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What is Systems Thinking? | Easy Guide to Unlock New Perspectives in 2024


Jane Ng 15 November, 2023 9 min read

What is systems thinking? Is it really possible to simplify and solve those knotty problems with ease? 

In this blog post, we’ll embark on a journey to understand what systems thinking is all about and provide examples that showcase its practical applications in various aspects of life. So, if you’re curious about how systems thinking can revolutionize how you approach problems and make decisions, keep reading!

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What is Systems Thinking?
What is Systems Thinking? Image: freepik

What is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a problem-solving approach that involves seeing problems as connected parts of a larger system rather than as isolated elements. It emphasizes understanding relationships, interactions, and patterns within a complex system to understand better and deal with it effectively.

It’s like a way of looking at things as interconnected parts of a bigger picture. Instead of focusing on just one piece, you consider how everything works together. It helps you understand complex problems by seeing the relationships and patterns within a system.

What is a Systems Thinker?

What is a Systems Thinker?
What is a Systems Thinker?

Have you ever gotten frustrated trying to fix something, only to later realize the real issue was deeper than you thought? That’s because everything is connected in surprising ways. Systems thinkers get this – they can see how all the puzzle pieces fit together beyond the surface.

A systems thinker is one who can see the big picture of an event rather than just a small, isolated part. They map how different parts interact over time, noticing patterns others miss. It’s like they have X-ray vision into relationships happening behind the scenes.

Instead of stopping at obvious answers, they follow cause-and-effect chains to their roots. They zoom out to spot influences from other areas. Nothing occurs in isolation to systems thinkers – they see that changing one thing ripples elsewhere unexpectedly.

Because of this contextual view, they can identify the hidden leverage points that create real impact. Those ah-ha insights others overlook are plain as day to them. With their holistic perspective, systems thinkers solve problems at their source rather than just treating symptoms.

Benefits Of Systems Thinking

The benefits of systems thinking are like a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. When you embrace this approach, you can unlock a world of advantages:

  • Better Problem Solving: Systems thinking helps you see the bigger picture, making it easier to identify the root causes of problems rather than just addressing symptoms.
  • Improved Decision-Making: By understanding how different parts of a system interact, you can make more informed decisions, anticipating potential consequences.
  • Enhanced Creativity: It encourages thinking outside the box, as you explore diverse connections and solutions within a system.
  • Effective Planning: Systems thinking enables you to create comprehensive strategies, considering the various factors and their impacts on your goals.
  • Adaptability: You become more adaptable to change, as you understand how alterations in one part of a system can ripple through the entire system.
  • Collaboration: It fosters better teamwork and communication, as people share a common understanding of complex issues.
  • Long-term Solutions: Instead of quick fixes, systems thinking encourages long-term solutions that address the underlying dynamics of a problem.

Examples Of Systems Thinking

What is Systems Thinking?
What is Systems Thinking? Image: freepik

Examples Of Systems Thinking In The Workplace

Here are some systems thinking examples in the workplace:

Organizational Culture: 

Understanding how the different elements of an organization’s culture (communication, leadership, policies) interact can help create a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Product Development: 

When developing new products, companies consider how various features, materials, and design choices will affect the product as a whole and its reception in the market.

Quality Control: 

In manufacturing, systems thinking helps identify factors that might lead to defects or product recalls, allowing for more proactive quality control measures.

Examples Of Systems Thinking In Management

Here are some examples of systems thinking in management:

Supply Chain Management: 

Companies often use systems thinking to optimize their supply chains. They consider how every component, from suppliers to transportation, affects the entire process. This approach helps identify bottlenecks, reduce costs, and ensure timely deliveries.

Customer Relationship Management: 

Systems thinking helps businesses understand that customer satisfaction is influenced by multiple touchpoints – from marketing and sales to customer support and product quality.

Project Management: 

In project management, systems thinking can be applied to see how changes in one part of a project might impact the overall timeline, budget, or quality of the final product.

Examples Of Systems Thinking In Education

What is System Thinking? Image: freepik

Systems thinking helps students to find the core connections others miss. Here are some systems thinking examples in education:

Classroom Management: 

Teachers can use systems thinking to create a harmonious classroom environment. They consider how classroom rules, teaching methods, and student interactions influence overall behavior and learning outcomes.

Student Assessment: 

Systems thinking can be applied to assess student performance comprehensively. Instead of relying solely on standardized tests, educators can consider multiple factors, such as classroom dynamics, teaching methods, and students’ backgrounds, to gauge student learning effectively.

Examples Of Systems Thinking In Healthcare

Systems thinking applies an integrated, ecological view to healthcare issues versus isolated or reductionist problem-solving. Here are some systems thinking examples in healthcare:

Patient Care: 

Healthcare professionals use systems thinking to provide comprehensive patient care. They consider how various factors, such as a patient’s medical history, lifestyle, social support, and access to healthcare resources, interact to impact a patient’s health and treatment plan.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs): 

EHR systems are designed with systems thinking principles. They allow healthcare providers to access comprehensive patient data, enabling better-informed decisions and improved patient care.

What Is Systems Thinking? Image: freepik

Examples Of Systems Thinking In Public Health

What is systems thinking in public health? Here are some examples of systems thinking in public health:

Health Policy Development: 

Policymakers use systems thinking to design comprehensive health policies. They analyze how policy changes will affect various stakeholders, including healthcare providers, insurers, and patients, and how these changes may influence health outcomes and healthcare costs.

Vaccination Programs: 

Systems thinking informs vaccination programs by evaluating the various factors influencing vaccine uptake. This includes access to vaccines, public trust, healthcare infrastructure, and education campaigns to ensure high vaccination rates.

Examples Of Systems Thinking In Nursing

Here are some examples of systems thinking in nursing:

Patient Assessment: 

Nurses use systems thinking to assess patients comprehensively. They consider not only the patient’s medical condition but also the social, psychological, and environmental factors that may impact their health and recovery.

Patient Care Planning: 

Nurses apply systems thinking to develop individualized care plans. They consider the patient’s medical history, treatment goals, available resources, and the healthcare team’s expertise to create holistic care plans.

Key Takeaways

What is systems thinking? We’ve embarked on a journey to demystify the concept of systems thinking and illuminate its practical applications through various examples. We’ve seen how systems thinking can be a powerful tool to analyze complex issues, make informed decisions, and create effective solutions.

Don’t forget that AhaSlides offers interactive features and templates that can enhance your ability to illustrate, discuss, and work with complex systems. Whether you’re an educator striving to engage your students or a professional looking to facilitate meaningful discussions, AhaSlides can be a valuable companion.

What is Systems Thinking | Frequently Asked Questions

What is a real life example of systems thinking?

Imagine traffic management in a bustling city. Systems thinking here involves considering not only the flow of vehicles but also pedestrian movement, public transportation, traffic lights, and road infrastructure. By analyzing these interconnected components, city planners can create efficient transportation systems that minimize congestion and enhance overall mobility.

What is an example of systems thinking in healthcare?

In healthcare, systems thinking is applied when addressing patient readmissions. Rather than focusing solely on individual patient care, healthcare providers consider the broader system. This includes patient education, post-discharge support, communication among healthcare professionals, and access to follow-up care. 

Ref: Study Corgi | BMC | BetterUp | AU