Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking

By: Alex Marquez

Throughout this course I can honestly say I have seen a transformation.  It is not every day you can witness a group of people come together and begin to understand a new way of thinking and looking at the world.  What makes Systems Thinking so special is that the more you learn about this interesting field the more you want to know!

Systems thinking is a way of understanding reality that emphasizes the relationships among a system’s parts, rather than the parts themselves. Why is systems thinking valuable? Because it can help you design smart, continuing solutions to problems. In its simplest sense, systems thinking gives you a more accurate picture of reality, so that you can work with a system’s natural forces in order to achieve the results you desire.  It also encourages you to think about problems and solutions with an eye toward the long view—for example, how might a particular solution you’re considering play out over the long run? And what unintended consequences might it have? Systems thinking is founded on some basic, universal principles that once understood could be seen in our everyday lives.

What exactly is a system? A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components that form a complex and unified whole. Systems are everywhere for example, the circulatory system in your body, the predator/prey relationships in nature, the ignition system in your car, and so on.  Human social systems are living systems; human-made systems such as cars and washing machines are nonliving systems.

Every system has an input, throughput, output and a feedback loop.  For example –

  • Input - The gas or electricity which comes from our power company
  • Throughput – thermostat monitors the temperature, thermostat sends a signal to our heater to turn on, thermostat sends a signal to the heater to turn off, the gas is burned, and the fan turns on & blows warm air into the room.
  • Output – Heat
  • Feedback – when the temperature falls below the desired level, the thermostat sends a signal to our heater; When the temperature reaches the desired level, the thermostat sends a signal to the heater to turn off.

Systems maintain their stability by making adjustments based on feedback. Example: Your body temperature generally hovers around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If you get too hot, your body produces sweat, which cools you back down.

An open system is any distinct entity — a cell, a person, a forest, or an orchestra that takes in resources from its environment processes them in some way, and produces output. When taking an open-systems approach, we look both inward and outward. We are interested in relationships and patterns of interaction between subsystems and their environments within the organization.

My takeaway from this class will reach far beyond the vocabulary and complicated theory’s mentioned in our text book, but a greater appreciation for relationships.  An increased awareness for the why, and less concerned for the how.  I have a new way of looking at the world; Gharajedaghi suggests that we can change our paradigm through a conscious process of unlearning and relearning.  In short, this means questioning our assumptions, and then building new ones.  I think this will now be a continual learning process for the rest of my life.

My friends call me Shine, the main thing about me is that I am real. I am Venezuelan and I am very spiritual. I studied modern languages and I am currently at the MAOM program in AULA. I’m 33 years old and at this point, I just seek for my inner and outer balance, among all the messiness, so that I can encounter my mission or what the universe has prepared for me. Also, to meet the right people since we all need for each other in order to succeed.

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