This is a great question and one I was asked very recently. It’s a common problem – when you want to use something but you are not an expert in it, so you do not know how to extract the correct concepts or methods that will be useful to you in a particular situation. I do find this to be a barrier to the wider adoption of systems thinking, but don’t despair! Some systems practitioners are working hard to find the ways in which systems thinking concepts and methods can be used more easily and share that learning.
A colleague of mine, Mike Haber from SCiO, had a great idea to produce some flash card. The cards give us a concept or the name of a method, a brief description of what it is and a link to further information. “But how can they be useful?” I can hear you say. In my opinion, they can be extremely useful in workshops, to open up perception and support us to think about a situation in a different way.
I was lucky enough to be at a SCiO Open Day session when Mike introduced his idea to us. As a group we were given a flash card and asked to apply the concept to a situation we had been provided with……and, you know, it worked! I have to admit, I was a little sceptical at first, but not anymore. I saw their value instantly. So, when I did a systems thinking session in the workplace recently and a non-practitioner said that they liked what they saw but how did they extract the right concept etc without being a practitioner, it really hit home for me.
We often hear systems practitioners say that they struggle to get people on board with systems thinking. But, is it us who needs to think again? I think we do. We need to think about accessibility; about how to make it easy. Even if this means using only one or two concepts, it’s one or two more than none!
It’s food for thought but, in my opinion, if we do want systems thinking to be adopted more widely we need to get creative and be more innovative in our style. Don’t baffle and bewilder. Support, share and sustain instead.
Well done Mike!