The Implications of Acting With Limited Thought

Gene Bellinger, Director of Systems Thinking World, brilliantly illustrates the impact of not thinking a problem “all the way through”. In this example, Gene uses the simple problem of unsightly growth near his bird feeder to demonstrate the implications of acting with limited thought. This is also a fascinating view of how systems thinkers think through all problems. My initial thoughts are:

  1. If the problem is mislabeled, the solution won’t address the “heart of the matter”
  2.  One way to uncover the broader impact of our decisions is to closely consider reasons for NOT acting on a decision. The urge to serve an intrinsic need can sometimes override our ability to think more critically about the impact of our actions.
  3. Look beyond the primary system to closely evaluate the interactions that occur within and/or near the system (in the example discussed in the video, this would include an independent evaluation of the birds, the bird food, the bird feeder, the things attached to or adjacent to the feeder etc.). For mission critical or vulnerable systems, it may be necessary to evaluate further (the store where the bird food is purchased, the truck that brings the bird food to the store, the warehouse where the truck obtains the bird food etc.)
  4. The process of evaluation discussed in the video uncovers a benefit to having a natural “devil’s advocate” in your circle or on your team. The “devil’s advocate” has an instinct for challenging the status quo and offering opposing points of view.
  5. Somehow squirrels are involved in all issues that are gardening-related.

The Perspective Project was created to surface “noteworthy relationships and their implications, to provoke thought, foster deeper understanding, create insights, and enable more effective action.” Many thanks to Gene for being gracious in sharing. Please support & participate in the Perspectives Project to continue the conversation.

Kishau Rogers

Kishau Rogers is the editor and founder of the bigThinking project. bigThinking is a resource and collaborative innovation center 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 that make a significant impact in the areas that matter. Kishau Rogers is an award-winning entrepreneur with a deep background in Computer Science, over twenty-five years of experience in the technology industry, and more than 15 years of entrepreneurial leadership. She currently serves as the Founder & CEO of Time Study, Inc., a high-growth startup offering solutions for using machine learning, advanced natural language processing, and data science to automatically tell a story of how enterprise employees spend their time.


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