Systems thinking, beliefs LO19902 -was: Application Of LO in BiH?
Tue, 17 Nov 1998 15:38:15 -0800

Replying to LO19662 --

Marilee Taussig writes:
> I was interested in your query. I have worked for ten years in writing
> and delivering cultural diversity training to predominantly U.S.
> corporations. I became disillusioned to a great degree in the short term
> ability of any training to impact deeply held beliefs. To understand how
> to create sustainable change in an organization, I was drawn into systems
> thinking and learning organization.

This is less a reply to Marilee than a tangent triggered by reading the
above shortly after reading At's discourse on the relation of systems
thinking to belief. The question to me is, what do the various
participants mean by "systems thinking"? (I'll leave aside the coordinate
question, "what is belief"?)

Certainly the starting point for this list is the notion that Senge lays
out in 5th Discipline -- a simplification of Forrester's System Dynamics
(yes, I'm being provocative on purpose).

At, I believe, has a wider sense in mind, one that he can't simply define
or even characterize in a paragraph or two, so he paints rich pictures for
us, so that in "viewing" them we may be able to sense the part that
systems thinking plays in them. (See "Systems Thinking vs Belief?

Marilee characterizes it like this:
> With that introduction, I would say that systems thinking is a paradigm
> which can allow different cultures to firstly, understand and surface
> their own cultural assumptions and secondly, provides a language by which
> cultures can begin to communicate between one another. A meta language, if
> you will. It also is a wonderful frame in which people can set their own
> beliefs, not abandoning them, but perhaps setting them aside for the
> moment, and moving into a climate where they can bring as much inquiry as
> advocacy to the conversation. It provides a cognitive frame by which they
> are able to listen to other ways of thinking, without feeling as if they
> are disloyal to their own culture, because they can see each culture as a
> system.

This is also wider, apparently in a somewhat different direction:
addressing not so much the kind of thinking that an individual does, but a
mode of dialogue across mental models.

To be honest, until I read these two messages, I was, well, sort of
unconscious incompetent, happily identifying systems thinking with
awareness of complex positive and negative feedback loops, delays, flows,
etc. Now I'm fascinated to hear more. Marilee, At, could we have a
dialogue on your respective notions of the term?


Don Dwiggins "It fills my head with ideas, SEI Information Technology but I don't quite know what they are!" -- Alice, after hearing Jabberwocky

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>