How Do You Feel About Systems Thinking?

Iceberg Model Events Patterns systemic Structures and Mental Models
Systems Thinking Iceberg Model

It’s been deemed one of the key management competencies of the 21st century. It’s an area of great potential for organizations.

But I’ve observed that the term “systems thinking” creates stress. It falls outside of people’s comfort zone. It’s perceived as technical and complicated.

And while there’s a lot about system thinking that can be confusing (creating detailed causal loop diagrams makes my brain hurt), there is a lot about systems thinking that is simple and easy to apply.

With systems thinking, we acknowledge that every person and process does not operate in isolation but rather as an interconnected part. We look for patterns, seek a deeper understanding of the parts and relationships, and find the root cause of the problem before developing a solution. When we seek to understand the people, other parts, and relationships of our organizational systems, we can uncover valuable information that helps us to make changes that
increase success.

The Iceberg Model is a simple tool that can be used to apply systems thinking. It reminds us that each event we can see is “just the tip of the iceberg” and that the parts of the system that create the event, the structures and the mental models, are all hidden under the surface. It encourages us to look for patterns, ask questions to understand the relationships, and seek root causes while focusing on human beliefs and behaviour.

You don’t have to be a systems expert to apply systems thinking. While it may be a little uncomfortable at first, it’s relatively easy to develop basic systems thinking skills that can make a big impact in your organization.

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