Systems thinking in a nutshell

  • A system is a set of interacting pieces that combine for a common purpose. A system is not only the sum of its parts but the product of their interaction.
  • Systems thinking is about understanding relationships and their implications so that we can be better problem solvers.
  • Systems approaches and tools help us to better understand the relationships that cause complex problems and to find the most efficient, effective and equitable solutions. Unless we understand these relationships and how to deal with them, change can be temporary because we may have forced things to change inappropriately.
  • If we don’t understand why a situation is as it is (the context) before we intervene, we may make the situation worse or create new problems.
  • Systems thinking poses two fundamental questions about each interacting part of a complex problem: What does it influence and what influences it?