Featured Systems Thinking titles:
Problem Solving and Decision Making:
Growing Wings On The Way: Systems Thinking for Messy Situations
A practical guide to using some of Systems Thinking's most helpful skills and techniques, including Rich Pictures, Systems Maps and Diagrams and the Understandascope.
Introducing Systems Thinking:
Systems Thinking for Curious Managers
Gives a thumbnail sketch of Ackoff's approach to Systems Thinking and Interactive Design and ties them in to his collection of f-LAWS. Anyone new to Ackoff's work or looking for a handy introduction to Systems Thinking could start here. Separate sections cover:
Definitions ~ The Feedback Loop
Tropisms ~ Self-Organisation
Interconnectedness ~ Equifinality
Events vs Systems ~ Change
Messes ~ Parts vs the WholeAnalysis vs Synthesis ~ People
Failure to Learn ~ Aims & Intentions
The Public Sector:
Systems Thinking in the Public Sector
John Seddon's bestselling demolition of the culture of targets, 'deliverology' and back office economies of scale that have paralysed sector management in the UK for years.
Systems Thinking and Design Thinking
The principal obstruction for a manager [Russ Ackoff]
Our habit (in the West, at least) has for a long time been take any complex system (like a business), separate it out into its component parts and then try to manage each part as well as possible. Parts could here refer to different departments or work processes or products or individuals. If that's done, the theory goes, the system as a whole will behave well. The problem is that it's perfectly possible to improve the performance of one part (even many parts) and yet disable or destroy the system as a whole at the same time. Obvious examples would be two often cited by Russ Ackoff: the benefits of DDT in controlling malaria and yellow fever and of Thalidomide in treating anxiety and insomnia.
By contrast, Systems Thinking looks at relationships (rather than unrelated objects), connectedness, process (rather than structure), the whole (rather than just its parts), the patterns (rather than the contents) of a system, and context. Thinking systemically also requires several shifts in perception, which lead in turn to different ways to teach, and different ways to organize society.
That definition assumes a definition of a system something like this one (from Bill Bellows):
"A system is set or pattern of relationships that work together in some fashion. Systems can accomplish things that would be impossible if the same elements were put into random relationships, or no relationships at all...
Although we may sometimes take it for granted, we get enormous value from systems every day. We benefit continually from various smart puttings-together of resources that provide us with food, transportation, education, goods and services..."
Systems Thinking for Curious Managers is a very good introduction to the subject and its key ideas.
Design Thinking uses the definitions and assumptions of Systems Thinking and focuses on applying them to innovative processes for problem-solving and decision-making.
See the full list of Design and Systems Thinking books from Triarchy below:
BOOKS: Design & Systems Thinking
Systems Thinking entries in The Idioticon:
Systems Thinking entries in The Library of Thoughts: