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The Systems Thinker works to catalyze effective change by expanding the use of systems approaches. All articles are available free of charge in an effort to expose as wide of audience as possible. Browse, share with others, save your favorites and tell others about this valuable resource!

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Human Dynamics: A Foundation for the Learning Organization

In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge posed the question, “How can a team of committed managers with individual IQs above 120 have a collective…

Creating Causal Theories

Peasants in southwest France have been selling smelly but delicious black truffles to restaurants for more than $600 a kilo (2.2 lb). Not surprisingly,…

Transforming the Character of a Corporation

We judge others by what they do; we judge ourselves by our intentions.” “What you do thunders so loud, I can’t hear what you…

People in Context, Part II

The first part of this article, which appeared in the previous issue of The Systems Thinker (May 2010, Vol. 21 N. 4), introduced the “people-in-context”…

The Learning Family: Bringing the Five Disciplines Home

Roger and his wife June had been struggling with differing views about how to bring up their children. Recently, Roger attended a program about…

The “AND” Method

TEAM TIP Apply this method to anticipate— and avoid—unintended consequences before taking action. Irecently read an article by Daniel Aronson called “Targeted…

The World Cafe: Living Knowledge Through Conversations That Matter

Consider all the learning that occurs as people move from place to place inside and outside an organization, carrying insights and ideas from one…

The Art of Facilitative Leadership: Maximizing Others’ Contributions

Leadership traditionally has been thought of as “doing the right thing” while management has been defined as “doing things right.” Contemporary leadership combines these…

The Learning Organization Journey: Assessing and Valuing Progress

Suppose you have just been appointed the CKO—Chief Knowledge Officer—of your organization. You are responsible for managing the company’s knowledge capital, including how it…

Ishmael: Cultural Dialogue

“TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” Thus begins Ishmael, a compelling exploration of our shared assumptions…

From Causal Loop Diagrams to Computer Models–Part I

Imagine you are the human resources director for a company in a rapidly growing industry. Your latest strategy meeting focused on developing a human…

Balancing Loop Basics

Reinforcing processes, which we covered in last month’s issue, are only one of the building blocks of complex systems. While the snowballing effect of…

From Causal Loops to Graphical Functions: Articulating Chaos

This month we continue our look at Graphical Function Diagrams (GFD). GFD’s help us visually see how two variables are interrelated by plotting the relationship…

Empowering Multigenerational Collaboration in the Workplace

Today’s workforce represents a broad range of age groups. As a result of college internships, modern healthcare, antidiscrimination laws, and a plethora of lifestyle…

Leveraging Organizational Readiness for Change

Leaders like to think that good planning and solid management are the keys to successful change. Yet too often their best efforts, combining their…

Toyota’s Current Crisis: The Price of Focusing on Growth Not Quality

For the past 15 years or so, I have told audiences a story about how my perception of what determines good business performance has…

The Learning Construction Site: Unlearning and Rebuilding New Knowledge

I grew up and was educated in Rome, Italy. The European didactic style tends to be more theoretical and less interactive than that of…

Connecting to Source: The U-Process

As a writer, on a handful of occasions, I’ve produced work that stands far above everything else I’ve written. This work has a special…

Learning About Connection Circles

The topics elementary- and middle-school students today study are complex and often difficult to understand. Seldom is an issue as simple as it appears…

Comfort Zones

It’s a good thing we have comfort zones, those ways of acting and thinking that do not cause us stress or require much thought.

Shifting the Burden: Moving Beyond a Reactive Orientation

Although the parable of the boiled frog has become a familiar story in organizational learning circles, it does not yet seem to prevent organizations…

What is Your Organization’s Core Theory of Success?

Managers in today’s organizations are continually confronted with new challenges and increased performance expectations. At the same time, they are bombarded by a bewildering…

From Riots to Resolution: Engaging Conflict for Reconciliation

As members of communities and organizations, many people feel their days (and their energy!) being consumed by contentious conflicts between diverse stakeholder groups. Organizations…

Leanness

Corporations today face many pressures to become “lean.” Unfortunately, most people also attach “mean” to lean, which can lead us to confuse leanness with…

Using “Fixes That Fail” to Get Off the Problem-Solving Treadmill

It’s Monday morning. You’ve just settled in at your desk to catch up on some reading, when the phone rings. The program manager of the…

Levels of Understanding: “Fire-fighting” at Multiple Levels

It’s another busy night in the hospital emergency room. Several car accident victims have been rushed into surgery, one little boy is having a…

Escalation: The Dynamics of Insecurity

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you felt that things were going well beyond what you intended, but you felt powerless to…

Stress Management–Whose Job Is It?

Stress management — long the domain of psychiatrists and therapists — is increasingly being recognized by corporate America as a critical workforce issue. The reason…

Designing Effective Learning Environments

Imagine you are part of a healthcare team that has developed a computer model to grapple with the complex and often conflicting factors involved…

Embracing Vulnerability:A Core Leadership Discipline for Our Times

World events over the past several years have highlighted the need for new ways of exercising leadership. Such events include the ongoing crisis in…

Selecting Variable Names for Causal Loop Diagrams

When first beginning to draw a causal loop diagram, don’t spend a lot of time up front trying to select the “perfect” variable name.

Weaving Systems Thinking into the K–12 Curriculum

Thanks to the recently revised science and environmental sustainability education standards in the Washington State K–12 system, teachers are now required to teach and…

Systems Thinking Concepts for Environmental Education

The goal of education for sustainability (EFS) is “to develop in young people and adults new knowledge and new ways of thinking needed to…

People in Context, Part I

Our efforts to understand and intervene in organizational events have a persistent bias: to interpret phenomena from a personal framework. In other words, situations…

Confessions of a Recovering Knower

Hi, my name is Brian and I am a recovering knower. But for the grace of God, and the disciplines of organizational learning, I…

The Common Flaw of All Problem-Solving Models

We suspect that every reader of this newsletter has been steeped in articles and classes on a myriad of problem-solving techniques. We have all…

Future Thinking by Middle Managers: A Neglected Necessity

This is a story about what happened to a group of technical managers working in a multinational corporation, the Big Can Corporation (BCC)*, when…

Systems Archetypes As Structural Pattern Templates

Imagine you were suddenly struck with a strange illness that affected your vision. While you were still able to “see” everything around you, somehow…

Making It Happen: The Implementation Challenge

About seven years ago, a Fortune 100 corporation began a three-year, $2 million organizational experiment. The goal was to gain a sustainable competitive advantage…

Decision-Making: The Empowerment Challenge

Imagine that you work for a company that has created a powerful and compelling shared vision. Furthermore, you and your colleagues have established a…

Organizations as Learning Systems

The recent decline of well-established firms and the perceived need for corporate renewal has fueled a growing interest in the topic of organizational learning.

The Learning Organization: From Vision to Reality

Building learning organizations requires more than just “re-engineering” our existing structures. It requires a whole new vision of what organizations can become and a…

The “Attractiveness Principle”: Trying to Be All Things to All People

Your friends raved about the new restaurant in town — “Great food, great service, great price” — so you finally decided to go. By…

The Next Great Frontier: Designing Managerial & Social Systems

The 1990s are shaping up to be a decade of dramatic changes. The recent shake-ups at IBM and General Motors are ominous signs that…

The Need to Understand One Another

Years ago, before diversity became an almost faddish concern for managers everywhere, a wise older gentleman, John Bemis, helped me see the deep connections…

The Inner Path of Leadership

In Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, Joe Jaworski illuminates the nature of the choice to lead and the profound worldview out of which…

Finding the Right Leverage Point

You have had some success with visionary planning and now you intend to begin using “systems thinking” to help achieve your vision. In fact you…