This week you have looked at three sets of distinctions relevant to systems thinking in practice. These are the distinctions between difficulties and messes, between hard and soft complexity and between systematic and systemic. These distinctions differ for people depending on the traditions and practices they have experienced, with a fundamental distinction being whether people see situations (systems) as being real (out there) or constructs of our minds (in here) with the latter implying that these constructions will be different for everyone involved in that situation. Understanding and working with these distinctions is an important part of system thinking in practice.
This week, like the first week, has also used the phrase ‘real world’ to distinguish from the conceptual world, the world of thinking. In many ways this is an artificial distinction because the world I perceive to be the ‘real world’ is, in fact, my own conceptual model. What I perceive is conditioned by my conceptual models. So for me the real ‘real world’, is unknowable. My desire is to change the question from ‘what is the world’ to ‘how do I know the world’. So every time I use the term ‘real world’ you should remember that this is a short-hand for the process of coming to know the world.
You should now 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.
Next week you will look at appropriate language to define and distinguish systems of interest within complex situations as epistemological devices rather than actual ontological things.
You can now go to Week 3.