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Wow - I heard this book was good, but its been "unputdownable".. From the perennial problem of managing drug addiction, to climate change and population growth - you name it - you will get an amazing, easy to follow, perspective on the "zoo" of different system types and the systems issues that follows.. It helps you see more clerkly why praising/blaming individuals is so problematic and it also explains the "Groundhog Day" of things not getting fixed, even getting worse.. Its necessary for anyone who is really serious in effecting change in the issues of today
The main purpose of this book is to give you a basic ability to understand and to deal with complex systems. This purpose has certainly been achieved, even more so, it gives much food for thought. As an engineer, manager and consultant I have used systems thinking and models all my working life, so there is nothing really new in this book, but I have never seen such a splendid and to the point explanation. The most important section is however part three, the leverage points and guidelines for living in a world of systems, summarizing the "system wisdoms". They are the behavioral consequences of a worldview based on the ideas of feedback, nonlinearity and systems responsible for their own behavior. Al fifteen given aspects are important and enlightening and should be kept in mind by all our major decisions on complex issues. It is very difficult to rank them, but the one to be mentioned here is : Stay humble - stay a learner. Very much recommended for all interested in the human mind and heart and soul.
As the title suggests, this book is written as a 'primer' into the subject, and it fulfils this function with ease and grace. It has the confident feel and logical evolved structure of a book written by someone who had completely mastered her subject and was well used to introducing these key ideas to her university students.
There is a strong emphasis within the book on economic and environmental issues, which suited me well. I presume that the late author held quite progressive environmental views anyway, but systems thinking engenders and illuminates environmental concerns better than any other approach I can think of. The sections on resource depletion are both fascinating and frighteningly realistic. Although the issues and underlying thinking was not necessarily always original to systems thinking, the language (labelling of terms) and often counter-intuitive approach of systems modelling has got a lot to give in these two subjects.
Concepts introduced such as information hierarchies and resilience, are both common sense and useful intellectual tools at the same time.
"I think of resilience as a plateau upon which the system can play, performing its normal functions in safety. A resilient system has a big plateau, a lot of space over which it can wonder, with gentle, elastic walls that will bounce it back, if it comes near a dangerous edge. As a system loses its resilience, its plateau shrinks, and its protective walls become lower and more rigid, until the system is operating on a knife edge, likely to fall off in one direction or another whenever it makes a move. Loss of resilience can come as a surprise, because the system usually is paying much more attention to its play than to its playing space. One day it does something it has done a hundred times before and crashes."p78
Looking back through it, the structure of this book is also very good as I have mentioned. It progresses in a logical way from the practicalities of systems thinking through to their implications and ends with some quite philosophical themes and advice. As another reviewer has mentioned, the appendix is actually useful in this book for a change, and seems in parts like a list of the key points of the book in a type of student revision notes form.
The writing and citations in this book almost seem to suggest an air of bemused condescension on behalf of systems thinkers for their misdirected non systems thinking fellow man and the subsequent mistakes they make. Similar to the airy condescension of free market economists, but more justified and less disproved by recent events. There are many examples given which justify this air of superiority, and it seems to me to be an easy stance to buy into! Systems thinking does seem to contain the right tools for tackling the biggest contemporary problems.
Anyone suggest a suitable follow up book on systems thinking? ( preferably one biased towards economics)
Very accessible and recommended to all as an enjoyable introduction to this subject.
Not just a primer, but a useful reference. I have trouble keeping hold of it though as as soon as anyone picks it up and reads a chapter, they borrow it. I may just buy a second copy and be done with it. Well written, easily understood without being in any way patronising or trying to be too clever. It assumes little knowledge to begin with and builds from simple foundations. Having read it a few times, I now find myself paraphrasing from it and using examples from it when I'm instructing or coaching. Highly recommended for trainers and students alike.
I had heard about System Thinking and wandered how it could be practiced... well this book won't give any answer right away, but it is an excellent start to study the topic! Since then, I had the possibility to improve different fields of knowledge, using this approach. Very well written...