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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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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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

“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, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Causal Loop Construction: The Basics

Systems thinking has been described as a language for talking about the complex, interdependent issues managers face every day. Within that framework, causal loop …

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 …

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 …

The Process of Dialogue: Creating Effective Communication

Consider any complex, potentially volatile issue — Arab-Israeli relations; the problems between the Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians; the U.S. deficit, healthcare costs, or labor/management …

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 Event Thinking to Systems Thinking

Your division has been plagued by late launches in its last five new products, and now management has charged you with “getting to the …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Integrating Systems Thinking and Design Thinking

As readers of this newsletter are aware, systems thinking is evolving as an alternative to the old paradigms. Richard Mattessich wrote that “systems thinking …

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 …

Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking

The way people talk together in organizations is rapidly becoming acknowledged as central to the creation and management of knowledge. According to Alan Webber, …

Building Communities of Commitment

Creating learning organizations takes more than a collection of individuals working toward the same cause; it requires building a community of learners who are …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 “Thinking” in Systems Thinking: How Can We Make It Easier to Master?

Despite significant advances in personal computers and systems thinking software over the last decade, learning to apply systems thinking effectively remains a tough nut …

Managing Your Time as a Leader

Many leaders feel starved for time. Working under the assumption that longer hours lead to improved productivity, they drive themselves and others to increase …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Teaching Systemic Thinking: Educating the Next Generation of Business Leaders

Are we failing to adequately prepare our business leaders? Since an article in the Harvard Business Review on the topic more than 30 years …

Using Causal Loop Diagrams to Make Mental Models Explicit

Making mental models explicit can enhance both individual and organizational learning by making individual learning more accessible and therefore more easily transferable to the …

Moving from Knower to Learner

Contrary to popular opinion, learning is not the process of merely accumulating more information. You have “learned” something only when you can produce a …

Productive Conversations: Using Advocacy and Inquiry Effectively

We can gain leverage for improving conversations by paying attention to advocacy and inquiry. Advocacy is stating one’s views. Describing what I think, disclosing …

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 …