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Linear thinking makes everything complex while systems thinking makes understanding of the complex

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.  

Linear thinking makes everything complex while systems thinking makes understanding of the complex

Scott Miker

The world is complex. Every situation we find our self in has multiple variables that are adding to the eventual outcome. This means that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity and fail to take appropriate action to move in the direction we desire.

Linear thinking tends to look at only two factors, such as cause and effect or beginning and end. When we think linearly we often can sense much of the system but try to keep our focus on the linear aspects as much as possible.

What this does is that in our attempt to simplify, we miss important elements of the system. These ignored elements get judged as simply adding too much complexity.

But that complexity can be very helpful when searching for solutions to problems. That complexity gives us more information on the structures and various perspectives to the problem. It is through this that we can come up with innovative, resourceful, leveraged solutions to problems.

So we can’t simply ignore it all because it is too confusing, instead we have to start to make sense of it. We have to understand each variable, at least enough to know how it impacts the system you are evaluating.

In The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, he says, “The systems perspective shows that there are multiple levels of explanation in any complex situation.”

The best way to start to understand the multiple levels of explanation without becoming overwhelmed in unnecessary detail is to rely on systems thinking. This will help us determine how all of these varying factors impact the ultimate system or systems involved in the problem we are trying to solve.

This can give us great insight to develop better strategies for success. Whether in business or in our personal life, this can provide new ways of thinking about improvement.

We can start to adjust the structures instead of just seeing the outcome and working backwards. This can help us break down those structures and rebuild them to better suite us.

We can start to attack the preconceived notions that some have about the system. This helps if we start to see there is a mental model that is being used that pushes us to jump to certain conclusions.

By shifting from the linear approach to problem solving to moving to the systems thinking approach, we can start to improve how we attack those problems and build for the future.

We can start to build the right foundation, the right fundamentals and then leverage those to provide greater success. Through it all we can start to use the full scope of the system instead of linearly trying to break it down into a simple cause and effect while we ignore key information that might show us an obstacle that we miss.