. How to use better what we have already. 

You:

Become outcome focussed

Able to think in three dimensions

Understand the effect of decisions over time.

OriginalSystems Thinking
The food we eat is changed in many ways before it reaches our table.Everyone on earth has the right to nutritious food.
People create and adapt inventions to solve specific problems and meet particular needs.Understanding the interdependence of all relationships motivates us to innovate thoughtfully to improve the quality of life for all using better what we already have in many more ways.
Animals depend on their habitats to meet their needs.Caring for animals and protecting habitats ensures the wellbeing of all ecosystems.
Words sound and movement can be used to express ideas and feelings in powerful ways.Creativity of a community can be used to share ideas and feelings in powerful ways.
Energy has many different formsUniversal access to efficient forms of energy ensures a sustainably viable future
Adapted from International School of Indiana

In short

Systems thinking: the science and practice – is for those that wish to revolutionise the way they live and work: to challenge the conventional mechanistic view of the world that has fuelled climate, biosphere, and societal problems. To herald a new, exciting, and productive phase that delivers insights of life at all levels of living systems that have a profound impact upon business, politics, health, education – indeed, everyday life. 

To help improve the whole we have systems thinking and the Sphere Economy.

Sometimes it’s not about things but the relationship between things

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