About The Systems Thinker

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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 Thinking: What, Why, When, Where, and How?

If you’re reading The Systems Thinker®, you probably have at least a general sense of the benefits of applying systems thinking in the work-place.

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 …

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? …

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 …

Building Organizational Learning Infrastructures

The systems and structures that have served our organizations well throughout the Machine Age are no longer adequate to meet the demands of the …

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 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 …

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.

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 …

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 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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

“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 “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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Conversation as a Core Business Process

Take a moment to put on a new set of glasses. Change your perspective. Consider, for a moment, that the most widespread and pervasive …

Transformational Learning: A Blueprint for Organizational Change

Attempting to bring about organizational change through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, yet it may be the most effective way. The belief …

Organizational Learning and Leadership Development at EDS

Evaluating a program on “learning how to learn” is difficult using traditional quantitative criteria. Fritjof Capra, author of The Turning Point, offers these guidelines …

Guidelines for Designing Systemic Interventions

The phones were ringing off the hook and the fax machine was humming 24 hours a day. The entire staff of the specialty goods …

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 …

Transforming the Systems Movement

The situation the world is in is a mess. This hardly requires documentation; it’s obvious. Furthermore, as Leslie Gelb observed in his article “Fresh …

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: Honing Your Skills

Why is it so challenging to develop systems thinking ability? It’s because thinking systemically involves a rather large number of different skills—seven, at least—that …

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This: Developing the Capacity for Cross-Sector Collaboration

About a year ago, I participated in a climate change event in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the room were one of the lead negotiators …

Six Steps to Thinking Systemically

Six Steps to Thinking Systemically

Bijou Bottling Company is a fictitous beverage bottler with an all too real problem: chronic late shipments. Its customers—major chain retailers—are looking for orders …