8/1/08 8/10 1/21/09 Creative Systems Thinking is seeing the possibility of new relationships, recognizing existing systems of relationships and approaching imbalance or conflicts, It's capitalizing on differences, searching the environment for things to connect to resolve each other's needs. You begin by looking for the boundaries of a project's view of the world, and then what crosses those boundaries, and how that helps redefine the boundary. Systems are not controlled by their environments, but grow out of them, generally as networks of circles of relationships. How to just perceive systems of relationship can be a real challenge. We are immersed in them, yes, but tend to ignore them too. There are so many overlapping ones with so many loose ends it's hard to see them, and they don't work according to human value judgments the way our thoughts do. How you locate them tends to be by watching "conserved change", i.e. things that accumulate together. Environmental systems exist as the accumulative product of complex developing relationships between many independent things. Their circles of relationships develop not so unlike how a team of designers starts without a clear path and as they explore to find one, additional resources are needed once a direction is set and then to complete it. You learn to see systems by tracing their development.
The main roadblock? People tend to see the world as arranged according to their own values, and natural systems don't. We also use the same words for physical things, cultures, processes and categories as we do for the groups of emotional values we attach to them. It means that many of our descriptions have different meanings to other people and don't match the relationships between the physical processes referred to. A way out seems to be turning your 'answers' into questions, understanding that nature is really much to complex to explain and the real value of exploring her systems is in the quality of questions you can raise. That turns attention outward toward the common world we share, and away from the different inner worlds we each make for ourselves. That's a continual process of environmental exploration. It's still useful to 'connect reasons', of course, but paying to make use of their imperfections as 'reasons for questions' rather than to hide.
Natural systems behave as a whole, and so seem to 'think' for themselves. They have 'ESP' you could say (an equal stress principle). As in a family or on a team, if one member needs help the other's compensate, and vis-à-vis. That's equalization within a set of relationships. It's not done by thought, but by feeling through he connections that no observer would be able to see. It actually operates through the internal exchanges that let the parts remain both independent and connected. In an economy it works by pressures being equalized markets, allowing for 'liquidity' in the competition between financial and consumer products. The markets distribute and equalize shortages and surpluses to maintain internal balance. That seems to be the main organization that gives systems organizational and behavioral stability and continuity. That may not be the only reason systems are so very hard to represent, but these largely invisible, non-deterministic and very complex roles of mediums of exchange definitely make their simple operation appear to be infinitely complex .
Systems also show some forms of actual foresight, like abandoning all but a collectively chosen path rather than fragment if a number of directions may be available. They also tend to exhaustively scavenge their environments for opportunity, using scraps of discarded design or unused space efficiently. More is being continually being discovered about how systems work, as well as how how to work with them. Employing systems is a matter of developing partnerships, not just control. Three others are 1) how freely exploring around the fringe of previous exploring can lead to bursts of creativity, the way economies evolve new industries, 2) how natural systems behave as if anticipating approaching lines of conflict with others, yielding to things around them in choosing moments to transform themselves, 3) how new 'user friendly' tools of physics allow observing and anticipating some important changes in relationships before they develop. This is what systems thinking is becoming. It's becoming a group of successively improving tools for developing a much more intimate understanding of your creatively changing relationships in general, 'free' thinking with solid foundations.
Jump to a description of my Services, or read a little more about seeing relationships as continual learning process and as part of how whole systems develop and behave.