Systems Thinking is where we treat real world things (objects, products, situations, organizations, etc.) as systems, to learn more about them. By treating things as systems, it makes us think differently about them, providing insight and understanding that could not be gained any other way. This different way of looking at the real world allows us to solve previously unsolvable problems, to exploit opportunities and prevent the occurrence of issues.
The beauty of Systems Thinking is that it can be applied to anything, anywhere and at any time, effectively allowing you to compare chalk with cheese. This means a systems thinker can take the learning in one domain and transfer it to another domain. It allows for the comparison of different systems to gain insight and understanding of generic issues and behaviour. Some systems are simple, some systems are very complex, yet they may display similar behaviour and by understanding the simple system and what drives its behaviour can be transferred to the more complex situation.
Systems Thinking is not the preserve of engineers or scientists, anybody can apply and use it. It is a tremendously powerful and universal framework that can be used in many situations:
- To gain understanding of a complex situation.
- To gain sufficient understanding to make predictions of future system behaviour.
- To solve a problem.
- To create a new system.
Being able to apply Systems Thinking requires an understanding of the systemic properties and characteristics of a system. Most humans are not natural systems thinkers and require guidance through Systems Approaches and Systems Thinking Tools.