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Introduction to Systems Thinking
Transcript of Introduction to Systems Thinking
Instructor: Atefeh Ramezankhani
in collaboration with
An Introduction to
Cross your arms
Cross your arms
the opposite way
Systems thinking is all about
seeing the wholes!
"A conceptual framework, body of knowledge & tools developed over past 50 years to make the full patterns clearer and help us see how to change them effectively"
Our Mental Models
Barry Richmond &
Vision is one of the things we do best!
A significant portion of the brain is dedicated to vision!
What is the main reason our minds trap in illusions?
Assumptions & Presumptions
the assumtions, stories, images, and etc.
which we carry about ourselves, others, and every aspect of the world.
They are ...
Tacit & Internalized
Like computer or architectural models
representations of reality.
Look at this list for 10 seconds, and memorize ...
How many did you remember?
Write them all down!
Is "Sleep" in your list?
This is one of your mental models playing tricks on you!
Match images below with a job title
Mental models are flawed!
Make 4 triangles with 6 sticks
Try to think out of the box
What will happen to the wood log if the man opens his hand?
Cross all dots with 4 lines
(Your pen should stay on the paper)
Observable data & experiences
select data from what
(cultural, personal, etc.)
based on my
Ladder of Inference
What different kinds of
"Ladder of Inference" do
Cooperation vs Defect
Both or all teams select 'Defect' - All teams pay the banker $150 each.
Both or all teams select 'Co-operate' - banker pays all teams $300 each.
One team only selects 'Defect' and the other team(s) select 'Co-operate' - banker pays $1,000 to defector and takes $250 from each of the other teams.
More than one team select 'Defect' and 'Co-operate' - banker takes $50 from each of the teams (applicable only when more than two teams are playing).
What is a
Are you looking at a system or a bunch of stuff?
Can you identify the individual parts?
Do the parts affect each other?
Do the parts together produce an effect that is different from the effect of each part on its own?
Does the effect persist in a variety of circumstances?
Tennis is a system!
Identifyable individual parts
Parts affect each other
Are they enough to form a system?
Systems as a Cause
Prof. Philip Zimbardo
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Palo Alto Police arrests some college students around the city.
Suspects were blindfolded and finger printed.
What had they done?
They had applied for an experiment to simulate prison life!
"Were given diagnostic interviews and personality tests to eliminate candidates with psychological problems, medical disabilities, or a history of crime or drug abuse. Ultimately, we were left with a sample of 24 college students from the U.S. and Canada who happened to be in the Stanford area and wanted to earn $15/day by participating in a study. On all dimensions that we were able to test or observe, they reacted normally."
Random selection to be "Guard" or "Prisoner"
The "Yard" corridor in the basement of the Psychology Department was made into a prison-like environment.
The prison was secretly monitored via cameras and microphones.
A 2'x2' closet was turned into "The Hole" for confining "bad-prisoners".
No clocks or windows to judge the passage of time!
All designed based on professionals consultants. Foremost among them was a former prisoner who had served nearly seventeen years behind bars.
Prisoners were brought in one-by-one.
Searched thoroughly, stripped naked, and
sprayed as if to make sure they do not have
Similar to the scenes captured by Danny Lyons in Texas prisons.
Prisoners were given a "dress-like" uniform to wear at all times with no underwear with numbers assigned to them.
Each prisoner was only called by their number (and not their names)
A heavy chain with a lock was put on their right feet.
Footwear was rubber sandals.
A stocking cap made of women's stockings was used to cover a prisoner's hair.
"It should be clear that we were trying to create a functional simulation of a prison -- not a literal prison. Real male prisoners don't wear dresses, but real male prisoners do feel humiliated and do feel emasculated."
The guards were given no specific training
The guards made up their own set of rules
Guards wore sun glasses & had whistles
and billy clubs.
They started creating authority!
Using push-ups as punishment.
Rebellion & Suppression
Solitary confinement, harassment and intimidation
Only after 36 hours the first prisoner had an emotional collapse!
Guards behaviors escalates!
A second breakdown!
They called the experiment only
after 6 days! Things were getting out of control!
Normal, healthy guards acted cruel, dehumanizing and even sadistic!
Normal college students suffered sever emotional stress under imprisonment.
Some became zombies, obeying any meaningless order.
Early shutdown due to excessive aggression and mental side effects.
"Good & evil are not intrinsic to human nature."
Mother Theresa or Saddam Hussain
So, Who is to blame?
Structures and systems are responsible for the behaviors.
Then, what is people's role?
Systems are the result of ourselves by thinking and behaving in particular ways
US made first atomic bomb in 1945.
Soviet Union followed in 1949.
In 1950s they had enough to destroy each other completely.
Still, they continued for 40 years!
Weakened US economy & ruined Soviet Union.
US mental model:
Threat to US
Need to build more weapon by US
Soviet Union mental model:
Threat to SU
Need to build more weapon by SU
Think of social networks, i.e. Facebook:
Popularity of Facebook
More people use Facebook
Closed loop thinking:
Main Feedback Processes
which are engines of growth in any situation
when there is a goal seeking behavior
Remember the cold war?
Any similar pattern these days?
Threat to US
Need military response
Us Military activities
Perceived aggressiveness of US
"Reality is made up of circles,
we see straight lines. Here lies the
beginning of our limitations as
Arab Spring ... think in loops
Have you ever fallen in love?
Extra working hours
Thinking through time
We are used to take snapshots in time!
Drop in boiling water
US Automotive Industry
Things that change gradually:
Make us think they are
for short period of time.
Make us think they are
We are trained to see only one cause for an event!
Dynamic Thinking teaches us that
Events accumulate into dynamic patterns of behaviors
2 days ago ...
Wolves vs Rabbits
100 Rabbits & 100 Wolves
10% for Rabbits
5% for Wolves
1960's : US market dominated by American companies
(Japanese's share < 4%)
1967: Japanese's share = 10%
1974: Japanese's share reached 15%
1980's: American's start to see what was happening
(Japanese's share = 22%)
1990: (30 years after) Japanese's share = 30%
Now: More than 40% belongs to Japanese Companies
Any memory of a
change in your daily life?
People, however different, when placed in the same system tend to behave in similar waves.
Sauve Foundation, April 2013
Only after game rules are settled, they become a system.
A System is greater than just sum of its parts!
Launched in April 1981
Great growth by very low prices (less than bus in many routes)
Radical Human Resource Policy (Investing a lot in staff for high motivation and good service)
Fastest growing airline in US history
(Top 5 US airlines in 1985 )
It was forced to sell in 1986 to Texas Air Corporations
We tried to learn ...
Our mental models deceive us in how we see the real world
Changing mental models require long term effort and inquiry
Seeing interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect chains
Seeing processes of change rather than snapshots.
Shift our mind from seeing ourselves separate from the world to connected to world
From seeing problems as caused by someone or something "
" to seeing how
create the problems!
beneath the behaviors!