Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Covid19 draws new attention to Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking see here
This graphic shows a systems thinking planning cycle. You can see it and learn the steps involved, in an article titled, Covid-19 means systems thinking is no longer optional, written by Seth Reynolds, who's part of the team at NPC, a nonprofit consulting firm.

The author writes: 
Coronavirus illustrates the need to bring systems thinking out of the clouds and into the mainstream. We must learn to think, act, and organise systemically, and develop processes, tools and technologies to help us. We don’t claim that it’s simple. But what is clear from recent weeks is that ‘business as usual’ is no longer available and systems approaches are no longer optional.

I  have been writing about systems thinking for many years, as part of an information-based problem solving strategy that I launched in 1993 when creating the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Below is a concept map that includes a graphic from Gene Bellinger, a systems thinking expert. The cycle is the same.

View this map at this link

I wrote a long article in April 2015 where I explained my systems thinking ideas. Below I've posted just the first few paragraphs. Read the entire article at this link.

SunTimes front page
October 15, 1992
---begin 2015 article ----

Next week Chicago will elect a new mayor (or re-elect the incumbent) and will also elect some new aldermen. One of the issues is violence in Chicago. Shootings are up over the past year. They've been up and down for the past 25 years, as this front page from the 1992 Chicago SunTimes illustrates. In July 2014, the front page of both major newspapers featured “Violence in Chicago” stories. It's been an ongoing theme for a few years. In fact, This problem has been in the news off and on for over 20 years.

However, not much has changed.
Perhaps if elected officials were leading a “systems thinking” approach to draw stakeholders together, more people might become informed, and involved in solutions. We might find ways to keep people involved for many years.

Business and philanthropic leaders might apply the same process. For instance as The Chicago Community Trust celebrates it's 100th year anniversary, and holds its second annual On The Table event in May, they might have teams facilitating a systems thinking approach to reducing poverty in Chicago areas neighborhoods.

Problem solving is a cyclical process. A group of people get together to solve a problem and the solution leads to new problems that need to be solved, or new learning that leads to year-to-year growth in how the problem is being solved.

Here’s a graphic that I’ve borrowed from a video created by Gene Bellinger, who I met in a Systems Thinking discussion group on Linked-in.

As I view Gene’s videos, my wish is that someone were doing exactly the same presentation, but focused on bringing people together to solve some of the problems we face in Chicago, which are deeply rooted in poverty, income inequality, political power, etc.

I've hacked Gene's video to copy this graphic, then to create views of each element.

I'm using them to communicate an idea that I launched over seven years ago in a blog post focused on comparing the thinking and planning process that General's use to fight wars to what we need to be doing in Chicago to fight poverty and violence by providing stronger, on-going birth-to-work support systems for youth living in high poverty areas. Click on the graphic to enlarge it. Read this article for a full explanation of each step.

--- read the rest of this article at this link -----

Information based
Seth Reynolds is showing that the impact of #covid19 will reach into all sectors and all parts of the world and that it's time for a systems thinking approach that "must now be mainstreamed – individually, organisationally, societally, across public, private and charity sectors."

This process is based on an aggregation of information/data that is used to a) create a shared understanding of the problem; b) and a shared understanding of solutions that are being tried in different places that can inspire innovations in other places.

In the T/MC 4-part strategy
information collection is Step 1
In the 4-part strategy that the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) began using in 1993, Step 1 focuses on collecting "all that is known" about poverty, inequality, and youth serving, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning organizations, including funding streams, so that people everywhere can use this information to build and sustain needed k-12 programs in all places where they are needed.

It requires the same systems thinking approaches as Seth Reynolds outlines for this information to be used the way it was intended.

What I want people to think about is a) the work involved in aggregating knowledge from all over the world, sharing it via some technology platform (more than one), keeping it up-dated, then b) drawing more people to the information, and c)  helping them understand it.

Step 2 is a communications and marketing process that requires talented people and, ideally, a lot of money.  Step 3 is an education and learning support process.  Step 4 uses geographic maps to point people to places where solutions are needed.  Imagine thousands of small groups getting together to read my blog articles, or Seth's article, or information shared  on any of the  2000 links I point to in my web library. In Covid19, imagine people being asked to read a certain article, then meet on ZOOM to share their ideas, then write a blog article sharing their own understanding.

Information is at base of
this pyramid - view article
This work is not clearly itemized in Seth's article, nor in many of  the other systems thinking articles I've read. Yet it is fundamental to the success of any problem solving strategy.

At the left is a graphic that shows information at the base of a problem-solving process where the shared goal is that "more youth stay in school, are safe in non-school hours, graduate and move on to careers".

For this to be a reality in thousands of  high poverty places many need to be involved in the type of systems thinking process Seth has outlined in his article.  And there needs to be a web library, like the one the Tutor/Mentor Connection started building in the late 1990s, to support this process.

Read other Systems Thinking articles from this blog - click here.

Read how students in universities and high schools can take on the same role as I do in the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC.  click here

If this interests you let's connect on one of these social media sites.

5-15-2020 update - Thinking of the future after Covid19. On this website "IFTF offers the public—communities, policymakers, civic and business organizations—a guide to creating new visions of the common future." Apply this thinking along with the systems thinking process.

6-9-2020 update - Here's a Forbes article outlining some characteristics leaders of the future will need. These are "essential traits that enable systems thinking".  Click here to read.

6-22-2020 update - I've followed systems thinking articles by Brian G. Dowling for nearly 10 years. None are short, or easy to read, but if you take the time, you'll better understand the complexity of this work. Below is a Tweet posted this week, pointing to this presentation.
8-10-2020 update - SSIR article on "systems leadership" describes type of leadership needed to draw people together to solve complex problems.  click here to read.

6-11-2021 update - Map the System even, June 7-11.  Global conversation.  click here

12-14-2021 update - RSA article titled "What does regenerative thinking mean?click here

9-15-2023 update - Gene Bellinger shared three systems thinking models that he finds useful.  1) Kumu Community -; 2) Insight Maker -  ; 3) The System Thinker -  

9-15-2023 update - "How to Embed Systems Thinking in Education. Here's How".  The authors write "The recommendations from this pilot could help reignite imagination, creativity and innovation in the classroom, making learning more enjoyable and fulfilling for students."  click here

Want to help cover my costs of maintaining the Tutor/Mentor Library and making it freely available to all?  Click here and use PayPal to send a contribution.

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