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13 December 2011


Adam Yuret

Great stuff, there are not best practices and that includes in systems.

I am inspired to do some writing now. :-)

Jim Benson

Well, for simple systems there are best practices. It is a best practice to put the peanut butter on the bread and not on your shoe, for example.

Quote five addresses this.


For me, the key to this post is "We simply must be comfortable, as people using systems thinking as a tool, to understand that, at any given time, our current view of the system is incomplete." Systems thinking is extraordinarily useful in that it lets us open our selves to the possibility (likelihood!) that we can't understand a system completely, so it's best to take a breath and dance with uncertainty instead of ignoring it.

Ed Vielmetti

Jim, do you know John Gall's book "Systemantics" (or, in the 3d edition, called "The Systems Bible"). Funny and insightful and sad all at once about systems and their antics and the systems-people who deal with them.

R Willnwrker

"Systems thinking itself is in no way to blame here. But as human beings, we have a certain tendency to want to view the world from a certain point-of-view. We call these fixed points-of-view “best practices.” They engender static checklists, rule sets and associated punishments. They assume the world is simplistic."

I think you may fallen into the trap you describe above. I feel that you are confusing the act of being aware with knowledge of theory of systems. Based on your post, there is no evidence that you understand systems design, analysis & management.

You state, " So, suffice it to say, I’ve been thinking about systems for quite some time." as if to say that your are a skilled practitioner of the theory and its applications.

I invite you to check your own assumptions and to gauge your capability with known systems theorists. Being a competent practitioner of the systems approach requires formal education that includes extensive use of quantitative theories and methods.

Nowadays, most consultants have hijacked the title of system thinkers and use it to impress potential clients. That is unethical and dangerous.

Do you call yourself a medical thinker because you can diagnose a few common illnesses? Or a scientist because you understand algebra?

Jim Benson

@Ed - Thanks I will certainly check it out.

@R - I invite you to re-read the post. You seem to be saying that if someone isn't a perfect systems thinker then they will not call themselves a systems thinker. If people have indeed hijacked the term "systems thinker" - which they likely have done - that only makes this post more relevant.

I would also wonder about someone's argument when the first communication they have with an author is deliberately insulting. I invite you to check your fangs at the door.

Or am I misunderstanding you?


Jim, wonderful post; the reminder that everyone has internal biases on their view of a system is extremely relevant. I'll be trying to remind myself to check my blind spots daily thanks to this post.


How to Start a Small Business

Thinking systemically requires several shifts in perception, which lead in turn to different ways to teach, and to different ways to organize institutions and society. Will this tool defeat the personal approach when talking to your organization?

Jim Benson

No, it's merely a tool to help shift perception.

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