Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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Week 2: Systems thinking and complexity


In Week 1 it was claimed that systems thinking respects complexity and makes that complexity manageable by taking a broader perspective. This week you will explore these claims in more detail by focusing on the differences between messy and difficult situations, hard and soft complexity and systemic (holistic) and systematic (reductionist) thinking and practice that shape how we perceive and react to complexity in the situations we face. In essence any situation will consist of complicatedness (entities infinitely joined), complexity (people with perspectives on the entities and how they join together), and conflict (contrasting viewpoints/perspectives on situations). Systems thinking is about distinguishing a system of interest within messy and complex situations. As with Week 1 there are several reflective activities which will enrich your learning if you are able to do them fully.

First, watch the following video which examines what it means to understand the world in which we live.

Download this video clip.Video player: mstp_1_video_week2_intro.mp4
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • explain the notion of perceived complexity within situations through the frames of messes and difficulties, emotional and rational reactions and systemic and systematic thinking.

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