Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems

A Primer

Book - 2008
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"Thinking in Systems is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute's Diana Wright, this primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life."--Jacket.
Publisher: White River Junction, Vt. : Chelsea Green Pub., c2008
ISBN: 9781603580557
Characteristics: xiii, 218 p. : ill. ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Wright, Diana 1961-


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Mar 17, 2018

First the good parts: The author provides an introduction to various system elements and system structure exhibiting a variety of behavior. Throughout are observations from a systems perspective of various examples ranging from a house thermostat, to aspects of the economy such as GNP, to ecosystems, and human organizations such as colleges. In addition various quotations, largely relevant, are liberally scattered throughout.

What I did not like is the wholesale redefinition of well established systems concepts. For example, the author uses the term "resilience" when stable or stability is the accepted system term. Similarly, one can read the entire book without encountering the term "positive" feedback. Instead the term reinforcing feedback is used.

Overall, the book was thought provoking albeit very frustrating reading.

Jul 31, 2016

I consider this book to be an excellent primer for the general public as an introduction to the key concepts of systems and systems thinking. The author's contributions to helping the world recognize the problems of reductionist approaches to society go back to the critically important work "The Limits of Growth."

"Thinking in Systems" is very accessible and has been useful in my own policy work. Not sure what the negative reviewer was expecting. Within a few pages, it should have been clear what the book was targeting.

I've purchased several copies and provided them to new staff to help them to appreciate the complexity of the world and the limited approaches or aversion to real change or problems/solutions we are likely to encounter when people aren't able to look beyond their own training, prejudices, motivations and experiences. Highly recommended for these reasons.

Nov 13, 2014

Linear "cause and effect" thinking is only good so far.

Systems thinking, explained here, is a refreshing and valuable alternative.

Re: other comment, note the subtitle of Smith's book: Standard Deviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways to Lie with Statistics.

Systems thinking is applicable across the disciplines, and is not about lying with statistics.

Sep 24, 2014

Prior to wasting time on this book, please read the book, Standard Deviations, by Gary Smith, first.


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