Strategic planning: systems thinking in practice
Strategic planning: systems thinking in practice

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Strategic planning: systems thinking in practice

2 Practical traps in systems thinking

The five systems approaches were chosen on the basis of their respective emphasis on purpose and usefulness.

What you read for Activity 1 refers to three general purposes that can be summarised:

  1. understanding interrelationships and interdependencies
  2. practice in engaging with different perspectives
  3. responsibly questioning judgements on interrelationships and perspectives.

Activity 4 Traps in systems thinking

Read 7.2.4 ‘Recognising the possibility of entrapment’ from the Systems Approaches Epilogue [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . How might the traps of reductionism, dogmatism, holism and pluralism be associated with the three purposes of systems thinking in practice?

Discussion

The traps can be aligned with the three purposes of systems thinking in practice as follows:

  1. understanding interrelationships and interdependencies: associated with trap of reductionism
  2. practice in engaging with different perspectives: associated with trap of dogmatism
  3. responsibly questioning judgements on interrelationships and perspectives: associated with traps of holism and pluralism.

The following section explains these alignments more fully. Items 1-3 above can be understood in terms of three purposes associated with purposeful systems thinking in practice –

  1. understanding inter-relationships
  2. engaging with multiple perspectives
  3. reflecting on boundary judgements.

Purposes 1 and 2 are associated with avoiding traps in conventional thinking. Purpose 3 is associated with avoiding a corollary trap in systems thinking. Each trap can be illustrated in terms of a causal-loop diagram. The three traps are represented below in conjunction with particular systems approaches used for avoiding and/or escaping from, or springing, the trap.

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