|A System is an assembly of components, connected together in an organized way to achieve something that is a consequence of the whole.
This is not the only definition of a system; there are many more (see for example (Wikipedia, 2010), (INCOSE, 2007) and (NASA, 1995)). The fact there is no universally agreed definition of a system is irritating but on a practical level it makes little difference since it is what these definitions imply that is important. Indeed, they all agree that a system has three key elements:
This definition at first glance may appear to be too general to be useful. However, it is the general nature of the definition that has value because it allows human activities and artefacts to be considered as a system. This makes Systems Thinking universally applicable.
The idea of a system as defined above is useful but Systems Thinking becomes really useful because of the systemic properties and characteristics that logically follow from the formal definition of a system. Declaring something as a system implies that it takes on the systemic properties and characteristics and exploring these provides the understanding and insight that is sought. It may be found after such an analysis that the “something” is not a system but if insight and understanding has been generated then the exercise was worthwhile.
The properties and characteristics of a system:
Boundary and Environment
Systems within systems