How ‘Systems Thinking’ Helps You Solve Complex Problems

Our minds are amazing supercomputers that process vast amounts of information daily. Many mental processes are designed to speed up recognition of information and make decisions. For complicated problems that arise in your business, systems thinking is another…

Mental Shortcuts

As humans we are wired with all kinds of mental shortcut tools, like schemas. “Schemas” are one of the instruments in our mind’s toolbag that allows us to process vast amounts of data very quickly. An example of this would be walking into a room and seeing a chair. Because of schemas, we know exactly what to do with the object and recognize it as a ‘chair,’ even though we may have never seen this exact chair or room before. But what about complicated problems we need to solve? Schemas work well for basic things, but fall short on more complex issues—the kinds we often see when we’re tackling difficult issues within our business.

What is Systems Thinking and Why is It Useful?

“Systems Thinking” is a thought organization method designed to make us take a step back and examine our ‘gut feelings’ or biases that could cloud our first reactions. This concept was named in 1956 by MIT professor Jay Forrester as a way of simplifying large and complex problems. When a problem is complex or the stakes are high, it’s worth hitting the pause button to break down each element of a decision, thinking about the unintended consequences of the decision, which other systems will be affected by it, and even model out the decision into what is called a “causal model.” By doodling out the different elements that are being affected, it’s easier to catch more implications of the decision being made.

For example, your organization might be looking at a new financial accounting software package. Because of the number of implications, this decision would almost certainly benefit with Systems Thinking. Start by listing out systems or functions that are directly tied to your accounting software. This would include systems like Payroll, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Inventory Management, General Ledger etc. Before making the change, diagram out possible fail points and develop contingency plans. This will also give you a better idea of how long the change will take and how much it will cost.

Worth The Investment

For certain issues in your business, taking the extra time and thought to get it right is important and may be the difference between a major initiative succeeding or failing. Taking into consideration the cost—including the opportunity cost—can help you take the necessary time to give a problem its due attention. Systems thinking is another leadership tool you can use to navigate your way through your business challenges with success.

Complex Technology Issues

At Philantech3, we believe that investing the time and effort into getting your business operations right is always worth the effort. Often your business objectives require complex technology integration for a series of proper solutions to help you become more efficient and profitable. When issues arise it’s easy to shortcut or put off the time or investment required, and that’s where we come in—we thrive on matching technology with your business use in the most ideal way. If you’re having issues with your IT and can benefit from a consultation, please reach out and we will be glad to assist.  We’re always pleased when we can assist you with issues keeping you from being at your best.


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Philantech3 is a complete IT services & IT support company working with organizations in Spokane.