Systems Thinking

The capability to think in systems is pervading all of this module. It plays a central role when we talk about transitions, mapping problems and creating scenarios. In the lecture we have mostly talked about the systems notation of stocks and flows which is one basic way of visualizing and modeling systems. There is however another way to visualize systems in a rather more conceptual way. This is referred to as causal loop diagrams. The difference compared to stocks and flows is, that causal loops are not quantifying flows of a certain kind, but depict a general impact. For example, causal chains like "education increases a person's chances for a good job, which leads to higher income and higher income leads to more happiness" are more abstract, than models we know from our stocks and flows example. In Scenarios, more precisely the Formative Scenario Analysis, when talking about impact factors, we should root our thinking rather in the "causal loop" notation.

You can find a good chapter on the causal loop technique (The Arrow that constructs the world...) in Pierro Mella's book "Systems Thinking - intelligence in action" here. You can download you it from inside the university's network.

The presentation on system dynamics by George Richadson gives a good introduction on the different ways to perceive systems. It is structured along three pespectives on systems: 1) dynamics, 2) causal relations (causal loops) and 3) underlying structures (stocks and flows). This will be particularly helpful for understanding the "qualitative" systems analysis as conducted in the formative scenario analysis.