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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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How Can We Solve Our Toughest Problems Peacefully?

How Can We Solve Our Toughest Problems Peacefully?

For the past 15 years, I have focused all of my attention on answering one question: How can we solve our toughest problems peacefully? …

Fine-Tuning Your Causal Loop Diagrams—Part II

Distinguish Between Actual and Perceived Conditions Perceptions and reality often differ, and it is usually important to capture these differences in your causal diagrams. The …

Systems Methodology

Daily, we are exposed to information from a multitude of sources: the media, newspapers, radio, T. V., and the Internet. Generally this kind of …

Conversational Leadership: Thinking Together for a Change

AUTHORS’ NOTE: We’d like to thank and honor Carolyn Baldwin, a pioneering educator and World Café host, for coining the phrase “conversational leadership”; strategic illustrator …

From Fragmentation to Integration: Building Learning Communities

We live in an era of massive institutional failure,” says Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus of Visa International. We need only look around …

Learning Organizations: The Promise and the Possibilities

This year’s annual Systems Thinking in Action Conference explored both the promise and the reality of the learning organization through the theme, “Learning Organizations …

Managing in the Knowledge Era

The world economy is in the midst of a profound change—one that is creating huge shifts in the way companies are organizing to provide …

Systems Archetypes II: Using Systems Archetypes to Take Effective Action

Toolbox Reprint Series Systems Archetypes II Using Systems Archetypes to Take Effective Action More than just a “how-to” guide; this companion guide to our bestselling …

Strategic Questions: Engaging People’s Best Thinking

Stop asking so many questions,” many children hear at home. “Don’t give me the question, give me the answer,” many students hear at school.

Using the Archetype Family Tree as a Diagnostic Tool

Consider the plight of a small “mom and pop” lawn care company. The owners faced periodic cash shortages due to the cyclical nature of …

The Sustainability Challenge: Ecological and Economic Development

Imagine picking up a newspaper and reading that the country’s largest petroleum company has petitioned the government to increase the gasoline tax at the …

Solving, Not Attacking, Complex Problems: A Five-Stage Approach Based on an Ancient Practice

Organizations today suffer from a severe disability when it comes to solving problems. In virtually every organization, regardless of mission and function, people are …

A Lifetime of Systems Thinking

When one reaches 80, one is considered to be ripe and ready for picking. Picking usually consists of the pickers asking the pickee to …

Trust As A Systemic Structure in Our Organizations

Trust is a subject close to many people’s hearts. Whenever I make presentations on this subject, I never cease to be amazed by the …

Overcoming the Seven Sustainability Blunders

In response to growing environmental and social equity problems, hundreds of private and public “sustainable development” initiatives have blossomed across the globe since the …

A Palette of Systems Thinking Tools

In this issue’s Toolbox it may be helpful to lay out the full array of systems thinking tools from which this column draws. You can …

Coaching and Facilitating Systems Thinking

Systems thinking began as a set of analytic tools, but perhaps its greatest impact is as a language for collective inquiry, learning, and action.

Systems Archetype Basics: From Story to Structure

Does your organization focus too much on the short term? Do you often use quick fixes? Do you find yourself saying; “We’ve been in this …

The Blind Men and the Elephant

The parable of the blind men and the elephant illustrates how our individual perceptions (what Peter Senge calls our “mental models”) can lead to …

Creating Learning Organizations

The “learning organization” is fast becoming a corporate buzzword. Many companies are jumping on the bandwagon without really understanding what a learning organization is, or …

Systems Archetypes III: Understanding Patterns of Behavior and Delay

The latest volume of the acclaimed Toolbox Reprint Series, Daniel Kim takes a deeper look at the “signature” patterns of behavior associated with each systems …

Toward Learning Organizations: Integrating Total Quality Control and Systems Thinking

Total Quality Control and systems thinking have complementary strengths that can greatly enhance an organization’s ability to improve its performance. How? Through a more balanced …

Learning Through System Dynamics as Preparation for the 21st Century

What should be the outcome of a systems education? We do not expect most students to spend their lives in front of a computer …

A Subversive’s Guide to Systems Thinking

Just the other day, a colleague made a comment reminiscent of so many similar remarks:, “You worked in a hospital. You understand all there …

Systems Thinking as a Language

Language has a subtle, yet powerful effect on the way we view the world. English, like most other Western languages, is linear—its basic sentence …

Guidelines for Daily Systems Thinking Practice

Individual Practice Becoming a seasoned systems thinker starts with a strong commitment to developing your own awarenesses and skills. Ask Different Questions. Systems thinking offers …

“Positive” Systems Archetypes

Many readers of The Systems Thinker are familiar with the systems archetypes developed in the mid- 1980s based on the work of Jay Forrester, …

The Systems Orientation: From Curiosity to Courage

Systems thinking is different from most other problem-solving tools because it takes into account the fact that we are a part of the system …

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 …

Communicating Through Conflict

Where there are people, there is conflict. It affects us all. The failure to communicate effectively, or to communicate at all, is a leading …

Introducing Systems Thinking into Your Organization

So you’ve read The Fifth Discipline, attended the Pegasus “Systems Thinking in Action” Conference, bought simulation software, and created your first computer models. You’re …

Meetings That Matter: Conversational Leadership in Today’s Schools

If the element in greatest evidence in a school system is “young people,” and the second most prevalent feature is “desks,” surely a close …

Facilitative Modeling: Using Small Models to Generate Big Insights

All you need to do is read the paper or watch the news to realize that the world is becoming more difficult to understand …

A New Path to Understanding Systems Thinking

Many readers will recognize this scenario: A group in your department is planning a highly complex project, but the conversations you’re hearing about it …

Habits of Mind: Strategies for Disciplined Choice Making

B definition, a problem is any stimulus, question, task, phenomenon, or discrepancy for which we don’t immediately have an answer or solution. We are …

Overcoming Defensive Routines in the Workplace

Any time you hear the phrase, “Here we go again” in response to a problem, it is a clue that a pattern is in …

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 …

Rethinking Leadership in the Learning Organization

How many times have we heard statements like these and simply accepted them as “the way things are?” CEOs and other top executives talk …

From Spreadsheets to System Dynamics Models

Decision-makers often turn to computer models when they face a problem too “big” to grasp all at once. Having the computer keep track of …

Superstitious Learning

The drive toward improvement has become a way of life in corporations today. Total Quality Management, Business Process Reengineering, and other improvement techniques have …

Dynamic Thinking: A Behavioral Context

The first thinking skill in the systems thinking paradigm is Dynamic Thinking. It comes first because you must be able to think dynamically in …

Breaking the Cycle of Organizational Addiction

Every so often in the world of business, we see an enterprise that, after years of steady progress and growth, suddenly experiences a drastic …

Moving from Blame to Accountability

When something goes wrong in an organization, the first question that is often posed is, “Whose fault is it?” When there’s data missing in …

The Inescapable Need to Change Our Organizations: An Interview with Peter Senge

The Systems Thinker (TST): What are the two or three new big ideas for management in the 21st century? Peter Senge: Organizations will have to …

To Make Better Decisions, We Need Better Information

This column is not a Honda ad, although it will start off sounding like one. This is an ad for feedback. I’ve had a …

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 …

From Individual to Shared Mental Models

Making individual mental models explicit is only one step toward fostering organizationwide learning. Since perceptions of reality can vary widely among different people in …

Thinking in Circles About Obesity

TEAM TIP Although this article focuses specifically on the issue of weight management, some of the lessons are relevant for organizational issues; for …