One of the things I love about systems thinking is that it can be helpful with just a basic, superficial understanding but can also go into deep understanding of many aspects of life.
Because systems thinking connects elements together and helps understand the interconnectedness of life, we can start to see the world differently.
Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi do a great job of diving into systems thinking and explaining how much of human achievement is tied to systems thinking in their book The Systems View of Life, A Unifying Vision. They explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and how that insight changed the way we think about time and space but also how it relates to systems thinking.
After explaining from Einstein’s work that mass is nothing more than energy, they say, “Systems thinking means a shift of perception from material objects and structures to the nonmaterial processes and patterns of organization that represent the very essence of life. We should also add that the emphasis on relationships, qualities, and processes does not mean that objects, quantities, and structures are no longer important. When we talk of shifts of perspective, we do not imply that systems thinking completely eliminates one perspective in favor of the other.”
We can look to science, religion, spirituality, politics, etc., and see things differently because of systems thinking. It just gives us a fresh new way of looking at everything.
One of the key principles of systems thinking is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. As an example, a person is more than just adding together ears, eyes, legs, organs, etc. The whole person is much more than just those parts.
But looking at objects, for much of man’s existence we thought that objects were static, material forms. But after Einstein’s theories we started to realize that there really aren’t static, material forms but rather energies that are organized into these forms that we experience.
Systems thinking can help tie much of these abstract, complex ideas together. We can use it to form a better understanding of our existence on earth. We can use it form a better understanding of ourselves. We can use it to find ways to improve and get better. We can use it to become happier.
But the first step is to be able to take the principles from systems thinking and learn how to form them into improvement strategies. We have to learn how to see a pattern and then find the system. From there we can set out to make changes to the system. If we focus on the leverage points within the system we can then manipulate the outcome of the system. This is the foundation to the systems and habits approach to improvement.
But we don’t need a degree in systems engineering to be able to do this. All we need is a basic understanding of systems and the principles to change the system. From there we can dive into our daily thoughts and behaviors to create the life we desire.
So you can use the systems and habits approach to improvement to get better without a deep understanding of systems theories. But the more we study the more we see the influence of systems throughout our existence.