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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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From Key Success Factors to Key Success Loops

Many of us are familiar with the following drill: Corporate pushes a new program, and each department must come up with its own plans …

The Thinking in Systems Thinking: Eight Critical Skills

Ihave been writing and re-writing this guide (Introduction to Systems Thinking with STELLA, 1985–2000) for 15 years. I always begin by reeling off a …

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? …

The Inner Game of Work: Building Capability in the Workplace

“What would be more interesting to you,” I ask an audience of executives, “engaging in a dialogue on learning how to coach or one …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

“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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Why Systems Thinking, Why Now?

You’ve heard the news—many U. S. companies are cutting their operations dramatically in response to falling investor confidence, stock prices, and revenues. Many major …

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 …

Step-By-Step Stocks and Flows: Improving the Rigor of Your Thinking

The systems thinking community has always considered stock and flow diagrams to be important tools, and recognition of their key place in the …

Wired for Change: Leveraging Insights from Biology

Either way you spell it, this former CEO’s name is “mud.” Though the pun may be entertaining, the result of failing to explore “unthinkable” …

Behavior Over Time Diagrams: Seeing Dynamic Interrelationships

An old Winnie the Pooh cartoon sketch shows Christopher Robin dragging Edward the Bear down a set of stairs by one arm, while the …

Hearts in the Stream: Learning to Learn from Nature

You are fly fishing, standing knee-deep in the Housotonic River, which tumbles down the western edge of Connecticut. As you cast for the fifth …

Step-By-Step Stocks and Flows: Converting From Causal Loop Diagrams

Once you have a basic knowledge of stocks and flows, you can begin converting CLDs to stock and flow diagrams. The steps we describe …

Sustainability: The Inner and Outer Work

Over the years, many people devoted to sustainability have used the phrase “the triple bottom line” to articulate strategy. They don’t focus solely on …

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 …

What Are Mental Models? Part 2

TEAM TIP Look for things that rise and fall in your organization, such as employee motivation, product sales, progress on goals, etc. What are …

The Nature and Creation of Chaordic Organizations

We are living on the knife’s edge of one of those rare and momentous turning points in human history. Liveable lives for our grandchildren, …