Systems-Thinking as a Trait for Career Success

Systems Thinking for a Big Picture Perspective

In this Fast Company article, Gary Flake, Director of Live Labs at Microsoft identifies Systems Thinking as an important trait for career success.

There are three traits that will serve anyone wanting any role at any company, not just ours: systems thinking, passion, and clear communication. Systems thinking is a way of looking at the world that allows you to see how many small pieces come together to make a more complex whole. System thinkers see the hidden interconnections that bind together the parts and know how to make the best use of ambiguity and uncertainty as a result.

Gary’s reflection reiterates the importance of understanding context and perspective in our jobs. A previous blog article and a podcast discussed this indispensable trait for success.

Systems Thinking for a Big Picture Approach

From an early age, we’re taught to break apart problems in order to make complex tasks and subjects easier to deal with. But this creates a bigger problem . . . we lose the ability to see the consequences of our actions, and we lose a sense of connection to a larger whole.
* Peter Senge

Systems Thinking -- Problem Solving Skills Traditional methods of problem analysis concentrate on dividing problems into smaller, more comprehensible components. The drawback of understanding isolated or unrelated elements, functions, and events is that the effects of changes to one element on other elements of the whole are rarely considered.

In contrast, the discipline of Systems Thinking emphasizes analyzing the whole in terms of interrelationships of its elements. Examining structures, relationships, and outcomes facilitates taking into account any secondary consequences of decisions and actions pertaining individual elements.

We work in increasingly connected organizations where an event that affects one part of an organization is likely to have a meaningful effect–in the short-term or the long-term–on another part of the organization. The discipline of Systems Thinking enables us to develop a broader, holistic perspective of problems and opportunities in businesses and make effective decisions.

Resources, References

Over the last couple of decades, System Thinking has evolved into a formal discipline and has incorporated several rigorous analysis techniques. Here are two excellent resources to help you gain more knowledge of these methods.

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