Blog  •  25 Nov 2020  •  3 min read

Managing complexity with Systems Thinking

Article By Chris Lamb, Managing Director at Optima Systems Consultancy

A short introduction to Systems Thinking Principles

Systems Thinking is becoming increasingly recognised as a key means to succeed in a complex, joined-up world. Governments, policy makers, industrialists and professional bodies are now frequently calling for a Systems Approach to be taken to wide ranging societal, procurement and technical challenges. Notably the recommendations to adopt a Systems Approach or use Systems Thinking include key areas of public policy such as achieving net zero carbon emissions, unlocking the Sustainable Development Goals and setting up a movement and calling for Systems Thinkers.

But what exactly is Systems Thinking?

Systems Thinking is a way of tackling complex problems that complements scientific thinking by addressing holism, emergence and intentionality. The benefits are a better chance of tackling the right problem, not missing key elements of the problem space or rushing into using more obvious but less useful solutions, a more stable structure to solutions and less chance of unexpected difficulties along the way.

Its application to complex development projects is most often performed within Systems Engineering, which also extends into a wide range of more specific techniques and processes in order to implement it thoroughly.

The Principles of Systems Thinking

At Optima Systems Consultancy we developed our own short introduction to Systems Thinking with four main areas in which the Principles of Systems Thinking apply (link to the document). We hope you find it useful. We are also preparing a guide to Systems Thinking resources that are openly available, which we intend to publish soon. Watch this space!

Further recommended reading

The nature of Systems Thinking and its relationship with Systems Engineering are described in a short guide by INCOSE UK known as Z7 or “How Systems Thinking contributes to Systems Engineering” whilst there is further discussion on the history and current status on both topics in the INCOSE UK SEASON 2020 reports.

If you think your business would benefit from this approach, contact me to discuss how Optima can assist you.

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