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INTRODUCTION TO SYSTEMS 
THINKING 
Professor Ockie Bosch 
Dr Nam Nguyen
Introduction to the systems concept 
 The six blind men and an 
elephant 
 A partial truth 
 The moral of the story: 
h...
Definitions of Systems 
 “A system is a set of elements or parts that is 
coherently organised and interconnected in a pa...
A System versus a Collection 
 A collection is also 
composed of a number 
of parts but they are 
just dumped together 
a...
Basic Properties of a System 
 A system must consist of : 
 Elements or parts 
 Interconnectedness & Interactions 
 Fu...
Definitions of Systems Thinking 
 “Systems thinking is a way of looking at, learning 
about, and understanding complex si...
Why Systems Thinking? 
Climate and 
Environmental 
changes 
Technological 
developments 
Global Information 
Exchange 
Inc...
Making Decisions in such a 
Complex Web of Interactions 
Politicians, business managers and all members of society have to...
CURRENT ISSUES IN THE MEDIA 
 Food Safety & Security 
 The Energy Crisis 
 Environmental 
Disasters 
 Climate Change 
...
Modified from Maani 
and Nguyen (2009) 
Interconnectedness 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen 
Water 
Carbon 
Defo...
The Torn Net 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
Agric. & Rural 
Development 
Operating in “Silos” 
Natural Res & 
Environment 
Culture, Sport 
& Tourism 
Planning & 
Inve...
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
OOPS 
? 
Taking stock of a failed project 
Andrew Stellman on July 24, 2009 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
Sanitation 
Clean water 
Living conditions 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
 Family 
Planning 
 Need for 
Education 
 Health issues 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
By concentrating on the 
particular……… © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
….bourgeois 
thought fails to see 
the totality 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
Unintended Consequences 
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
Systems 
Thinking 
A New Way of Thinking  “Where the world is dynamic, evolving and interconnected, 
we tend to make deci...
Application of Systems Thinking 
 Business (Sterman 2000; Walker et al. 2009) 
 Health (Cavana et al. 1999; Lee 2009) 
...
The capacity to redesign in systems and 
sustainability terms, will increasingly be 
what society and employers will requi...
© Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
$$$ for 
mitigating 
unintended 
consequences 
24 
STyHEstIeCEmBEsR AG ApPpPrRoOaACcHh 
Symptoms 
Events 
PATTERNS 
intera...
LINEAR THINKING 
Improved 
Quality of 
Life 
Enhance 
Tourism 
More Tourists 
More Jobs 
More $$$ 
© Professor Ockie Bosch...
Pollution 
+ 
Temporary 
immigration 
SYSTEMS THINKING 
Empoloyment 
opportunity 
Land required 
for tourism 
Natural 
bea...
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Module 1 Introduction to systems thinking

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Introduction to systems thinking

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Module 1 Introduction to systems thinking

  1. 1. INTRODUCTION TO SYSTEMS THINKING Professor Ockie Bosch Dr Nam Nguyen
  2. 2. Introduction to the systems concept  The six blind men and an elephant  A partial truth  The moral of the story: having a ‘holistic’ view  “The behaviour of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of the system” (Meadows 2008, p.7) © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  3. 3. Definitions of Systems  “A system is a set of elements or parts that is coherently organised and interconnected in a pattern or structure that produces a characteristic set of a behaviours, often classified as its ‘function’ or ‘purpose’” (Meadows 2008, p.188)  “Simply defined, a system is a complex whole the functioning of which depends on its parts and the interactions between those parts” (Jackson 2003, p.3)  “A system is more than the sum of its parts – it is the product of their interactions” (Ackoff 1999) © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  4. 4. A System versus a Collection  A collection is also composed of a number of parts but they are just dumped together and are not interconnected (Sherwood 2002)  A marriage: a collection or a system?  A Degree program? Honey, are we a collection or a system? I hope we are a system! Source: http://www.yaseenkhan.org © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  5. 5. Basic Properties of a System  A system must consist of :  Elements or parts  Interconnectedness & Interactions  Function or purpose  Examples: a business, football team; digestive system; school; faculty, city; corporation; animal; tree; etc. © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  6. 6. Definitions of Systems Thinking  “Systems thinking is a way of looking at, learning about, and understanding complex situations” (Wilson 2004, p.7)  “Systems thinking is a way of seeing and talking about reality that helps us better understand and work with systems to influence the quality of our lives” (Kim 1999, p.2)  Systems thinking is a ‘new way of thinking’ to understand and manage complex problems (Bosch et al. 2007; Cabrera et al. 2008) © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  7. 7. Why Systems Thinking? Climate and Environmental changes Technological developments Global Information Exchange Increasing Conflicts Complexity and Dynamics Disruption of the Value Chain Social & Political Developments Differentiation of Customer Needs Social Responsibility Dealing with complexity and coping with increasing dynamics has become the main challenge in project and program management © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  8. 8. Making Decisions in such a Complex Web of Interactions Politicians, business managers and all members of society have to make important decisions on a daily basis in the complex web in which business, social issues, finance and economics, environment, politics and culture are all highly interconnected Do we get it right? • Do we make good policy and investment decisions? • Are we aware of the unintended consequences of our decisions? • Are we effective in our cross-sectoral communication and collaboration to deal with the multi-dimensional nature of complex problems? • Do we go for quick fixes because it is easier to treat the symptoms? OR Do we urgently need new and innovative ways of thinking and a fresh approach and tools to deal with the problems facing our society? © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  9. 9. CURRENT ISSUES IN THE MEDIA  Food Safety & Security  The Energy Crisis  Environmental Disasters  Climate Change  Carbon Trade  Land Use  Biodiversity  Water Shortage  Business Profitability  Poverty  Human Health  Animal Health  Globalisation  Sustainability  Job Losses  Resource Management © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  10. 10. Modified from Maani and Nguyen (2009) Interconnectedness © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen Water Carbon Deforestation Land use Climate R1 Environment ? Economic Growth R2 Energy Energy use Population Poverty Population Food Agriculture Biofuel R3 Biofuel Globalisation
  11. 11. The Torn Net © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  12. 12. Agric. & Rural Development Operating in “Silos” Natural Res & Environment Culture, Sport & Tourism Planning & Investment Training & Education Departments of Hai Phong City Plans Collaboration Sharing Integrated Systemic Master Plan for Governance © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  13. 13. © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  14. 14. OOPS ? Taking stock of a failed project Andrew Stellman on July 24, 2009 © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  15. 15. Sanitation Clean water Living conditions © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  16. 16.  Family Planning  Need for Education  Health issues © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  17. 17. By concentrating on the particular……… © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  18. 18. ….bourgeois thought fails to see the totality © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  19. 19. Unintended Consequences © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  20. 20. Systems Thinking A New Way of Thinking  “Where the world is dynamic, evolving and interconnected, we tend to make decisions using mental models that are static, narrow, and reductionist.” (Sterman 2000)  Narrow focused and isolated solutions often lead to “policy resistance” and unintended consequences.  To balance and integrate short term and urgent solutions with long term systemic interventions.  To create resilience collaborative, integrated and systemic approaches.  To enhance cross-sectoral engagement, communication and collaboration in dealing with complexity  But, fundamentally and foremost, we need a new way of thinking that allows us to test and challenge age-old assumptions. © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  21. 21. Application of Systems Thinking  Business (Sterman 2000; Walker et al. 2009)  Health (Cavana et al. 1999; Lee 2009)  Commodity systems (Sawin et al. 2003)  Agricultural production systems (Wilson 2004)  Natural resource management (Allison and Hobbs 2006)  Education (Galbraith 1999; Hung 2008)  Decision making (Maani 2002)  Human resource management (Quatro et al. 2007)  Organisational learning and change (Galanakis 2006)  Philosophy, biology, social theory and management (Mingers 2006)  Sustainability and evolutionary learning laboratories for addressing complex issues (Nguyen, Bosch et al. 2011; Nguyen, Bosch et al. 2013a; Bosch, Nguyen et al.2013b) © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  22. 22. The capacity to redesign in systems and sustainability terms, will increasingly be what society and employers will require from new people entering the workforce  A “requirement” that has become one of the biggest challenges for education in this century  Only a deep understanding of the disciplines insufficient - need to fully understand how disciplines fit into societal and global systems  Living in a Century when humanity will meet ever more limits  Didactic autonomous discipline based courses fail to foster a social networking culture (interactions between students in different disciplines)  Need innovative curriculum designs and learning environments that address academic paradigms as well as industry requirements © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  23. 23. © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  24. 24. $$$ for mitigating unintended consequences 24 STyHEstIeCEmBEsR AG ApPpPrRoOaACcHh Symptoms Events PATTERNS interactions between components $$$ for root causes of poverty SYSTEMIC STRUCTURES What does system look like MENTAL MODELS/MIND MAPS People’s understanding $$$ for alleviating poverty Addressing fundamental problems to achieve sustainable systems Adapted from Maani and Cavana, 2007
  25. 25. LINEAR THINKING Improved Quality of Life Enhance Tourism More Tourists More Jobs More $$$ © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen
  26. 26. Pollution + Temporary immigration SYSTEMS THINKING Empoloyment opportunity Land required for tourism Natural beauty - Availability of underground water + Fresh water consumption Employment opportunity for local people + + Social issues Infrastruture & facility + + Number of tourists Attractiveness of Cat Ba Island - + - Wealth of local people + + Waste + + + Illegal forest - exploitaion - Total population Agricultural Production Living cost - + + - + - + + - Conservation and agricultural land + - B2 R1 B1 R3 R2 B3 B4 B5 B6 Student population Assess to education + - - - R5 R4 Investment + + + Resident population + + Wealth of Local People Number of Tourists Increasing n Jobs © Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen

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