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June 8, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

How does systems theory apply to individual problem solving, critical thinking, and making decisions

Here are seven for individuals to think about–in terms of thinking in terms of systems theory:

1. Nested reality. One way this manifests is in patterns. This also manifests itself in the multiple application of something you learn. If you learn about something in one area of life–it almost inevtiably effects the others or can be applied in another domain.
2. Think in webs, networks, and even mindmaps. (this is relational but also causal).
3. Look for multi-dimensional relationships rather than just linear (not just linear A causes B relationships). I’m not saying totally ignore the linear–just that there is another layer to pay attention to.
4. Thinking about how a combination of strengths and chokepoints effect an individual process (courage, fear, etc…) or (various aspects of dating or say a marketing funnel).
5. Using questions and interviewing–a rationale for using the 5 whys methodology and the fishbone methodology of root cause analysis.
6. Feedback loops and listening are absolutely crucial.
7. Most everything is a human or a systems problem (obviously potentially both). This explains the importance for soft skills, problem solving skills, and emotional intelligence to be a key part of all organizations–at all levels.

I’m going to suggest 10 you might look into. This mostly applied to business–but for many of the entrepreneurs and people concerned about building their organization there is a significant overlap between those two parts of life:

1. Deep customer relationships
2. Listening & learning
3. Feedback loops (data dashboards, customer service surveys–other ways to )
4. Networks/Community engagement (both in your own & adjacent markets–but also the customers life and networks)
5. Improved communication in the organization
6. Incentives for symbiotic relationships with external parties.
7. Management by walking around.
8. Consistent updates the focus on the most important KPIs in the organization.
9. Lean and six sigma and theory of constraints type thinking (using those problem solving tools and sets)
10 Hedgehoggging (both by passion, identity, and personality type) along with attentional focus on what matters

If any of these need clarification or you would like to add, feel free to do so.

Hopefully these ideas can stimulate other ways to think about systems and systems theory–on a more individual level.

Also, feel free to leave a comment regarding the issue of thinking in terms of systems or leveraging systems theory as a problem solving and analysis tool?

* There is some overlap between these strategies–I hope they all help or at least highlight some ideas.

Update: Here are a couple thoughts which just came to mind. I recently answered this question which overlaps a bit–but may help when addressing systems theory type issues: How can one apply systems thinking on an individual level?

One I forgot to add is the issue of fractal existence–which I guess I spoke to in terms of nested patterns or patterns within patterns (on the other answer). For instance, I heard a surfer refer to the barrel of a wave as a galaxy. The metaphor is simple, but the practical application may be far deeper. This is the reason that hiring 10x employees makes sense and the 80/20 principle applies to our lives at multiple levels.

I think its hard to underestimate that systems theory deals ultimately with humans (psychology) and humans in groups (which might overlap with gestalt psychology a bit–I’m honestly not sure). And ultimately the value of relationships and networks is hard to overestimate. I was recently reading a book about creativity that pointed to the example of Pixar which very clearly points to the need for teams to make innovation effective. Paying attention to team dynamics, interactions, motivations, high points, and low points–but also taking into account possible external influences (ie home life or a tough issue external to the workplace) can be helpful as well.

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