Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been able to zoom out, per se, to see the big picture or whole system and, at the same time, understand the smaller parts that make up the system. However, it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I realized that not everyone is wired this way and that this ability is referred to as being a “system thinker”. I’ve also learned that people’s level of systems thinking varies across a wide spectrum.
As a curious systems thinker, earning my BA in Organizational Communication deepened my understanding of and ability to be a systems thinker. The following are some of the system thinking approaches that I practiced when earning my degree and continue to use in areas of my life today.
We recently interviewed complexity scientist, professor, and founding president of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), Yaneer Bar-Yam. Professor Bar-Yam talked with us about a new research paper published by NECSI entitled, Preliminary Steps Toward a Universal Economic Dynamics for Monetary and Fiscal Policy. Bar-Yam, along with researchers, Jean Langlois-Meurinne, Mari Kawakatsu, and Rodolfo Garcia wrote this paper to explore why it took such a long time for our economy to achieve economic growth after the most recent financial crisis in 2008.
We recently shared our two-part podcast interview (episode 64 & 65) with best-selling author and psychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson. We discovered Dr. Hanson through his most recent book titled, Hardwiring Happiness, which is a New York Times Bestseller about “the hidden power of everyday positive experiences to change your brain–and therefore your life–for the better”. After reading his book from cover to cover, we were very impressed with the way Dr. Hanson explained the human brain as a complex system. He specifically addressed the brain’s two very different settings or modes, which ultimately determine how we deal with everyday experiences.
In our recent podcast episode, we shared our in-depth interview with neurologist and author, Dr. Robert Burton. We reached out to Dr. Burton after reading an article he wrote for Aeon Digital Magazine titled, Our World Outsmarts Us. The article showcased Dr. Burton’s intellectual curiosity and humility as he addressed the idea that our human brains are perhaps more limited than we have assumed. He argued that our social problems have become immensely complex and that many of our current challenges result “in part from a basic lack of ability to sense how the present world works”. His assessment on our mental limitations originally stem from his book, On Being Certain, in which he explored the paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Dr. Burton has researched the concept of certainty with the use of medical data, experiments and personal stories. His lifelong research has led him to question many present-day assumptions about the human mind, but his discoveries on the feeling of certainty are especially fascinating. He has described certainty as a mental sensation which happens to us and has claimed we cannot make it happen.
In our most recent episode on the HumanCurrent podcast, we aired our interview with the brilliant Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, a biologist, English author, and researcher in the field of parapsychology. He has been named one of the world’s most innovative scientists and “a pioneer who is paving the way for the future of the sciences” by Deepak Chopra.
Angie and I were thrilled when we were given the opportunity to speak with Dr. Brizendine on the HumanCurrent. We had previously read “The Female Brain” as a part of our office book club, and after having some rich and interesting discussions about it, our team felt deeply inspired by her research and desired to learn more. We collaborated together to craft some of our curious questions for Dr. Brizendine. We wanted to know more about how modern-day life affects the female brain because we are an office of mostly females, who recognize the struggle to find balance in work, home, and personal life.
So, one of the questions we decided to ask Dr. Brizendine in our interview with her was, how does she think modern-day life has influenced the female brain?
Noetic science is described as “a multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experiences”. So much of the work at IONS is research-based, but they also incorporate a broad range of human capability that go beyond science, like imagination and intuition, into their mission. IONS holds space for understanding that the relationship between the physical and the nonphysical is far more complex than we might have imagined.
Several weeks ago, we aired the second half of our interview with Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam as a part of our podcast series on the complexity of the environment. Bar-Yam shared with us how quickly unintended consequences can ripple throughout our global systems. He provided us with examples, including some fascinating research he conducted with his school, The New England Complex Systems Institute, on the causes of increasing global food prices.