Systems thinking is a concept that has been around for decades. Even prior to the official systems thinking experts, you see signs of systems thinking throughout history.
Systems thinking is the ability to think about a whole situation and all of the interconnecting parts rather than just seeing a small snapshot of the full system.
When we see a cause and effect or a beginning and end we usually eliminate a lot of other information so that this easy A to B relationship can form. This is linear thinking; thinking between 2 points without consideration of other factors that certainly play a part but might not be as easily seen.
Here is a quick example. Let’s say you think about why you haven’t been able to lose weight even though you have motivation to do so. You might just say that you aren’t strong enough or you don’t have enough willpower. You might say that you simply consume a high amount of calories every day.
But any of those, by themselves, only tell a small part of the full system. In reality there are many factors at play. The systems thinking approach starts to examine all of the various factors at play. Then it looks for leverage points. Leverage points are aspects that have a larger output than input and can cause great change with small efforts (small related to the output they control).
The systems and habits approach to improvement uses this to form the basis for how to improve in any area of your life. It finds leverage points, which are often habits and routines in our lives. Then it attacks those. The result can be profound.
The downside to using this technique is that it takes a long time because each habit needs to be adjusted slowly, step-by-step over a long time period. But in sacrificing speed we gain an easy approach that is effective.
The key is that the systems and habits approach starts to build and build. Just as compounded interest builds on itself and the initial principle, the more positive habits we create the more improvement we will see.
Because there is a natural delay from the time we start to the time we see results, from the outside it looks like a sudden improvement. From the outside nobody notices the small steps we are taking. They only notice when improvement starts to appear. And by that time, we probably have a bunch of solid habits that are maturing, some that are just beginning and everything in between. This leads to a compounding effect.
Systems thinking and the systems and habits approach to improvement are very much related. In fact, they both utilize the same fundamental aspects in order to give us a new way of seeing the world. It gives us a path forward and helps show us areas that often seem like the right way forward but that too often will just end in failure and frustration due to the full system.