Problem Solving By Systems

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Imagine a child who lacks self-esteem and therefore is doing poorly in school.

His parents, with the best of intentions, may begin to put pressure on him to do better in school.

- In the above example, gang violence, family dysfunction and unemployment affect each other through feedback cycles.

When unemployment increases, this may lead to increased stress on families and therefore greater dysfunction.

Quinn shows how most of us believe the educational system is designed to create intelligent, thoughtful citizens, and because of that assumption, we often conclude that the system is failing.

He argues that in reality we should instead look at what the educational system does do well, which is create a great number of people prepared to enter the lower ranks of a hierarchical workforce, and see that it is doing quite well in that respect.Difficulties in solving problems often stem from the fact that problems do not occur in isolation, but in relation to each other.- For example, young people may join violent gangs and we may try to solve that issue by putting more police on the streets.And systems thinking is a sensibility for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character." Sometimes a system that we believe is failing is actually succeeding, but for a different purpose than we thought the system had.- A great example of this principle comes from My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn."Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes.It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.However, this pressure may backfire, as the child may simply feel even worse about his failing grades and this additional stress may lead to a further decrease in grades, exactly the opposite of the outcome the parents had intended.Systems Thinking can help us avoid unintended consequences by making us aware of how they may be created by previously unrecognized feedback cycles or delays.The greater family dysfunction may increase the likelihood of youngsters seeking a sense of identity, security or rebellion through gangs.This type of feedback, in which an increase in one factor leads to an increase in another, is called a positive feedback cycle. In that system, as the temperature (factor 1) increases, the heat (factor 2) gets turned down, to keep the system in balance.


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