2 Things to Get Started on Systems Thinking
Derek Cabrera, PhD
Derek Cabrera (PhD, Cornell) is an internationally known systems scientist and serves on the faculty of Cornell University where he teaches systems thinking, systems leadership, and systems mapping and is Program Director for the Graduate Certification Program in Systems Thinking, Modeling, and Leadership (STML). He is a senior scientist at Cabrera Research Lab. He’s authored 8 books including, Systems Thinking Made Simple and Flock Not Clock.
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What if I told you that you could become an advanced systems thinker, with skills that surpass the majority of folks, by (1) learning and practicing just 4 building blocks of thought and (2) understanding how they interact dynamically?
One of the great developments in the field of systems thinking in the past twenty years is that its a lot easier today to get started doing systems thinking. This is because we now know that there are universal and underlying patterns to the way humans think and these patterns can be used to leverage more systemic forms of thought. So, if you want to get started you just need to focus on (1) developing four critically important systems thinking skills called DSRP and (2) understanding how these four structural patterns interact. Below is a step by step process for becoming a systems thinker that we use with graduate studebts at Cornell University, preschoolers and k-12 students in the classroom, and CEOs and executives in the boardroom. These steps require work and practice, but they significantly decrease the time to expert-level skill development.
Watch this twelve minute mini documentary on systems thinking
Get Systems Thinking Made Simple OR check out the tags of articles below (or both). Start with the introductory article on each pattern and then move to the other more in depth articles. (The table scrolls right)
Learn the 4 Building Blocks
|Pattern of Thinking (DSRP)||Introductory||Go Deeper|
|Learn and practice Making Distinctions (D)||Learn the basics of Distinctions||Go a little deeper with Distinctions|
|Learn and practice Organizing Systems (S)||Learn the basics of Systems||Go a little deeper with Systems|
|Learn and practice Drawing Relationships (R)||Learn the basics of Relationships||Go a little deeper with Relationships|
|Learn and practice Taking Perspectives (P)||Learn the basics of Perspectives||Go a little deeper with Perspectives|
Now that you are familiar with the 4 structural patterns of systems thinking (DSRP), read up on the dynamics of how these four patterns work together. Go to the dynamics tag to read more about DSRP's dynamics.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice in the shower, in the car, at work, and at play. Practice on simple things and work your way up to more complex things. The more you practice the more it will become commonplace and you will soon look back and ask, "How did I function before becoming aware of how my mind works!?"