Understanding the environment: Thinking styles and models
Understanding the environment: Thinking styles and models

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Understanding the environment: Thinking styles and models

1.2 Readings

The following is a synthesis of what you will come across in Section 1's readings of the Resource Book.

Simple differences in the way we perceive our surroundings can have a significant effect on how we engage with each other. Resources Readings 1.1 and 1.2 investigate the different thinking styles that contribute towards how people see and engage with the world, especially the differences between analysis and synthesis.

In Resources Readings 1.1 and 1.2, I state that analytical thinking has been favoured within modern, Western society. This limits the way we engage with complex situations, and can sometimes create more problems than resolve them. However, I am not making a case for going to the other extreme and promoting the dominance of intuitive, holistic or synthetic thinking. Systems thinking is about striking a balance between analysis and synthesis.

I also recognise that there is more to life (and systems thinking), than any simple classification of people into analytical or intuitive categories. In Resource Reading 1.3 you are introduced to at least eight distinct 'intelligences' where I illustrate how each has a role to play in how you model and engage with your surroundings. Later on in this section, you will also discover how systems thinking relies on more than just the analytical and linguistic intelligences.

The concept of 'modelling' is an important aspect of systems thinking and practice and this block will build on the brief introduction to modelling you have had in Block 1, while preparing you for a specific form of mental modelling, the use of 'metaphor', which you will encounter in Block 3. Resource Readings 1.4 and 1.5 re-introduce and expand on the concept of modelling which you have already come across in Block 1, while Resource Reading 1.6 explores the idea that all living organisms need to model their environment in order to survive. When a species' environment changes, it must in turn change its models, either by biological evolution or by the much faster process of learning at both the personal and collective level. Otherwise, the species' very survival could be placed in jeopardy.

Resource Reading 1.7 lists a number of 'shortcuts' that we, as human beings, take in the development and communication of our own mental models. Shortcuts are usually used to save resources (energy, time, materials, etc.) but these are not always appropriate when dealing with complex situations.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371