Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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Mastering systems thinking in practice

Week 6: Key systems thinkers


So far in this course, you have been introduced to various people and approaches that have respectively influenced and have been used by systems practitioners in previous weeks. Equally, if you have been searching for materials on systems thinking yourself you may have come across some names of systems thinkers or descriptions of systems thinking which may not fully align with what I have been saying. In part that simply reflects on the multiple perspectives from different people from different disciplines that were covered in Week 5. But in part it also reflects the nature of systems thinking in practice in that it is not one ‘thing’ but is a set of habits and practices within a broader philosophical framework; in other words the belief that the component parts of a system of interest can best be understood in the context of relationships between the other parts of that system of interest as well as the wider ‘system’ (also known as the ‘system environment’) rather than looking at that part in isolation. Thus, as I have stressed from the beginning of the course, your own experiences and backgrounds will inevitably influence the way in which you practise system thinking.

Watch the following video which introduces how traditions and experiences influence the practices of systems thinkers.

Download this video clip.Video player: mstp_1_video_week6_intro.mp4
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Many well-known systems thinkers had particular experiences which led them to devote their lives to their particular forms of systems practice. So within systems thinking and practice, just as in juggling, there are different traditions which are perpetuated through lineages and communities of practice. Appreciating these experiences and understanding these traditions is enhanced by listening to those systems thinkers speaking about how they have come to view systems thinking and systems practice based on their own experiences.
This cartoon names three out of the five systems thinkers I will introduce you to this week-- three thinkers who you will hear speaking about their own work and not through reading a synopsis provided by me or someone else. This second cartoon, which you first saw in Week 1, highlights three different jugglers handling their four balls in different ways, which itself is indicative of the different histories, emphases, and experiences that inform the differing systems thinking and practice employed by those thinkers. Learning from others is important. You now have the chance to learn about the experiences of some key systems thinkers.
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • describe the central ideas and practices that arose from the experiences and traditions of five key systems thinkers.
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