Thinking About Systems
Here’s the good news: you already think about systems. And you have some good intuitions about them. For instance, when someone says “we’re on a roll!” (an indicator of reinforcing feedback at work), you know there will likely be some built-in limit that ends the growth (that’s a systems pattern known as limits to growth). And you also get it when someone says, in reference to a family or a high performing team, that “1 + 1 = 3” or “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (that's the concept of emergence).
How can we build on these natural intuitions? One way is to pay attention to the principles that guide living systems. Another is to develop “habits of mind” rooted in a deep appreciation for living systems.
What is a living system
In a spider’s web, what happens on one part of the web affects every other part. The same is true of living systems, whether an ant colony, a forest, an organization, or a city. Like a spider’s web, a living system is so intricately woven that no part exists in isolation.”
L. Booth Sweeney, Sustainable Wisdom: Living Stories about Living Systems