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Systems thinking and practice
Systems thinking and practice

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3.5 Multiple partial views

One way holistic thinking simplifies things is by taking multiple partial views. That needs some explanation. Consider this analogy: imagine the Albert Hall in London, with the stage set up for a concert by a symphony orchestra. Imagine too that the only way you can find out what the Albert Hall is like is through sectional drawings of it; slices if you like, cut through it. Now if you cut through vertically very near the edge, you will learn something about it – the shape of the roof, for example – and you would be able to guess quite a lot more: that it might not be square, for example; Figure 9(a). If you took a horizontal slice, you could confirm the guess; Figure 9(b). Another vertical slice, nearer the middle, will tell you a lot more: it will show how the dome rises in the middle and the seats face inwards; Figure 9(c). Another slice might catch the edge of the stage, adding to the picture. Finally, if you are lucky, you might get a slice which goes right through the stage with some of the instruments on it, and then you would know a great deal about the place and its particular state on that evening. The point of this analogy is that if you take the Albert Hall as the whole, then each slice is a slice of the whole, but it is a simplification – a partial view. The more slices you have the more you will know about the whole. Notice too, that no slice is wrong or untrue – they are simply more or less helpful in understanding the whole.

Figure 9: Sections through the Albert Hall
Figure 9 Sections through the Albert Hall