Systems Thinking provides a “new way of thinking”, but what could be the benefits in your work? And how could you adopt systems thinking in practice?
Nature of Systems Thinking
Systems thinking is a set of knowledge, tools and principles which provides a “new way of thinking” to understand and manage complex problems. The focus of systems thinking is on creating models to learn about the behaviour of the world and concentrating on the impact changes can have on the overall systems.
Through its visual component, leaders are better able to perceive the different perspectives individuals bring to a discussion because these models allow them to visualise the different relationships and particular situations that give their perspective of the world, and can, therefore, make judgements based on a more balanced understanding. This way, stakeholders are taught to nurture interdisciplinary collaborations and discussions to be able to find a holistic and balanced solution to a complex problem.
Adoption & Benefits of Systems Thinking
The adoption of systems thinking in practice requires a number of behaviours and practices that together provide the means to operate effectively within complex systems such as the ones we deal with.
They include a shift away from fixed planning to more iterative and adaptive planning based on learning and experimentation; a focus on multi-stakeholder approaches and co-creation with local stakeholders; the search for context-specific solutions rather than generic ones based on good practice elsewhere; a recognition that our paradigms and preconceived ideas often limit our ability to understand local contexts; and increased work across organisational boundaries, reducing differences in power, bringing in different ideas and perspectives and resulting in a deeper, less biased understanding of the systems we engage in.
Example: Impact on Export
Systems thinking approach is used to identify and analyse the export barriers that the export enterprises are facing in the international markets. The approach varies in its scope of activities from training to modelling the issue and seeking to find leverage points. People learn how to see their system, challenges and companies in a new light that enables them to better adapt to export markets.
- The tailor-made training teaches how to diagnose and map export challenges to be able to understand the disturbances that affect the system thus learning to identify the important parameters to control it.
- Developing models of general internal and external barriers to the export to obtain an understanding of the complex relationships between these barriers and how they affect export in the international markets.
- The systems thinking approach is particularly relevant in addressing exporting management issues to help analyse and explain the complexity that arises through the effects of barriers on export activities.