Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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

Mastering systems thinking in practice

Week 2: Systems thinking and complexity

Introduction

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
Skip transcript

Transcript

ANDY LANE
By the end of this course, you will have a greater understanding of being a systems practitioner having to deal with complexity. But what makes it possible to say, I understand something about the world in which I live? What is it that we would need to have observed in others or in ourselves for us to say that understanding systems practice had occurred?
In the language of this cartoon, I'm asking you to envisage the general idea of a practitioner as someone who engages with some messy real-world situation using selected approaches. Systems practice, modelled in this next cartoon, is a particular form of the general model of practice shown in the first cartoon. An effective systems practitioner is able to use systems approaches in managing complexity in the context of a perceived real-world situation.
I'm not overly concerned with other approaches to practice and will not be making any extravagant claims that a systems approach is better than other forms of practice. I will, however, develop arguments that enable me to make two claims-- firstly, systems practice has particular characteristics that make it qualitatively different to other forms of practice; and secondly, an effective systems practitioner can call on a greater variety of options for doing something about complex real-world situations than other practitioners do. These are important claims. They will structure most of the arguments made in the rest of the course, as you'll begin to explore this week.
End transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

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.
Skip Your course resources
MSTP_1

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