Concepts

System

A group of connected entities that together give a property that does not exist within the entities alone. The important thing is the product of their interaction.

Emergence

By this we mean something that emerges because the system exists. Without the system, the property is non-existent. The emergent property of a human being is life. Unless all of your elements are interconnected in a particular way, you do not have life. The product of the interactions is life.

Boundary

All systems have a boundary. A key aspect of systems thinking is to identify and establish what is inside of the system and what is outside, in the environment. This requires us to define the system boundary, an interface which separates the system from that environment. Deciding where to place the system boundary is an important consideration. It isn’t always an easy decision to make and it often depends on the perspective of the person viewing the system.

Environment

The area outside of the system boundary is called the environment. What happens outside of the system, in the system’s environment, is of vital importance. Firstly, the system can affect the environment, and secondly the environment can affect the system. One of the reasons for the failure of many change programmes is due to the lack of attention to the environment.

Feedback

Feedback loops control a system’s behavior. A feedback loop is a series of connections. The effect from one part will eventually influence the input back into that same part. This flow can result in amplification, delay, and dampening effects, which cause the behavior of the system.

Self-organisation

This relates to the dynamics of a system. Systems are dynamic; they change. Think about a person riding a bike—if the bike is static, it can fall over. When the bike and the person are moving forward together they are relatively stable. The stability comes from the dynamics. The person can steer the bike or pedal slower/ faster; they self-organise. If you remove the self-organisation, you remove some of the dynamic properties. You remove the flow of energy that connects the system. The connectedness is why order is maintained (because of the dynamic properties).

Also, the system must be able to react to its environment. Imagine the person on the bike going over a bump. They need to be able to move the handle bars or apply the brake to control what happens. They are interacting with their environment. We must give things the autonomy to flex and change (within reason) or they will not survive when the environment around them changes.

More content coming soon…

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