EDITOR’S CHOICE: WHY SYSTEMS THINKING IS MORE THAN EVER NECESSARY FOR EVERYONE
Dr. Daniel H. Kim
Published on 04/05/2020
“COVID-19 crisis is a ‘virulent’ example of why SYSTEMS THINKING is a necessary competency for everyone, not just for leaders. We all need to become GLOBAL CITIZENS of the world, beyond just our national boundaries.” - Dr. Daniel H. Kim
System. We hear and use the word all the time. “There’s no sense in trying to buck the system,” we might say. Or, “This job’s getting out of control, I’ve got to establish a system.
”You are a member of many systems – a family, a community, a church, a company. How can we manage ourselves and our organisations by understanding systems to function more effectively and proactively?
Systems thinking is one of the key management competencies for the 21st century. As our world becomes tightly interwoven globally, we need to become a lot more ‘system-wise.’ The more we understand systemic behavior, the more we can anticipate that behaviour and work with systems (rather than being controlled by them) to shape the quality of our lives.
This video and article from Dr. Daniel Kim will give you interesting insights, examples and the tools which you can start applying systems thinking in your life and your organisation.
Dr. Daniel Kim is an organisational consultant, facilitator, teacher, and public speaker committed to helping problem-solving (reactive) organisations transform into (generative) learning organisations. Dr. Kim helps organisations develop the capabilities of a learning organisation by aiding people in articulating a compelling picture of the future that they truly care about, developing the skills to have honest and generative conversations about their current reality, and in learning the conceptual skills needed to understand and deal effectively with complexity.
Dr. Kim has worked with a diverse range of organisations in business, government, and non-profit organisations. A defining quality of Dr. Kim’s work is his commitment to helping individuals, teams, and institutions identify and pursue their deepest purpose and to realise their highest aspirations. Dr. Kim has an Electrical Engineering degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Management from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He is a co-founder of the MIT Center for Organizational and a founding trustee of the Society for Organizational Learning.
Singapore Institute of Management
I came across an interesting story of cats in Borneo (a.k.a. Operation Cat Drop parachuting cats) that occurred in the 1950s, where the local authorities were trying to solve a malaria outbreak using DDT insecticides and creating downstream problems with a major infestation of rats before World Health Organisation decided to parachute live cats into Borneo. “Operation Cat Drop” occurred on courtesy of the Royal Air Force and eventually stabilised the situation in Borneo. It is a reminder that when solutions are implemented without a systems perspective, they often create new problems.
As we navigate more wicked and bigger-scale complexities in our daily challenges at work or any aspects of our lives and the society, our human natural tendencies are to react to symptoms without realisation that these solutions have hardly moved the needle; or worse, resulted in consequences that create more downstream complexities and challenges. Let us be reminded that we live in hyper-connected and complex systems today and systems are growing more “wickedly” complex day by day with globalisation and connectivity. The speed of change and ambiguity experienced in COVID-19 pandemic is one good indication of this reality.
Systems thinking is therefore important to make sure that we take all systems into account before acting and trying to solve our problems. And systems thinking is useful to help us with an expanded lens of perspective and detect leverage points in creating sustainable solutions for the future.
We have further curated additional resources related to Systems Thinking below:
We live in a VUCAH world: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and hyperconnected. An environment like this demands adaptability. As such, business leaders need to throw out old notions of top-down management and bureaucracy, and be ready to respond to new challenges.
SMEs do have plenty to learn from startups: the following actions by startups to achieve jumpstart growth can be adopted by SMEs to survive and scale amidst an environment full of large-scale uncertainties.
Talent is an organisation’s most valuable asset. This is especially true for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With an employee count of no more than 200, the quality of each employee becomes significant. Thus, it can even be said that an SME’s success often hinges on how many highly skilled talents it manages to attract and retain.