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.
Anytime you have a group of people interacting over time, you have a complex adaptive system. You can have clear hierarchies and role requirements, but what you can't easily quantify is how powerful a role emergence will play in how projects and people take shape when they are all co-evolving. (Especially here at the HumanCurrent podcast, where we run a flat organization.) It's beautiful, really. Together people shape the work, and the work changes them.
There are a lot of factors that have agency to cause the changing shape of any system (let's take a project team as our example), but the most obvious medium for making change or progress is ideas. Here's the thing about ideas and how much power they have....