Hope For A Global Ethic

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Without a map, it just becomes arguments in pieces rather than the system as a whole. I had personal experience of this when I helped manage a three-year cross-functional change management programme at the Guardian a number of years ago. We mapped 34 separate processes, such as printing, finance and marketing, and then ran a series of meetings with all the staff from across the whole organisation who had a connection to each of those activities. What we discovered was that employees had tended to judge and blame their colleagues in other departments for anything that went wrong. But this changed once they sat together and recognised that the problems were largely structural, rather than people "not doing their job properly".

Key to the success of multi-stakeholder meetings, therefore, is a sense of trust. At the most basic level, this means the creation of a common language, but crucially everyone needs to feel that they can be winners. If the representatives from any part of the system enter discussions feeling they are not valued, that decisions have already been made, or that they may lose from the negotiations, then it is likely that little progress can be made.

Another important ingredient to generating meaningful change is moving away from a position of what "should" be done and what everyone may feel guilty about not doing, to developing a vision of a positive future. That is a key psychological learning because it immediately moves people beyond short-term thinking inside the box and encourages a reframing of the issues. Severn says: "If you look at the whole system, you realise the barriers are in our minds. What moves that forward is a willingness to change behaviours and come together to collaborate on win win solutions.

Winslow agrees: "People tend to come from a problem-solving methodology and then go back to their silos. We need to come from a creative orientation, more possibility driven. We need to flip it around to discussing what is the future we want to create and get people into a different space. So what else? Any change programme needs not only to be supported at the very top of the company but also include what Winslow says are the heroes in any organisation — for example, the product designers in Nike or the engineers within a technology company like Intel. But they are not, so they do not gain any of the benefits of true systems thinking analysis.

They also cannot tell a good systems analysis from a bad one. This type of person can be called a pseudo systems thinker.


  1. 5 Books That Ramp Up Your Systems Thinking Ability - By?
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From what I've seen, most people who use the term systems thinking are on this level or the next, or somewhere in between. Unfortunately most seem to be on level 1. Level 2. Deep Awareness - This type of person is fully aware of the key concepts of systems thinking and has a sound grasp of the importance and potential of systems thinking.

They think more like a user of systems thinking output or a manager of work efforts that involve systems thinking. They understand what systems thinking is on the surface, but how to build glass box models remains a mystery. They can read causal flow diagrams and simulation models to at least a small degree, and can think a little in terms of feedback loops, but they cannot create good diagrams and models. They know what system structure and reinforcing and balancing feedback loops are, and why the forces those loops create are the most powerful forces in the humans system.

Level 3. Novice - A novice has deep awareness and has begun to penetrate the black box of why a system behaves the way it does. At a minimum, they have learned how to create original causal flow diagrams and can use them to solve many easy and some medium difficulty complex social system problems. A really good novice will be able to read simulation models fluently. Level 4. Expert - An expert has gone a giant step further than a novice. They have learned how to create original correct simulation models using the tool of system dynamics.


  • The art of systems thinking in driving sustainable transformation.
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  • This allows them to solve difficult complex social system problems. Any organization working on solving the sustainability problem using an original approach needs at least one expert on their staff or needs to somehow have their work driven by one. They also need many novices. Level 5. Guru - This is an expert who is able to teach others to become experts and who can make crucial original contributions to solving extremely difficult complex social system problems. Work through to the fifth chapter, titled A Shift of Mind. There Peter does indeed shift the mind with a superlative introduction to systems thinking, one so good the book turned much of the American business world onto systems thinking in the s, when it was first published.

    In this chapter Peter defines systems thinking as "a discipline for seeing the 'structures' that underlie complex situations, and for discerning high from low leverage points. As the title suggests, this will not only turn you into a systems thinker. It will also turn you into a modeler, using system dynamics. This is the book I taught myself modeling with, and The Fifth Discipline is the book that planted the seeds that lead to taking that plunge. A refiner can only improve upon a model that someone else has created.

    The art of systems thinking in driving sustainable transformation

    A good example of refiners is the Limits to Growth team of the early Their main work output was World3, a simulation model of the world and how it was close to overshooting its limits. The stocks, subsystems, and general behavior and insights were all about the same in both models. The main difference was World3 was more complete and its parameters and equations were based on elaborate research, allowing its scenarios to be more reliable and cover greater depth than World2. But a refiner can only improve.

    See a Problem?

    They cannot create new models containing major new insights. This requires an originator , such as Forrester. Notice how that without at least one originator being involved, the Limits to Growth phenomenon would have never occurred. But there is a much deeper insight here. Because the Limits to Growth team contained no originators, they failed to see that they were modeling only the superficial layer of the environmental proper coupling subproblem. If using root cause analysis and true systems thinking they had gone further and included the fundamental layer and at least the change resistance subproblem , then the course of environmental history might be much different.

    However, we must remember that the team made an outstanding contribution by identifying the sustainability problem for the first time in a well modeled, thoroughly researched, irrefutable manner that was well communicated by The Limits to Growth book. For environmental organizations to make the breakthroughs that are required to solve the toughest problem in the world, they must employ a sizable number of originators, who must be experts or gurus.

    The Art of Systems Architecting - CRC Press Book

    For example, it will probably require at least one originator to solve the change resistance part of the sustainability problem. It will then require several to begin to zero in on the proper coupling part, and still more to begin to solve the one that's still got me scratching my head: the model drift part of the problem. This is the tendency for solutions to work for quite awhile, and then drift away from effectiveness, as a normal case of another Kuhn Cycle.

    A feedback loop is system structure that causes output from one node to eventually influence input to that same node. The important behavior of a system emerges from its key feedback loops. The key principle. The behavior of a large complex system is generally so counterintuitive that it cannot be correctly understood without modeling the system's key feedback loops. The impetus for this short list began with an email from a new PHD in Germany. He was attempting to learn systems thinking to augment his other skills and was encountering trouble.

    He was suffering from: "a chaotic reading manner with inability to organise the data and information that I am adding to my mind every day" as he attempted to "orderly and systematically" develop a systems thinking view of his problem domain. The problem was so bad that: "I feel that my knowledge is too basic and narrow to write a paper about systems thinking with respect to" his current project. So, to help him out I proposed using the above principles as a foundational framework.

    Understand the principles. Then use them to systematically decide what to read, what to learn, and where to focus. It also included elements such as looking at the company's dependence on natural resources, environmental impacts and the implications for its business model. You need to have a skilled system mapper in the room as they can create the context.


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    • 5 Books That Ramp Up Your Systems Thinking Ability.
    • You cannot do it on your own. Severn, who is currently working on a systems change programme to eliminate hazardous chemicals from supply chains and products, agrees: "System maps are a tool for dialogue and once that happens around a common perspective, it becomes a lot easier. Without a map, it just becomes arguments in pieces rather than the system as a whole. I had personal experience of this when I helped manage a three-year cross-functional change management programme at the Guardian a number of years ago.

      We mapped 34 separate processes, such as printing, finance and marketing, and then ran a series of meetings with all the staff from across the whole organisation who had a connection to each of those activities. What we discovered was that employees had tended to judge and blame their colleagues in other departments for anything that went wrong.

      But this changed once they sat together and recognised that the problems were largely structural, rather than people "not doing their job properly". Key to the success of multi-stakeholder meetings, therefore, is a sense of trust. At the most basic level, this means the creation of a common language, but crucially everyone needs to feel that they can be winners.

      The Art of Systems Thinking

      If the representatives from any part of the system enter discussions feeling they are not valued, that decisions have already been made, or that they may lose from the negotiations, then it is likely that little progress can be made. Another important ingredient to generating meaningful change is moving away from a position of what "should" be done and what everyone may feel guilty about not doing, to developing a vision of a positive future.

      That is a key psychological learning because it immediately moves people beyond short-term thinking inside the box and encourages a reframing of the issues. Severn says: "If you look at the whole system, you realise the barriers are in our minds. What moves that forward is a willingness to change behaviours and come together to collaborate on win win solutions. Winslow agrees: "People tend to come from a problem-solving methodology and then go back to their silos.