Systems thinking

Systems thinking tools

Systems thinking target the international communities / countries / regions, markets / industries / companies, organizations of various sizes, relationships between workplaces and families, and diverse individuals. Due to multiple factors, different visible ranges and positions of each party, the understanding of things is not uniform, and they often conflict or contradict each other.

To understand this complexity, systems thinking uses a variety of visualization tools to look at things as they are, to visualize how different elements are connected, and to allow stakeholders to discuss more.

Use these tools to organize your thoughts, and to broaden your understanding of various aspects of the system by comparing and looking at others' perspectives.

These tools often provide an opportunity to identify and reflect on imperfections and inconsistent aspects of their views, as well as connect and combine what elements in a real system are key.

Qualitative systems thinking tools are also useful for personal psychology, organizational culture, and behavioral level issues. On the other hand, for projects with large investments and budget, we will combine and utilize quantitative analysis.

Mastering systems thinking tools requires weeks to months for basic / intermediate tools and years for advanced tools, depending on the size and difficulty of the task.

Time series change pattern graph (BOT)

Draw a line graph of the past, present, and future patterns of the main elements of the system (target output, input, activity, capital / resources, impact, etc.). For the elements of particular interest, we will draw multiple patterns such as "desirable patterns" and "as-it-is patterns" toward the future. When conducting a quantitative analysis, it is needful to study the quantitative level while interacting with the system diagram such as the loop diagram.

This is called Behavior Over Time, which is abbreviated as BOT.

loop diagram (CLD)

As for why the "patterns up to now" and "patterns as they are" occur, the main elements of the system, the elements that affect them, the elements that are affected are listed, and the causal relationships between the elements are connected by arrows, a tool for finding interactions (feedback loops) between the elements. After explaining the pattern that is happening and drawing a loop diagram that the people concerned can understand, it is also used to deepen the understanding through dialogue and to search for effective work.

This is called Causal Loop Diagram and is abbreviated as CLD.

Systems Archetype

System archetypes represent typical "types" of problem structures that are common across disciplines. It is used in the first stage of drawing a complicated loop diagram to determine what kind of feedback loop is involved from the pattern or story that is occurring. In addition, in the "learning organization", even if we do not use a loop diagram, we use this mimicry tool for the purpose of introspection and dialogue between related parties.

This is called Systems Archetype.

Stocks & Flows

The structure of the elements (stocks) that accumulate in the system and the elements (flows) that determine the accumulation plays an important role in understanding the dynamics of the system along with the feedback loops. Often, this stock or flow is shared among different elements and is part of the chain, influencing each other. At the intermediate level, you will find effective work by understanding stocks and flows, separating them from other factors, and redefining the appropriate boundaries between the two. Sources and sinks that limit growth are also a type of stock.

This is called Stocks & Flows.

System Dynamics Modeling

Among various schools of systems thinking, it can be said that systems thinking of the system dynamics school is most utilized in policy analysis, corporate strategy, organizational development, etc. By constructing a system dynamics model that quantitatively grasps the relationships between the above-mentioned stocks & flows and feedback loops, we can quantitatively grasp the mechanism of changes that have occurred. It is a tool that simulates the results and impacts of various policies and measures over the medium to long term.

This is called System Dynamics Modeling.

Leverage Points

Translated into Japanese, it means "power point of the lever" and refers to an intervention point that can produce great results with a small force. It can be said that it is a key point of the problem structure, actually. In policy and strategy discussions, we often have discussions and resources at unleveraged points. However, the leverage point of a complex system cannot be determined at a glance without a considerable understanding of the mechanism of the system. It's not a magic wand, but experienced systems thinkers make their own views on possible points of ordered leverage, interact with stakeholders in areas of high potential, and observe on-site. By repeating the experiment, we would find the leverage point.