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Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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3 Drawing systems diagrams

This section also mainly involves watching a video, albeit longer than others as it has to cover several different diagrams.

It should be viewed in one sitting but there are points when you may want to stop the video and think about what has been said or to refer again to the Diagram Guidelines to better understand the key features of each diagram type.

Two other things to note before you start:

Firstly, you will see on the video some diagrams prepared or collated by me but which have been redrawn to make them clearer to read. The originals were much scruffier and harder to read as these were diagrams I drew for myself to help me think about the complex situation I was investigating. So do not worry if your attempts at diagramming, whether done now or in the future, do not look as clean or as clear as those presented.

Secondly, these diagrams demonstrate different kinds of diagrams, mostly representations of a complex situation first presented as text. As you work through the video I will explain how I developed some of these diagrams and what I was thinking about at the time as tried to make sense of the article shown below.

As I noted earlier these diagrams have different purposes and are based on conventions. Before you watch the video on drawing diagrams you first need to study the purposes and conventions of the three types of systems diagram I will be using:

These are:

  • systems maps
  • influence diagrams
  • multiple cause diagrams.

You can find information on these in:

You may find it helpful to make notes or draw a spray diagram to capture the key features of the situation described, which is what I do at the beginning of the video, so please do not look at the video until you have made some sense of the article for yourself.

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A deep dive into diagramming
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Activity 3 Have your thoughts and feelings changed?

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes for this activity.

Return to the notes you made for Activity 1 and note down whether and what has changed in your thoughts and feeling towards diagramming.

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Whether your thoughts and feeling have changed or not I hope you now appreciate that diagramming does not require drawing skills and that the diagrams I have introduced to you do help to make the connections between things, events and ideas more readily understandable, which I claimed in Week 1 as a key aspect of systems thinking.