6 Principles of Systems Thinking

Principles (Concepts & Laws)

Systems thinking is a discipline used to understand systems to provide a desired effect; the system for thinking about systems. It provides methods for “seeing wholes and a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.” The intent is to increase understanding and determine the point of “highest leverage”, the places in the system where a small changes can make a big impact. Here are six foundational principles that drive systems thinking methods.

Wholeness and Interaction
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (the property of the whole, not the property of the parts; The product of interactions, not the sum of actions of the parts)

Living systems can only be understood in the context of its environment.

To identify uniformity or similarity that exists in multiple entities or at multiple times.

What you know about how they do what they do leads to understanding WHY they do what they do.

To see complementary relations in opposing tendencies and to create feasible wholes with infeasible parts.

That actions intended to produce a desired outcome may generate opposite results.

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Kishau Rogers is the editor and founder of The bigThinking Project. The bigThinking Project is a resource center and collaborative innovation project which promotes the principles of systems thinking. Our mission is to empower the next generation of innovators to think bigger, to think better and to create solutions which make significant impact in the areas that matter. Kishau Rogers is an award-winning entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the computer science industry. She is a serial entrepreneur having founded and co-founded companies such as Websmith Group, TimeStudy, PeerLoc Inc., and Websmith Studio.

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