Systems Thinking – Learning to See Systems

In our discussions of systems thinking, there is a critical fact that we haven’t touched on yet — In order to be able to work with systems, you need to be able to recognize them. Systems Thinking is oriented to the long term view. Generally we get caught up in the hubbub of the day to day. It’s easy for us to miss the operation of the system. It is like the parable of the boiled frog. By the time they discover the increasing heat in the pot, it’s too late for them to escape.

Feedback and time delays are what structure a system and provide its enduring status quo. These operate over long periods of time. If we’re unaware of how a system operates, if we don’t learn to see the system, then we end up being prisoners of the system; buffeted around by the forces of the system.

If we learn to see the system, we can take advantage of the forces of the system. We can learn to recognize the leverage points in the system. This is valuable if you want to do something to affect change within the system.

In learning to see systems there is a huge aid that comes from recurring fundamental systems. There are certain systems that recur in all kinds of industries and disciplines. These generic structures have come to be known as System Archetypes. Peter Senge, one of the thought leaders we commonly reference, says that only when we learn to think in terms of System Archetypes can we really operate in a way that makes systems thinking an effective agency for management.

Between now and the end of the year we’re going to talk about System Archetypes, how to recognize them, and how they give you insight into the systems within which you operate on a day-to-day basis.

Contact us to learn more about how Systems Thinking and the application of our Product Development Operating System can help your organization become more efficient, productive, innovative, and competitive. Follow Bill at