A phrase that has gained notoriety in the global education stage but still struggles to be understood, many students search for a correlation between systems thinking and their studies.
What is systems thinking?
To define it in simple terms, systems thinking is a way of thinking about the systems in which we live and work.
If you’re a systems thinker, you look ahead and anticipate immediate results alongside the long-term effects of your actions.
To further elaborate, author of Introduction to Systems Thinking Daniel Kim explains, “It’s been said that systems thinking is one of the key management competencies for the 21st century. As our world becomes ever more tightly interwoven globally and as the pace of change continues to increase, we will all need to become increasingly system-wise.”
Because systems are a group of interacting or interrelated entities that form a unified whole, a systems thinker is someone who considers every element.
For example, a football team is a system. Put together for a specific purpose, each member comes together to create a unified system.
Even a bowl of fruit is a system. Yes, it’s made up of individual parts, but they’re interacting at a microscopic level. Once one fruit starts to decay, so do the others.
The Iceberg Model
Another way to understand systems thinking lies in the Iceberg Model.
Each level offers a deeper understanding of the system being examined, as well as increased leverage for changing it:
1. Event: above the surface represents a single event.
2. Pattern: just below the surface, a deeper level of examination reveals patterns of events or trends.
3. Structure: submerged below the level of the trend is the structure, the foundation that supports and creates behaviors higher up in the pyramid.
4. Mental Model: the next level down, mental models affect the structures we put in place and the way we understand the top parts of the iceberg
Tool for systems thinking: The Iceberg Model. (Designing Regenerative Cultures, 2016). pic.twitter.com/cHUUuIQb5p
— Mikko Henriksson (@mikkohenriksson) February 16, 2019
How will it influence your studies?
Systems thinking can help improve your study skills in a variety of ways.
1. Enables you to make informed decisions
Systems thinking helps you evaluate why things happen the way they do or why people behave in certain ways.
So, if you’re studying psychology or sociology at degree level, systems thinking helps you broaden your ideas and take a step back to make more informed decisions.
2. Encourages you to use creative problem-solving in your studies
Systems thinking enhances your creative problem solving skills.
By thinking ‘outside-the-box’, you’ll expand your ability to innovate and rejuvenate ideas.
3. Deeper thinking and learning
Realising how systems work over time, within the context of larger systems, you’ll delve deeper into ideas and develop your learning habits.
Instead of thinking of just one angle, you’ll suddenly discover five other angles of a subject that you’ve never thought about before.
4. Stray from the norm
Backing away from traditional ways of thinking, system thinking offers a fresh perspective.
Therefore, when writing essays or assignments, systems thinking will widen your frame of thought and inject new ideas into academic projects.
— UNISDR (@unisdr) March 20, 2019