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Systems thinking is generally thought of as a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems.

The systems thinking approach contrasts with traditional analysis, which studies systems by breaking them down into their separate elements.

Systems thinking can be used in any area of research and has been applied to the study of medical, environmental, political, economic, human resources and educational systems, among many others.

Important Definitions for Systems Thinking:

  • Interconnectedness – The refers to shifting the way we see the world, from a linear, structured “mechanical worldview” to a dynamic, chaotic, interconnected array of relationships and feedback loops.
  • Synthesis – Combining two or more things to create something new. When it comes to systems thinking, the goal is synthesis as opposed to analysis. Systems are dynamic and often complex necessitating a more holistic approach to understanding the whole and parts at the same time.
  • Emergence – The natural outcome of things coming together. Emergence is the outcome of the synergies of the parts. There is nothing about a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly.
  • Feedback Loops – Because of interconnectedness, there are constant feedback loops and flows between elements of a system. We can observe, understand, and intervene in feedback loops once we understand their type and dynamics.
  • Causality — Causality as a concept in systems thinking is really about being able to decipher the way things influence each other in a system. Understanding causality leads to a deeper perspective on agency, feedback loops, connections and relationships, which are all fundamental parts of systems mapping.
  • Systems Mapping — One of the key tools of the systems thinker. There are many ways to map, from analog cluster mapping to complex digital feedback analysis. However, the fundamental principles and practices of systems mapping are universal.

Problems that are ideal for a systems thinking intervention have four main characteristics:

  1. The issue is important.
  2. The problem is chronic, not a one-time event.
  3. The problem is familiar and has a known history.
  4. People have unsuccessfully tried to solve the problem before.

Getting a handle on systems thinking is not the easiest thing in the world, but you will know you’re getting there when you begin to approach the solving of a problem by asking  different kinds of questions than you asked before. Or hearing “catchphrases” that raise cautionary flags such as “we need more sales staff” or “we need more revenue,” etc. These catchphrases show that the people involved are looking at their problem in a reactionary rather than holistic manner to find the real source of an issue.

Systems Thinking Training

Tonex offers a 2-day course, Systems Thinking Training, that will help you get your head around systems thinking. The course is designed for students, business leaders, executives, strategic leaders and mid-level and senior managers. Participants can expect to learn about:

  • Why Systems Thinking is necessary
  • Map of methods
  • Systems challenges
  • The physical sciences
  • Organization and management theory
  • Untangling complexity
  • Control engineering
  • The rationale behind systems thinking

Why Choose Tonex?

–Presenting highly customized learning solutions is what we do. For over 30 years Tonex has worked with organizations in improving their understanding and capabilities in topics often with new development, design, optimization, regulations and compliances that, frankly, can be difficult to comprehend.

–Ratings tabulated from student feedback post-course evaluations show an amazing 98 percent satisfaction score.

Contact us for more information, questions, comments.


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