Systems thinking is a method that aims to create an understanding of complex systems by looking at the relationships between the many different elements that compose these systems.

Systems thinking can be used by anyone, at any level of expertise, and it's particularly useful when confronted with problems that have no easy answers or solutions.

In this article, we'll look at what systems thinking is, its components and characteristics, examples of using system thinking in real life, and some tools you can use to apply this technique yourself!


Systems thinking is a way of looking at the world, especially at complex social or technological systems, that involves observing interrelated parts rather than focusing on individual elements.

Systems thinkers are interested in how all the parts fit together and affect one another rather than focusing on individual parts or pieces.

The goal is to understand how systems behave as a whole rather than how their individual components operate independently.

Systems thinking can be applied to any field where there are multiple factors working together to produce results or outcomes, including business management, government policymaking or engineering.

Components Of Systems Thinking

Systems thinking has 6 basic components: interconnectedness, synthesis, emergence, feedback loops, causality, and systems mapping.

Interconnectedness is the basic concept that all parts of a system are connected in some way and that the connections between these parts create relationships between those parts.

Synthesis is the ability to combine separate concepts into something new, such as when engineers build a bridge out of their knowledge of materials science and structural engineering.

Emergence refers to how systems can produce new properties or characteristics not contained within any one part of the system.

Feedback loops occur when there is a circular path between two points; a positive feedback loop reinforces a pattern, while a negative feedback loop corrects the pattern.

Causality is the idea that one thing causes another thing to happen in a system. An example of this is if a person drops a glass on the floor, it will break because of gravity.  The idea that one thing causes another thing to happen in a system is called causality.

Systems mapping is the process by which engineers map out all the components of a system before attempting to design it.

This process is important because it allows engineers to understand how the system works and what changes may need to be made to improve it.

It also helps engineers identify the cause of any problems or issues within the system so that they can fix them.

A systems map is a visual representation of the relationships between the parts of something complex, like an ecosystem or an organization.


You can find examples of systems thinking in action in a variety of settings, including:

  • Businesses that use the Balanced Scorecard approach to strategic planning. This method focuses on achieving business goals by aligning organizational objectives with customer needs, internal processes and resources. The Balanced Scorecard helps managers identify the relationships between these factors and determine how they affect one another.
  • Agencies that use an interdisciplinary team approach to solve problems. In this model, groups from various areas (such as law enforcement, social services and public health) work together to address community issues such as drug addiction or poverty. Members share information about their respective areas of expertise so that they can collaborate effectively on solutions that reach beyond their own departmental scope.
  • Project management teams at technology companies like Google and Amazon have adopted agile practices like scrum teams which work together on projects using short bursts of energy followed by restorative breaks—like those provided by walking meetings, for example--to keep productivity high despite long hours spent at a desk working closely together under intense pressure due to tight deadlines."


In systems thinking, tools are used to help you understand the system. These include:

  • Cause And Effect Diagrams (Also Called Fishbone Diagrams)
  • Six Thinking Hats
  • 5 Whys
  • Double-q Diagram
  • Behaviour Over Time graph
  • Causal Loop Diagram
  • Systems Archetype
  • Graphical Function Diagram
  • Structure-behavior Pair
  • Policy Structure Diagram
  • Computer Model
  • Management Flight Simulator
  • Learning Laboratory


Systems thinking is a powerful approach to understanding how the world works.

By examining the relationships between different parts of a system, we can better understand how they interact and influence each other.

This approach can be applied to any complex system—from economics to biology—and has many applications in business management, engineering, politics and more.

Systems thinking is a method of critical thinking that aims to create an understanding of complex systems by looking at the relationships between the many different elements that compose these systems.

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