Understanding Systems Thinking

Do you like to think outside of the box? Are you interested in patterns and themes to get to your final destination – Systems Thinking could be the approach you need and be a useful tool for you to use to:

  • Examine (model) how we create our own problems;
  • See (illustrate) the big picture;
  • Structure (predict) influences performance

What is Systems Thinking?

In its simplest term, Systems thinking is an approach that uses computer simulation and diagrams to predict and illustrate system performance. This method is utilized to help build a broad perspective seeing overall structure cycles. This typically involves identifying the patterns by observing data and events over time and analysing the base structures that lead the patterns (Haines, 2000).

’Systems thinking uses computer simulation and a variety of diagrams and graphs to model, illustrate, and predict system behaviour. ‘’– Haines, 2000.

This methodology is a holistic approach and can be used in all areas of research. This allows for to open the perspective up to a wider view and involves clarity, compassion, and choice therefore focuses on how the situation interacts with the other components and wider system and how it will work over time within these systems.

Source: Unsplash

Applying Systems thinking

If your situation involves the following attributes and characteristics systems thinking should typically be applied:  

  • High importance
  • A problem that will continue to occur over time
  • There is a history with the problem
  • The problem is familiar

Start by asking questions, focus on items that you believe are being pushed aside, what is it that you do not understand? What would you like to understand? What have people failed to understand before? Then look at the people involved, get people from all departments involved and who possess an alternate perspective than you or your peers. Then analyse the situation from the viewpoint of issues in the events, planning, and structure to gain larger scope.

The information is presented through Casual loops and/or mind mapping, Remember, your diagram is telling a story be concise and clear as possible! The number of elements in a loop should be determined by the needs of the story and of the people using the diagram, the size of loops are determined by the size of the situation, you can influence the system as they are external and we are all apart of them (Think NPC, 2019).

Source: Software Creation

How can this help?

Systems thinking notices patterns in order to achieve a purpose and reoccurring issues. We can to make connections when we are Perceiving the situation from a broader system or set of alternate systems. This allows for a view of how structures change over time and reinforces processes, resulting in a wider understanding to make future predictions and illustrate the bigger picture.

Have you ever used this approach? How have you applied this in practice? Let me know below!


Goodman, M. (2018). The Systems Thinker.
Retrieved from https://thesystemsthinker.com/systems-thinking-what-why-when-where-and-how/

Haines, S. (2000). The complete guide to
systems thinking and learning
. Amherst, Mass.: HRD Press.

Software Creation. (2010). How to meet challenges
with systems meeting?.
Retrieved from https://softwarecreation.org/2010/how-to-meet-challenges-with-systems-thinking/

THINK NPC. (2020). Covid-19 Means Systems
Thinking is no longer optional
. Retrieved from

(2020). Charles Deluvio. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/OWkXt1ikC5g?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Cover Photo By AbsolutVision on UnSplash

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