Systems Thinking Book


This book is an overview of the area of systems thinking and theory that is designed to be accessible to a broad group of people. The book is focused on two primary achievements; firstly providing you with the key concepts that will enable you to see the world in a whole new way from the systems perspective, what we call systems thinking. Secondly, the aim is to provide you with the standardized language of systems theory through which you will be able to describe and model systems of all kind in a more coherent fashion whilst also being able to effectively communicate this to others. This book requires no prior specific knowledge of mathematical modeling or science, as we will be starting with the very basic model of a system and then building upon this to create more sophisticated representations. The book is broken down into four main areas.

Firstly we will start the course with an overview of systems thinking, making a clear distinction between our traditional methods of analytical reasoning and the alternative method of synthesis that forms the foundations of systems thinking. Next, we will delve into systems theory to start building our model of a system, clearly defining what exactly a system is and is not. During the rest of this section, we will build upon this model by adding the concepts of efficiency, functionality and talking about energy and entropy. In the third section of the course, we will develop our model into a more powerful framework by adding the concept of the system’s environment, discussing systems boundaries, synergistic interactions and the emergence of hierarchical structure out of these synergies. In the last section, we will look at different models for capturing how systems change over time what is called system dynamics, here we will explore the ideas of feedback loops, causal loop diagrams and the phenomena of homeostasis. Finally, we wrap up the course with a discussion of systems science, looking at how and why it is of relevance to us.

By the end of this book, you should have gained a whole new perspective on the world call systems thinking and will have gained an understanding of the formal language of systems theory that can be used within a wide variety of applications from engineering to business management to IT to many areas of science.

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