Systems Thinking

I started reading a book by Peter Senge this week called the Fifth Discipline. I feel like its opened my eyes to an areas of research and thinking I have been looking for. It’s basically about Systems Thinking. In a way it’s about the ‘big picture’.

Before starting this book I think I always believed that the big picture was about vision. I have felt I was suited to this type of thinking. But reading about systems thinking I realise its more nuanced than that. It’s about the influence parts have on each other, to create a whole, that is more than the sum of those individual parts.

It’s opened my mind.

I recall a train of thought or blog post a while back arguing that reductionist thinking was no effective. Breaking things into smaller pieces to understand and correct and then put back together does not work. I recall objecting to this view. I like to chunk things up and talk about them that way.

But as I start to understand what systems thinking is I realise that the view above is correct. I also realise why chunking things up into parts causes me problems. I often feel overwhelmed by all the parts.

I am starting to believe that the reason for that is that I am a natural systems thinker. I can’t view each piece without worrying about its relationship with the parts upstream and downstream. This means I can never break it down and just focus like I was thinking I should.

But as I learn more i realise I am not supposed to. I am supposed to worry about the relationships between parts. I am supposed to think about how one thing influences another. This is what I do. This is what helps me identify issues in workshops. I am working between the gaps. That is my role as an architect.

What I need is the vocabulary to talk about this. I am keen to learn more. Mix this with psychology and it should be a powerful combination.

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