System Dynamics

System Dynamics

Laws of Natural Systems

Systems Thinking is finding patterns and relationships, and learning to reinforce or change these patterns to fulfill your vision and mission.


Natural Laws/Desired State
Experienced Dynamics
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”
  1. Holism — overall broader perspectives, purpose-focused, synergy, ends.
  1. Parts Focused — suboptimal results, narrower views, means.
  1. Open Systems — to the environment, regular scanning,“outside-in,” implications.
  1. Closed Systems — low environmental scanning or concern, parts focused.
  1. Boundaries — clarity of system, integrated, fit, collaborative, complimentary.
  1. Fragmented — turf battles, overlaps, duplication, voids.
  1. Input/Output — how natural systems operate, “backwards thinking.”
  1. Sequential — linear, mechanistic, piecemeal, 
    analytic, forecasts.
  1. Feedback — on effectiveness, results, “feedback 
    is a gift,”
     encourage it.
  1. Low feedback — financial only, defensiveness, 
    lack of measures.
  1. Multiple outcomes — goal seeking at all levels (WIIFM).
  1. Conflict — ” either/or” thinking, “yes, but”; one 
    best way.
“Synergy, integration, relationships, and interdependence”
  1. Equifinality — flexible and adaptive, outcome focused, empower means.
  1. Direct Cause-Effect — one best way, quick fix fails, activity focused.
  1. Entropy — follow-up, inputs of energy, renewal, “booster shots.”
  1. Decline — obsolescence, rigidity and death.
  1. Hierarchy — flatter organization, self organizing, 
    order emerges.
  1. Bureaucracy — command and control, policies paramount, centralized.
  1. Relationships / Related Parts — Patterns, webs, interdependence and leverage, fit.
  1. Separate Parts — components, silos, individualism, parts are primary.
  1. Dynamic Equilibrium — maintain stability and balance/ culture, self-regulating (disequilibrium on 
    the edge).
  1. Resistance to Change — myopic view; ruts, habits, root causes delayed in time and space.
  1. Internal Elaboration — details and sophistication, clarity and simplicity.
  1. Complexity — and confusion/chaos.

Academy of Management Journal, 1972
Annual Yearbook of the Society of General Systems Research