it’s the system, stupid: on fixing how we think

fixes that fail

So many times, our solutions create more problems, as Amory Lovins reminds us.

These "fixes that fail" are just one of the archetypes from systems thinking.

If we were more schooled in systems thinking, we would be less likely to fall into these traps.

Wanna learn help your own thinking? Try this marvelous resource on "theWay of Systems" from Gene Bellinger.

theWay is an "effectiveness enhancement facility" that "provides access to fundamental principles of systems thinking" with simulation packages to help you develop “strategies which have a very high probability of working when applied." That’s wot I’m talking about!

According to Bellinger, it's all about the relationships between system archetypes.

For example, in most such exercises, we're looking to fix a problem in a way that reinforces the tendency toward balance in a system.

The archetypes reflect common outcomes, such as when the problem returns in time ("fixes that fail") or the fix creates a problem elsewhere ("escalation").


This may seem like a daunting task, yet as Dana Meadows reminds us, we can only "dance" with systems, never truly "understand" them. We do systems thinking to ensure our understanding is actually growing over time.

Lucky us: Bellinger has started implementing each of the archetypes in several simulation packages. Bellinger's intent is "to provide examples for individuals to work with and learn from which are one step more explicit than the systems thinking diagrams."

Check 'em out!

Published by Ken on September 9th, 2008 tagged Systems Thinking

One Response to “it’s the system, stupid: on fixing how we think”

  1. keno Says:

    this is true... no study is perfect, no movie or novel is the "best ever"...

    many things in life are relative. so it is with cities and how green they are.

    shameless plug-- only three days left until SustainLane's "Your Green Urban Life" contest is over. (deadline: EOD Friday, 9/12/08)

    winners will receive $100 for their published pieces. we'd love to hear more about honolulu!