SYSTEMS

The systems view is a way of thinking and acting.

Systems Thinking is, more than anything else, a mindset for understanding how things work. It is a perspective for going beyond events, to looking for patterns of behavior, to seeking underlying systemic interrelationships which are responsible for the patterns of behavior and the events.Systems Thinking embodies a world-view. A world-view which implies that the foundation for understanding lies in interpreting interrelationships within systems. Interrelationships which are responsible for the manner in which systems operate. Interrelationships which result in the patterns of behavior and events we perceive.

There is only one system, the Universe. All other systems are simply subsystems of this larger system.


The Global Superorganism

A new paper by Francis Heylighen, "The Global Superorganism: an evolutionary-cybernetic model of the emerging network society", is now available at http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/Superorganism.pdf . This is an extensive review paper about the notion of a global organism/global brain, including a number of present and future developments in society and economy.?

U.S. Department of Energy's Introduction to System Dynamics 0nline book 1997

The success or failure of a particular policy initiative or strategic plan is largely dependent on whether the decision maker truly understands the interaction and complexity of the system he or she is trying to influence. Considering the size and complexity of systems that public and private sector decision makers must manage, it is not surprising that the "intuitive" or "common sense" approach to policy design often falls short, or is counter-productive, to desired outcomes.

In the field of system dynamics it is argued that policy makers should not worry about whether or not to use a model, but rather which model to use. In other words, system dynamicists believe that policy makers should decide whether they wish to make decisions based on results obtained from their unaided mental models, or from results obtained from some combination of formal and mental models.

Both formal models and mental models have many strengths and weaknesses. Mental models are flexible, rich in detail, and constructed from the most abundant and valuable source of information in the world - experience "data" collected in your brain. John Sterman, a prominent system dynamics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points out that the "great systems of philosophy, politics, and literature are, in a sense, mental models".. . A critical step in examining a system or issue is to identify its key patterns of behavior (....) real-world complex systems are not in equilibrium and are continually changing.

Many decision makers spend enormous amounts of time and money trying to develop models to precisely predict or forecast the future state of a system. From a system dynamics point of view, however, this is a poor use of a decision maker's resources. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it is impossible, in principle, to precisely predict the future state of a nonlinear feedback system, except in the very short term. The second is that, even if it were possible to predict the future state of a nonlinear feedback system, a decision maker's resources are better spent trying to predict the behavior mode of a system in response to a proposed policy change, and in trying to redesign the stock-flow-feedback structure of a system so that it behaves well, regardless of what happens in the future. 

One of the early lessons learned in building system dynamics models is the importance of modeling a problem rather than an entire system. Focusing on a particular problem provides a boundary to the modeling process and forces the modeler to consider only system variables that relate specifically to the problem in question.

System dynamicists model problems, not systems. The reason that problems, rather than systems, are focused on is because they direct the system dynamicist away from the "kitchen sink approach" to modeling, which usually yields a model containing so much detail that it is no more easy to understand than the actual system itself.(...) a good model is one that can help people better understand the world in which they are trying to act and enable them to make more effective long-term decisions.


Future of Systems Thinking

Systems thinking will continue to grow in popularity and importance as we continue to seek far-reaching solutions to current problems. The context for innovative ideas will extend beyond the narrow focus of a single school, isolated worksite or lone community. If we expand our thinking about systems to include in our system components that were once seemingly on the outside, we will have a richer set of resources to draw upon to help solve our problems. As our understanding of systems thinking begins to transcend our limited perspectives of physical and biological organizations, what we consider to be boundaries of systems will broaden. Individuals will look beyond themselves (their system) to familial, communal, national and global systems.

Cultures and nations will become elements of a larger system, rather than isolated systems held constant by the viewers from inside of subsystems. Systems thinking does not belie the importance of individuals, communities and nations. Rather systems thinking brings integrative and creative views to our existence. Embracing human diversity is a commitment to understanding differnces, examining interrelationships, and moving toward an higher level of comprehension of the dynamic nature of the human species.

In the past, provincial customs and nationalistic fervor have prevented cooperation among contiguous systems. Recent examples of systems thinking that will move us into the future include the Earth Summit, the World Health Organization initiatives on AIDS, and the 1995 International Women's Conference in Beijing, China. We often are reminded of the "world community" in political, socioeconomic and humanistic terms. Technological advances that bring new opportunities for communication will continue to be pervasive in our society and will serve to enable the bridging or joining of systems.

The forecast is "always wrong" and Relying on forecasts is like driving by looking in a rearview mirror

Recognition Of Risk 
Reason 1 : Surprises
– All forecasts are extensions of past
– Past trends always interrupted by surprises, by discontinuities: Major political changes, Economic booms and recessions, New industrial alliances or cartels
The exact details of these surprises cannot be anticipated, but it is sure surprises will exist!

Systems Thinking Strategic Planning chaos theory Systems Thinking Press

Hierarchy of Seven LevelsLevels of Thinking
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6
Level 7
Cell
Organ
Organism/Individual
Group/Team
Organization
Society/Community
Supranational System/Earth

Some  resources

Principia Cybernetica Web****

Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems****

CHI 97 Mind Maps and Causal Models Using Graphical Representations of Field Research Data 

Worldviews from fragmentation to integration

Visualizing Complex Systems Science 

A Taste of Systemics

"The systems view is a way of thinking and acting."

By observing various types of systems and studying their behavior, we can recognize characteristics that are common to all systems. Once we have identified and described a set of concepts that are common to the systems, and observed and discovered among some of them certain relationships, we can construct from them GENERAL SYSTEMS PRINCIPLES. Thus, a system principle emerges from an interaction/integration of related concepts. Next, we are in the position to look for relationships among principles and organize related principles into certain conceptual schemes we call SYSTEMS MODELS. This process of starting from observation and arriving at the construction of systems models constitutes the FIRST STAGE of developing a systems view.

"Problems that are created by our current level of thinking can't be solved by that same level of thinking."
—Albert Einstein

Santa Fe Institute ***

The Santa Fe Institute is a private, non-profit, multidisciplinary research and education center, founded in 1984. Since its founding SFI has devoted itself to creating a new kind of scientific research community, pursuing emerging science  

Kennenth E. Boulding

SYSTEMIQUE et COMPLEXITE 

Dynamic strategic planning