Why we need systems thinking
by Suzanne Orme
Albert Einstein said that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
That statement is truer today than ever before. The world is becoming increasingly complex and moving so rapidly that the future will look nothing like the immediate past or present.
Linear thinking – the mindset that things will basically continue on their current path – and that any effect has only one visible cause – is no longer appropriate or valid in the 21stC.
Systems thinking is an alternative mindset that involves zooming out from our individual roles and organisations to view the broader systems of which they are part. We can join the dots between our own actions and related effects occurring elsewhere – in other places, times and to other people. We see patterns and similarities in complex variables, relationships and behaviours to reveal possible levers for change.
Without systems thinking, decision-making can be constrained within a very narrow scope or range of issues, lacking consideration for wider or long term impacts. This myopia is like a jail, an entrapment that blocks creativity and collaborative, transparent solution-finding.
Consider the failure of a strong and timely leadership response to Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and the Climate Change Emergency. Both demonstrate myopia and short-termism on the grandest scale.
The world needs more political and business leaders with a holistic, systems mindset – a new breed of forward thinking people joining forces to co-create the Future We Want.
Today’s leaders are tasked with managing the transition from “ego to eco”, a shift that is now imperative for human survival and the protection of other species. They can harness the transformational power of systems thinking to get us there.