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Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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Week 4: Representing systems of interest

Introduction

This course has talked about the characteristics of systems and how to think about them. But a big question is always: ‘How do I capture my and other people’s thinking in a useful way both for myself and to share with others?’ In other words how do I understand and engage with perspectives on complex situations? That task is central to systems practice and many techniques, approaches, methods and methodologies have been devised or applied by systems theorists and practitioners. For the purposes of this course you will only look at representing (or modelling) systems qualitatively by using visual means (most notably diagrams and language) and not through using mathematics (i.e. computer-based quantitative models).

The mathematical modelling of systems of interest is beyond the scope of this course but if you are interested in studying this aspect of systems thinking in practice then you should look at the free OpenLearn course, Systems modelling [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Watch the following video which introduces the idea of structuring complexity using diagrams.

Download this video clip.Video player: mstp_1_video_week4_intro.mp4
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • describe the characteristics and purposes of a number of diagram types used to represent systems of interest by systems practitioners.