Systems Thinking in the wild; some examples

Critics are right; so much of systems thinking out there in the wild is still Peter Senge / systems dynamics / stock-and-flow / naive systems mapping. Not that I’m critical of all these examples, but it’s good to do a survey occasionaly.

Modern materials handling:

COVID-19, Systems Thinking and Preparing for the Next Pandemic

We now know that disruptions are inevitable. To handle the next pandemic effectively, decision makers need to grasp what worked, what didn’t and why

“Systems thinking posits that managers make better decisions if they know how a system works; that is, if they pull lever “Y” what happens to the rest of the system? Systems thinking presupposes three prerequisites: An understanding how elements in a system interact to affect performance, access to information to assess tradeoffs, and insight into constraints. When managers fail to use systems thinking, they tend to make myopic decisions with costly, even painful, outcomes.”


How systems thinking is guiding El Tímpano’s reporting on health & overcrowded housing

“We convened reporters and editors from KQED, El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, Reveal, The Mercury News, and Bay City News, using a systems thinking tool called the “iceberg model” to collaboratively map the structures, policies, and ideas fueling Oakland’s overcrowded housing crisis. Participants broke into small groups and brainstormed examples for each layer of the iceberg, pictured below.”

“From there, we began to create what systems thinkers call “feedback loops” — visual representations of self-perpetuating patterns, in this case, those related to overcrowding and poor health outcomes among Oakland’s Latino and Mayan immigrant communities. Through this process, we were better able to understand how different factors, such as access to rent relief, can have a domino effect, either improving tenants’ ability to live in healthy conditions, or driving further overcrowding.”

That course: an intro to systems thinking for journalists

A health-data ecosystem to protect against public-health threats May 6

“The health industry is a complex socioeconomic-technical enterprise with numerous disparate and intertwined entities, which is why it has been particularly difficult to institute the types of structural changes that benefit other sectors. Achieving better health outcomes from more efficient care using a health-data ecosystem is going to require concerted and collaborative efforts from a wide range of public and private entities. A requirements-driven systems engineering approach that couples systems thinking and the systems engineering life cycle is required to marshal this effort’s focus and energy.”

“The key first step in this approach is the designation of a lead organization to shepherd its design.”


Steven Woodsmall·TEDxLakeJunaluska

Systems Thinking is Not Optional: Lessons From a Pandemic

Applying Senge’s ‘laws’ of systems thinking from the Fifth Discipline