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Feb 9 / Barry Clemson

Systems Thinking and Design Thinking: Complimentary Approaches?

Grace Mugadza. Volume 4. February 9, 2015


Design Thinking(DT) and Systems Thinking (ST) came about through totally different and unrelated processes. The philosophies of both can be traced  back hundreds of years but there has been a recent resurgence in their application. DT as popularized today has its initial roots in business, especially in product design where innovative products are designed to meet people’s needs and thereby understand how to facilitate innovation. DT was extended and applied to management and soon it assumed the concepts of Systems Thinking, which, as will be shown later has been more established and developed over a longer period of time.  Questions began to be asked as to how this new Design Thinking relates/ compares to ST. In some circles, it was welcome and seen to complement ST. If it is to be welcomed as an additional approach/ methodology to complement Systems Thinking in the search for ways to tackle the many wicked problems that are faced in modern day life; a further question is whether there are such problems that will be more amenable to this approach than the other existing system methodologies. In this vein, this paper is an extension of the previous paper;“How to Choose Systems Methods?” by Barry Clemson published in Systems Thinking World Journal: Reflection in Action (2013), and  Nicolas Stampf’s “How Not to choose Systems Methods” written in response to David Alman’s (2012) STW discussion “How do I figure out which System thinking method or model is appropriate to the situation I’m trying to figure out how to deal with?”   read more…

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Nov 5 / Barry Clemson

An Idealized Design for Government. Part 2: Executive Branch Accountability


Terry Bouricius and David Schecter, Volume 3. November 5, 2014


In this paper, the authors continue to build on their proposed model for incorporating randomly selected citizens into the decision-making processes of government. The first article presented a case for the benefits of random selection; proposed a lawmaking process that replaces elected, all-purpose legislatures with multiple, limited-function bodies composed of randomly selected citizens; and identified possible objections to the model (see An Idealized Design for the Legislative Branch of Government, In the current article, the authors extend the model to the executive branch, discussing how redesigning the executive branch could improve accountability to the legislature and to the people.The potentialfor current executive branch designs to negatively affect performance and accountability is used to propose a new model that reduces the power of the executive branch, increases accountability, and has the potential to reduce corruption. The benefits of the model are outlined, and possible objections are addressed. read more…

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Sep 16 / Barry Clemson

We Are Not the Enemy! Thoughts on Habits and the Challenge of “Enlightenment”–or of being a Systems Thinker

Lorraine Filipek, Ph.D., Volume 2.  Issue 3. September 16, 2013

Abstract:  Why do we do what we do?  How do we explain our presently polarized nation/world and our equally polarized selves?  Can we get out of this mess?  If so, how?  The following is a set of stories based on concepts from complexity and systems theory that help answer those questions for me.    I consider them in the vein of “practical application of systems thinking.”  They trace the evolution of the intertwined system of culture and human consciousness that got us to where we are now.  They are stories of the deep attractor basins within that system, ranging from the small but deeply ingrained habits at the individual level to the overarching habits of culture.  But they are also stories of emergence out of those basins.   And, to me, the stories reveal a path that can lead us beyond our present polarization–a path being trail blazed by a growing number of Systems Thinkers from all walks of life.  The stories are constructed out of my understanding of complex adaptive systems, learning, habits, mourning, and emotional hardiness/ resilience.   They come from a personal perspective, using my own journey and my interpretation of the works and journeys of a number of complexity and systems theorists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, philosophers, theologians, and many others.  Each of these authors has taken a different path, but all appear to have emerged with a similar Systems Thinking perspective.  It is a perspective that honors all perspectives, embraces those who “are not the enemy,” and listens to their stories for their kernel of truth.   read more…

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Aug 31 / Barry Clemson

Systems Thinking and Sustainability: A Phenomenological Study of the 2008 Recession

Steven Walker. Volume 2. Issue 3. August 31, 2013

Abstract. The paradigms and thinking processes of CEOs / Presidents were studied through the methodology of phenomenology via unstructured and in-depth interviews. The interviews explored the leader’s thinking regarding complex topics such as sustainability and the 2008 recession.   read more…

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Feb 12 / Barry Clemson

How to Choose Systems Methods?

Barry Clemson. Volume 2. Issue 1. February 12, 2013

Abstract. This paper builds on David Alman’s (2012) STW discussion “How do I figure out which System thinking method or model is appropriate to the situation I’m trying to figure out how to deal with?”  In this paper I restrict myself to social systems, e.g. organizations, tribes, grassroots movements and regions such as communities or nations. The problem is reformulated to reflect some fundamental constraints. I then discuss five commonly used approaches to selecting methods: 1. Intuitive, 2. Action Research, 3. Heuristics, 4. Developing Viability, and 5. Rational Decision Framework. read more…

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Feb 4 / Barry Clemson

Overcoming Barriers: Part 2: The Systems Thinking World Discussion Group

Steven V. Schneider, Ph.D., CSAC, ICS. Volume 2. Issue 1. January 31, 2013

Abstract. Traditionally, the formal education we received did not encourage a wider context and mutual interaction which limited the development of a systemic perspective to solve problems. These are challenges that created barriers to learning the concepts, accepting the foundational basis, and applying system approaches; they are not familiar and requires a new way of thinking. Operationally, a barrier can be anything that interferes with developing a systemic perspective. Using my own journey to become a systems thinker a series of articles on overcoming barriers to understanding systems thinking is offered as a guide that worked for me. The first article introduced Systems Thinking World, Inc.(STW) which is the virtual home I continue to use as my main resource. An important component of STW is discussed here as an effective mutual-support learning tool. The group members helped break down some of the initial barriers that delayed becoming a more proficient systems thinker. It is hoped that this paper will provide a better understanding of how the group can be used in your journey to overcome barriers in learning and applying systems thinking. read more…

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Jan 22 / Barry Clemson

An Idealized Design for the Legislative Branch of Government

Terry Bouricius and David Schecter. Volume 2. Issue 1. January 22, 2013

Abstract. This paper presents an idealized design for a legislative system. The concept of idealized design is explained. The paper critiques two critical (and often taken for granted) features of the legislative branches of most contemporary democratic governments: legislators are chosen by election, and the same bodies perform all legislative and meta-legislative functions, for all laws. Seven problems with these two features are described. A new model of lawmaking is proposed, based on three concepts from ancient Athenian democracy — random selection, dividing legislative functions among multiple bodies, and the use of temporary bodies (like contemporary juries) for final decision making. The benefits of the model are laid out, and likely objections are addressed. read more…

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Oct 6 / Barry Clemson

Specifying a System: How science really works

Barry Clemson. Volume 1. Issue 3. October 4, 2012

Abstract: How do we specify a system for study? Science proceeds largely by inventing an increasingly rigorous answer to what is meant by “the system”. In general, we begin by pointing at or naming some natural phenomena, then we define a boundary, and finally we list the variables and relationships that constitute the conceptual system. The result is called a model or a theory. read more…

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Sep 28 / Beth Robinson

Enabling a Better Tomorrow

Gene Bellinger. Volume 1. Issue 3. September 28, 2012.

Abstract: We see that most of the problems we deal with today are the direct result of the solutions we used to solve yesterday’s problems. This article presents a framework of aspects to consider so we can develop strategic approaches that minimize these unintended consequences. read more…

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Jul 30 / Barry Clemson

Generating Shared Understandings of Societal Systems

Barry Clemson. Volume 1. Issue 2. July 30, 2012.

Abstract: Societal system means any sort of socio-technical-cultural slice of the world, e.g. a
neighborhood, an organization, an economy, or a government. In order to understand societal
systems, it is useful to ASSUME that all actors are honorably doing what their role directs them
to be doing. Avoiding value judgments during the analysis phase allows agreement on WHAT
the system IS and therefore facilitates a later discussion of desired changes. read more…

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Jul 30 / Barry Clemson

Overcoming Barriers to Understanding Systems Thinking

Steven V. Schneider. 1(2). July 30, 2012

Abstract. My personal experience in initial attempts to learn Systems Thinking is used to examine the barriers, commonly faced, to becoming a systems thinker. A Systems Approach is suggested as an effective way to learn the concepts used by Systems Thinkers. read more…

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Jun 21 / Barry Clemson

The Impact of Beliefs and Assumptions on Decision Making

Author: James B. Rieley. Volume 1. Issue 1. June 21, 2012.
Abstract: This paper presents a case study on how different beliefs and assumptions produce different interpretations and actions in response to the same situation. Argyris and Schon’s framework for learning and ladders of inference provide the theoretical foundation. read more…

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Jun 19 / Barry Clemson

What is Systems Thinking? A Personal Perspective

Author: Barry Clemson. Volume 1. Issue 1. June 19, 2012.
Abstract: This paper answers the questions: What sort of critter is systems thinking? What might we expect it to do for us? It distinguishes between Systems Theory (science), Systemic Perspectives (methods) and Systems Thinking (worldview). It articulates the main criteria for assessing each of these three and considers the ethical implications of various worldviews. read more…

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Jun 18 / Barry Clemson

When Systems Thinking Ruled the Pentagon: A Personal Reflection

Author: Richard WrightVolume 1. Issue 1. June 18, 2012.
Abstract: This paper traces the rise of “systems” under McNamara at the Department of Defense and its resultant popularity within academia. McNamara’s shallow understanding of “systems” subsequently led to discrediting the entire movement.  read more…

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May 22 / Gene Bellinger

The Euro Financial Crisis: Making Sense of the Mess

Author: James B. Rieley. Volume 1. Issue 1. Article Date: May 21, 2012.
Abstract: There are times when problems seem almost insurmountable.  Typically, we believe a problem to be insurmountable for one of several reasons.  These reasons include; 1) the belief that the problem is something that has never been experienced before, and therefore, we have no past experience to help us solve it; 2) the belief that the problem is so complex that there is no way that it can be solved; and, 3) the belief that because we have tried to solve the problem previously but it has come back, the problem is impossible to solve.  The common element in all of these examples is our “belief” that a problem is insurmountable.  There is no doubt that our beliefs are powerful, and there is also no doubt that our beliefs guide our actions.  Our beliefs may be the basis for our reality, but they are not necessarily the same.  In the case of looking at problems that we believe to be insurmountable, one solution is to change the way we look at the problem.  The European Financial Crisis and its impact on local businesses provide a good opportunity to do this. read more…

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Apr 27 / Gene Bellinger

Unleashing Understanding

Author: Gene Bellinger. Volume 1. Issue 1. Article Date: April 26, 2012.
Abstract: This paper shows how to improve your systems thinking immediately … without doing a university course or reading 15 books. read more…

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