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Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Systematic improvement

Scott Miker

There is a lot of talk about improvement in business.  It always seems like people are trying to get better.   

But I’ve found that the term improvement can be misleading.  Often I’ve seen people focus on setting goals and reaching them, proving that they improved, but somehow not really growing at all.

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Stop thinking about problems in isolation and see the full system

Scott Miker

When problems arise, we all want to better understand the problem.  We likely think about it and come up with a solution to the problem.

If we start to feel ill, we run to the store for some cold medicine.  If we don’t have enough money to buy the car we want we finance it through credit.  If we get diagnosed with high cholesterol or high blood pressure we get prescribed something to lower it for us. 

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The world is a system

Scott Miker

Systems thinking has been around for quite some time and evidence of thinking in systems has been around for centuries.  The reason is that we can’t really fragment our existence the way we once thought we could.  Instead of a bunch of unrelated components we are actually experiencing a larger system of systems.

But seeing this can be tricky if you have never looked beyond the linear relationships we see initially.  We always want to associate things through cause and effect, beginning and end, inside and outside etc.  But by limiting the world to these simpler perspectives, we often miss important elements.

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In the struggle is where great things are achieved

Scott Miker

Most of us hate to struggle.  We don’t want a difficult life we want things easy.  That is why we daydream about winning the lottery so we don’t have to work.  We want to get rid of the challenging aspects of life. 

But it is through struggle that we grow.  It is challenges that keep us learning.  It is from hard work that we can keep getting better and better.

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Feedback loops with a delay

Scott Miker

There is something in systems thinking called a feedback loop.  Feedback loops are a structure where the output of something is fed back into the input.  Then it starts to magnify as it goes through the loop of output to input to output to input etc.

One example can be found by the classic saying, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” 

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Start from scratch

Scott Miker

Recently our refrigerator started to break down.  We noticed it one Saturday morning when we started making breakfast and realized much of the food in our freezer was thawed.

We tried to troubleshoot the problem but realized quickly that the 11-year old unit was probably not worth saving.  It was more economical to replace it rather than pay someone to come fix it.

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Do what others won’t do

Scott Miker

Jim Rohn says, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.  Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.”

I like this quote.  It speaks the fact that success is about what we do, not just what we want.  It isn’t about our dreams; it is about our action towards our dreams that count.

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Misunderstandings of the systems and habits approach to improvement

Scott Miker

Using the systems and habits approach to improvement can help you achieve goals and improve over time.  Depending on many factors, the pace of getting better varies and can be faster for some and slower for others.

The principles of using systems to improve may give a general framework of what to do and how to approach goals, but it isn’t some magic button.  It isn’t something that just happens instantly from learning something new; it is a slow, methodical process that results in increased performance and production.

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Humans are designed to thrive in a different environment

Scott Miker

As we evolve we are changing the world around us.  Though history we can see the shifts from being wandering cave people to living in an air conditioned home and working 9-5. 

The change has drastically reduced many of the immediate threats to our personal existence.  Instead of being eaten by a hungry animal we are more likely to die of cancer or heart disease. 

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Learn to see the positive and the negative

Scott Miker

One of the benefits of systems thinking is that we start to see a higher-level view of things.  Instead of focusing on one aspect of a system, we can see multiple interacting aspects. 

This shows us that there are often good and bad elements present.  There aren’t many systems that are only good or bad.  Even a negative system likely still has positives.

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Dark and unclear could be signs that you need to refocus

Scott Miker

We all go through periods where things are confusing.  We find ourselves stuck and don’t know what to do in order to get past some obstacle or problem in our lives.

These times are important because what we decide to do will have reverberations in other areas of our life.  But we also are usually full of anxiety and stress, which can cloud our thinking.

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Small steps lead to big results

Scott Miker

Most people overlook the little things in life.  They see a major goal or dream of theirs and assume that it is too big to do anything to try and achieve it. 

So they don’t do anything productive towards that goal.  It just sits there in their mind.  Sometimes it sits for years; sometimes it sits for their entire life.

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Decide to act and enjoy the process

Scott Miker

When you get to a point in life where you realize you want better than what you have, you have to make a decision.  The decision before you is to start doing something or to justify not doing something. 

Plenty of us get to this decision point and freeze.  We let fear jump in and grab onto real obstacles to create something too big to overcome.  It is this combination of real challenges combined with our emotional response of fear that stops most people from working to improve their life.

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Simplicity helps determine who you are

Scott Miker

When you start out using the systems and habits approach to improvement you may just have a single goal that you are trying to reach.  You may have one area that demands change so you turn to this approach to help you get there.

But one of the benefits of using this approach is that you start to simplify many aspects of your life.  Life is complicated and it can quickly and easily get to a point where you don’t know who you are because you want to be too much. 

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Linear thinking and cause and effect

Scott Miker

Linear thinking is when we think in terms of two factors.  We think of before and after, start and finish, cause and effect.  But linear thinking strips out important elements of the system in order to achieve its simplicity. 

The simplistic view might seem to make sense but often when it gets applied to “the real world” it doesn’t behave the way we expect.  Instead we find that factors that we didn’t anticipate become the factors crafting the change or lack of change.

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Under great success or great failure lies feedback loops

Scott Miker

Studying systems thinking provides insight into areas of life that often seen confusing or unclear.  They give a better understanding of what is really going on.   

One element of systems thinking is the feedback loop.  Feedback loops come in many variations but simply put, feedback loops take outputs from the system and then put them back into the system as inputs.

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What tendencies do you ignore?

Scott Miker

We all have tendencies to think and behave in similar ways in similar situations.  It could be that we always tend to act in a certain way in social situations or in relationships or when stress builds up. 

Tendencies are natural and represent the systems and habits we have already developed and ingrained in our daily thoughts and actions.  It is only when we have the tendency to do something detrimental to our growth and improvement that we notice these tendencies.

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Why the quick fix fails

Scott Miker

The quick fix has been around forever in one form or another and we all experience the attraction to the quick fix from time to time. 

It could be at work to overcome a problem that comes up and we see an easy shortcut around the problem.  It could be that we want to make more money and get sucked into a multilevel marketing program without fully investigating the products you sign on to sell.  It could simply be that a problem surfaces and we see a quick way to relieve the symptoms of the problem. 

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Do you see systems?

Scott Miker

Systems are all around us.  Everything we see, interact with, think about etc. is part of multiple systems. 

In fact, we are systems.  The human body is a system made up of many systems.  And we create systems and are impacted by systems around us. 

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Should you be proactive?

Scott Miker

Being proactive is a buzzword that goes around from time to time.  It usually comes up when someone thinks that a person is just sitting around waiting for problems to surface before they take action.

Being proactive usually aligns with working hard and getting in front of problems.  But too often it just becomes another cliché that can be used whenever someone wants to criticize another person.

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